Paraplegic Rower Sets Sights on the Pacific Ocean

We could all use a dose of inspiration right now and I think we may have found one in the form of Angela Madsen, a long distance rower who is gearing up for a very big challenge. Madsen hopes to set out on a solo and unsupported crossing of the Pacific Ocean later this spring, which in and of itself sounds like an amazing adventure.

After all, very few people have managed to row across that massive ocean completely on their own. But what makes Madsen’s story even more compelling is that she lost the use of her legs back in 1993, which would make her the first paraplegic athlete to take on a challenge of this kind.

Injured while serving int he military back in the early 90s, Madsen underwent back surgery to try to repair the damage. That operation went terribly wrong, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Rather than just accept her fate and live out her life in a wheelchair, Madsen took up rowing, earning three Paralympic medals in the process.

But her journey didn’t just take her into rowing competitions, as she has also rowed across the Atlantic Ocean twice, becoming the first woman with a disability to accomplish that feat. In 2009, she also joined teammate Helen Taylor in becoming the first women to row across the Indian Ocean as well and in 2010 she was part of a team that completely rowed around Great Britain too. Now, she has her sights set even higher, with the Pacific as her next big goal.

Madsen says that she first got the idea of rowing the Pacific while flying to Hawaii. Looking down on the waters, she felt inspired to take on this task and do it in solo fashion. Back in 2014, she rowed from California to Oahu as part of team, but now she wants to go it alone. If all goes according to plan, she’ll set out in April on a journey that she expects to take about 100 days to complete.

Her Pacific rowing expedition will once again be from California to Hawaii, and won’t be a full crossing however. Still, that is a tremendous journey for any athlete to undertake, let alone one who has a physical disability.

Obviously, Madsen’s departure is slightly in doubt due to the coronavirus outbreak. But, if she tests negative for the virus, I don’t see any reason she wouldn’t be allowed to go. There is no batter “social distancing” or “self quarantine” than rowing an ocean for three months completely on your own. Out there, she will be completely safe from COVID-19, so hopefully she’ll be allowed to proceed as planned.

Good luck Angela. We’ll be following along.

Kraig Becker