By Allison Valdez | KITV
HONOLULU — 40-year-old Lia Ditton is an accomplished captain who’s competed in some of the world’s most challenging ocean races. Saturday morning, she added her greatest feat so far to the list – she broke the women’s world record for rowing solo from San Francisco to Hawaii.
Ditton spent 86 days, 10 hours, 5 minutes, and 56 seconds by herself at sea – with no support boat trailing nearby.
It was a grueling physical and psychological journey, encountering one of her major obstacles when she first set out.
“It was very difficult breaking away from the California coast,” Ditton said. “There were epic currents that were going like ‘snakes and ladders.’ You could hit a snake and lose miles overnight and that happened to me for a week. Then other times you’re flying along with great conditions and you hit a ladder – it’s a board game,” she explained.
The true test of Ditton’s spirit came when her boat capsized not once, but twice.
“The first time was a sort of freak wave,” Ditton recalled, still referring to the difficult conditions pulling away from California. “It was like a cliff of a wave that fell and fell and fell. I’ve never seen a wave like it. It was an avalanche of water that came toward me.” She got thrown into the water, and with adrenaline pumping through her veins, was somehow able to flip the boat back over. A feat, which she says, would normally be impossible.
The second time she capsized was even more menacing – the wave took her by surprise while she was asleep. Thankfully, she was able to quickly right the boat but in order to prevent it from overturning again, Ditton said she had to fill the boat with water to weigh it down. She jokingly described the experience as her rowing the Pacific Ocean, across the Pacific Ocean, constantly filling the compartments with water.
Although Ditton’s storytelling is full of laughs and lightheartedness, her journey was nothing less than perilous as she continued to brave the shifting tides and mental warfare.
“I knew it would be hard after that [second capsizing] because of what had happened psychologically, but I massively underestimated what the challenge would be.” Ditton explained how the traumatizing event would keep her awake, fearful of what dangers could come in the darkness of night. “It’s very hard to let go to sleep, or to sleep and stay asleep. I battled with that for the last thousand miles which is a month and a half,” she said. Regardless of that waking nightmare, Ditton still wouldn’t have been able to get much rest. She said she’d try and sleep once the sun had set, but would still have to wake up periodically throughout the night to check that she was still drifting in a favorable direction.
The long days and nights came with surprise visitors – and these weren’t hallucinations. Somewhere along the way, Ditton found herself in close encounters with sharks. She’s been …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports