A little over a year ago, Sophia Denison-Johnston decided to say “yes” to an opportunity to launch into the unknown. With no experience on the open ocean and no idea how she would form a team or prepare for the adventure, she committed to row the Great Pacific Race - a 2,400 nautical mile unsupported journey from San Francisco, Calif. to Waikiki, Hawaii on a 29 foot, four-person row boat. The goal? Get there as fast as possible.
Leaving San Francisco. The crew begins their 2,400 mile journey to Hawaii.
Sophia recruited three friends, endurance athletes Libby Costello, Adrienne Smith and Brooke Downes to form Latitude 35 (Lat35) Racing's first all-women's rowing team.
Out for a swim in the open ocean.
Each team member played a specific role. As the team’s medic, Sophia understood that one of the most common ailments in the sport is bum sores, also known as "Rower's Butt." Each team member spends 12 hours a day sitting in the rowing seat, sweating and getting splashed with sea water. Seams in clothing make matters worse, grinding the salt water into the skin. The salt causes small breaks in the skin and pressure sores begin to form. It is next to impossible to dry out the wounds so they can heal.
The team knew the right clothing - especially underwear - would be crucial during the independent crossing. Sophia turned to Ridge for the solution and stocked up on Merino wool Bralettes and Boy Shorts for the crew. Her reasoning? The soft, natural fibers wouldn't irritate their already sensitive skin, and the salt would rinse out of the fabric easily with fresh water. The cut of the boy shorts also provided ample coverage, and the ideal design meant there was no seam under the sit bones, so no painful chafing. As an added bonus, the women's Merino underwear resisted odor and needed very little washing during their long journey.
What's more, the first couple of weeks on the Pacific proved to be cold, with large beam-on waves. The Ridge Natural Tencel Jogger turned out to be a perfect second layer – loose enough to pull on and off when wet, and warm even when splashed by the ocean.
"The team rowed in shifts of two hours on, two hours off, for 24 hours a day, so realistically I have put my Ridge clothes through about 400+ hours of rowing on the open ocean!" - Sophia
Sophia found the best rowing attire that worked for her and her crew: Ridge Boy Shorts and Bralettes.
The Lat35 Ladies rowed under skies full of stars, dark nights where clouds obstructed the moon, through windy whitecaps, rain storms, and humid, hot, flat days. They learned, as Adrienne put so beautifully, to live in “abundance with less stuff," a principle they hope to cherish and take home to their everyday lives.
The Lat 35 Crew experienced Mother Nature's beauty in every sunrise and sunset.
Their skill, planning, positive attitudes and perseverance paid off. The crew finished their row on July 25th after just over 34 days at sea, crushing the previous all-female team world record by more than 24 hours. Lat35 partnered with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) to raise money and awareness for mental health throughout the journey.
Happy in Hawaii. The Ladies of Lat35 - Libby Costello, Sophia Denison-Johnston, Brooke Downes and Adrienne Smith - celebrate their new World Record for fastest time in the Great Pacific Race.
Over the course of their adventure, they learned to love each other unconditionally, to cling to their values as a team, to support each other through rough and calm seas (literally), and to surrender control - because the ocean is always in charge.
"It is said that rowing an ocean is a largely mental task. Sure it's physically tough, but having the ability to lose sight of shore and keep going, having the ability to bond with a team under extreme pressure, having the ability to dig deep in the darkest of times....it's perhaps one of the most mentally challenging projects you can do." - Lat 35 Racing
Words/Photos: Sophia Denison-Johnston // Lat35 Racing // Great Pacific Race
Follow Sophia's Adventures: @sophiasadj and learn more about Latitude 35 Racing: @lat35racing