The Physical and Psychological Experience of Rowing the North Atlantic Solo and Unassisted

Kevin N Alschuler* (Corresponding Author), Daniel Whibley, Nicole M. Alberts, Makena Kaylor, Anna L. Kratz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The present study followed an individual’s successful, record-setting, solo, unsupported row across the North Atlantic Ocean to gain an understanding of the physical and psychological experience of this extreme endurance feat.

The participant was a 37-y-old male endurance athlete. Over the course of his nearly 39-d row, he provided daily ratings of effort, physical symptoms, and psychological experiences via a self-report questionnaire. Quantitative data were analyzed using simulation modelling analysis to examine within-day and cross-lagged correlations between perceived exertion and all other variables. Qualitative data were examined via thematic content analysis.

Results showed that, on average, the participant experienced low levels of pain intensity, pain interference, fatigue interference, sleepiness, loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and frustration, in contrast to moderate scores for fatigue, restfulness, positive emotions, calmness, and confidence. There were statistically significant correlations between higher levels of perceived exertion and higher same-day levels of pain interference, fatigue, and fatigue interference, as well as lower same-day levels of calmness, loneliness, and boredom. Qualitative responses revealed 3 primary stressor types (internal physical, internal psychological, and external stressors) and 5 coping responses (acceptance/mindfulness, active response/problem solving, adjusting expectations/goal setting, distraction, and resignation).

Study findings indicate that the extreme athlete experienced physical and emotional challenges, but he demonstrated positive adjustment via the frequent experience of positive emotions and proficient use of a broad set of coping strategies matched to the daily stressor being addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-150
Number of pages7
JournalWilderness and Environmental Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date27 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments: The authors acknowledge Bryce Carlson, PhD, the transatlantic rower featured in this manuscript, who so graciously consented to publicly reveal his experience through this report.


  • survival at sea
  • positive psychology
  • resilience


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