RENO, Nev. (KOLO) — Reno’s Owen Gray joined the elite company after rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’ve always been interested in pushing myself,” Gray said.
That’s an understatement. The 56-year-old rowed 3,000 miles, becoming the 10th American to complete the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, solo.
“The first time I touched a pair of oars was in December 2020,” Gray admitted.
He built a boat from kit as something to do during the pandemic, spending time training at Donner Lake, the Bay Area and Pyramid Lake.
“Learning to steer the boat, how the boat handles in those conditions,” Gray explained. “Pyramid was the perfect place to train because of the wind.”
Just two years after first touching the water, he embarked on the 70-day journey across the open seas, all alone.
“The isolation part was never really a problem for me, because I was never really alone,” Gray added.
There was a satellite phone that he used to talk to his wife daily, who helped him with some of the navigation. There were also cards and letters from friends and family in her lunch kits. But it wasn’t all easy.
“I had mechanical problems. I lost two of my automatic tillers, which help steer the boat. My chair line broke while I was in para-anchor,” Gray explained. “I broke a tooth!”
He also had to battle 30-40 foot seas at times and weather systems that pushed him too far south. It got to the point where he nearly dropped out of the race and got towed to the finish line. But it was his charity partner who stood behind him, Camp Okizu, which offers camps and support for families affected by childhood cancer.
“I’m not going to go back to kids with cancer and tell them, I know you have to go through what you’re going through, chemo and cancer. and you have no choice, and I chose to get a tow,” Gray said.
He was finally able to row himself, raising $195,000 for Camp Okizu.
“We’ve been involved with them for over 20 years, so it’s super powerful the work they do,” Gray added.
What makes this feat even more impressive is the fact that he did it with a prosthetic shoulder.
“My rotator cuff isn’t working, so you use different muscles for that,” Gray explained. “But, it worked.”
He lost 26 pounds during the trip and is due to visit his surgeon next month to have his shoulder checked. But for now, he’s just trying to get his sea feet used to dry land again.
“When you get off the boat, you can’t walk. You’re like a drunken sailor,” Gray said. “Now I literally go for a walk and just try to rebuild my leg strength. And rekindle that energy. So yes, it will take some time.
You can learn more about Camp Okizu and its mission by clicking the link below.
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