Reno man rows across Atlantic Ocean
RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Reno’s Owen Gray has joined elite company after rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.
‘I’ve always been interested in pushing myself,” said Gray.
That’s an understatement. The 56-year old rowed 3,000 miles, becoming just the 10th American to ever complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, solo.
“The first time I touched a pair of rowing oars was December of 2020,” admitted Gray.
He built a boat out of a kit as something to do during the pandemic, spending time training in Donner Lake, the Bay Area and Pyramid Lake.
“Learning how to steer the boat, how the boat handles in those conditions,” explained Gray. “Pyramid was the perfect place to train because of the wind.”
Just two years after he first hit the water, he headed out on the 70-day trip across the open seas, all by himself.
“The isolation part of it was never really a problem for me, because I was never really alone,” added Gray.
There was a satellite phone he used to talk to his wife daily, who helped him do some of the navigating. There were also cards and letters from friends and family tucked into his meal kits. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
“I had mechanical issues. I lost two of my auto helms, which help steer the boat. My bowline broke while I was on para-anchor,” explained Gray. “I broke a tooth!”
He also had to battle 30 to 40 feet seas at times, and weather systems that pushed him too far south. It got to the point where he nearly had to abandon the race and get towed to the finish line. But it was his charity partner that kept him going, Camp Okizu, which provides camps and support to families affected by childhood cancer.
“I’m not going back to the children with cancer and telling them, I know you have to go through what you’re dealing with, chemo and cancer. and you don’t have a choice, and I chose to get a tow,” said Gray.
He was eventually able to row himself in, raising $195,000 for Camp Okizu.
‘We’ve been involved with them for over 20 years, and so it’s super powerful the work they do,” added Gray.
What makes this feat even more impressive, is the fact that he did it with a prosthetic shoulder.
“My rotator cuff doesn’t work, so basically you’re using different muscles for that,” explained Gray. “But, it worked.”
He lost 26 pounds on the trip, and is scheduled to visit his surgeon next month to get his shoulder checked out. But for now, he’s just trying to get his seas legs used to solid ground again.
“When you come off the boat, you can’t walk. You’re like a drunken sailor,” said Gray. “Now I’m literally going for walks and just trying to rebuild that leg strength back up. And get that energy going again. So yeah, it’s going to take a little while.”
You can find out more about Camp Okizu and its mission by clicking the link below.
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