Two Jacksonville-area men who took part in a 3,000-mile charity ocean row across the Atlantic from December to February plan to tackle the Pacific in 2023.
Paul Lore, part of the four-man Fernandina Beach-based team that rowed the 2021-22 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, has formed a new team with Mat Steinlin of St. Augustine. Steinlin rowed last year with a colleague. Their new crew also includes two international rowers, Iris Nordzij of the Netherlands and Marina Hunziker of Switzerland, who competed in the Atlantic Challenge on separate teams.
As Team Ohana — which means family in Hawaiian — they plan to take part in the inaugural Talisker Whisky Pacific Challenge that begins in June 2023. Up to 20 teams are to take part in the charity endurance row from Monterey, California, to Kauai, Hawaii.
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The four met while they were preparing to begin the Atlantic challenge in La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands.
“All of us were immediately connected by each other’s passion and leadership toward one another’s charity and our connection with the extreme sport of ocean rowing,” said Lore, a retired air traffic controller. “Once we all completed the Atlantic crossing and all of us were back in our hometowns, we all stayed connected in conversation and started again to talk about the possibilities of crossing another ocean but this time with one another.”
Last summer, Lore, an ordained minister, presided over Steinlin and his now-wife Morgan’s wedding. Afterward Steinlin told Lore he wanted to join him, Nordzij and Hunziker on the Pacific challenge row.
“We all had great experiences,” Steinlin said. “We decided to do it again, just this time 2,800 miles from California to Hawaii. … Making an impact while pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, what is better than that?”
To benefit K9s for Warriors
For months the team has been training individually and jointly — in October, they spent four days together in the Netherlands and will reunite Jan. 22 to Feb. 2 in Fernandina Beach — and preparing for the fundraising and sponsorship drive that began Oct. 31.
The charity beneficiary will be a veteran housing project on the Arizona campus of Ponte Vedra Beach-based K9s for Warriors, which trains service dogs for veterans. Lore’s Atlantic challenge team, Foar from Home, raised a total of $912,000,including $755,940 donated to K9s. Also, $50,000 went to another veterans-serving nonprofit, Cross the Line Foundation of Fernandina Beach, where Lore and another Foar From Home team member, William Cimino, are directors.
“I believe that K9s for Warriors is a proven veteran organization that reduces suicide ideation for our veteran community,” Lore, 60, said. “We saw firsthand how their program changes the lives of both the life of the veteran as well as the life of a service dog. … I would row any ocean for our veteran brothers and sisters and any ocean for K9s for Warriors.”
K9s for Warriors CEO Carl Cricco said the nonprofit and the veterans it serves are “extremely grateful” for the support from Foar from Home and the new team.
“A year ago, four courageous veterans left their jobs and families to embark on this seemingly impossible journey rowing across the Atlantic Ocean to help raise awareness and funds for our mission of saving dogs and veteran lives,” he said. “The fact that another incredible group of rowers, one of which is from the original Foar From Home team, decided to do it again in 2023 is tremendous. … We are rooting them on every step of the way.”
The earlier funds went toward a kennel at the Davis Family Mega Kennel near their Ponte Vedra headquarters and to sponsor the training of future service dogs.
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Lore said he and the other three men on his Atlantic challenge team learned many lessons while at sea. Participants endured seasickness, 20-foot seas and exhaustion, among other things.
“Food, food, food. Better food choice. I lost 41 pouinds last trip,” he said. “No paperback books. Peaches! More music. Balance expectations and reality.”
Ever present in his mind, he said, will be the warriors.
“The most important thing I will carry with me to Hawaii is the mission. I will never forget why we are rowing,” he said. “We are rowing to help eliminate veteran suicide.”
Steinlin, a chief information security officer, said he “deeply admired” the fundraising efforts of Lore’s team. And he was more than receptive to another ocean row.
“Since my return from the first row, I got constantly asked if I would do it again,” he said. “My answer was that the right conditions would need to be present — a good team, ambition in the row performance as well as a boat already present.”
Experienced crew knows what it takes
Team Ohana has the right conditions with four experienced team members and a goal of setting a mixed-boat Pacific record, Steinlin said. They also have Courageous, the boat used by Lore’s team, Foar from Home, which, among other features, is solar-powered and has equipment to distill ocean water into drinking water.
But they also have challenges, such as coordinating training schedules, which Steinlin, 44, encountered having a Houston-based teammate for the Atlantic challenge,
“Since we are an international team, it is even tougher to bring the team together,” he said.
In between the joint training sessions, team members train individually on their own. For Steinlin, that’s seven days a week at Bailey’s Gym and rowing at the Jacksonville Rowing Club. Also, he and Lore row together at least once a month in Courageous to stay familiar with its handling.
The Pacific challenge will be the third ocean row for Nordzij, 56, a massage therapist.
“I really love being out there on the ocean,” she said. “Once on board, my heart starts glowing and my face starts to smile, feeling intensely happy. Everybody should be feeling happy.”
She said she hopes she and all the other Pacific rowers inspire people who are troubled “to take steps, to give and receive trust and love … to feel the positive side again. To join life.”
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Nordzij pays close attention to her body’s signals while training.
“My health and fitness is good,” she said. “Physically, I need to be aware … not to train too much and get injured … Hormones sometimes get in the way, then I have to take a step back, hold on for a couple of days before getting in and push myself further.”
Hunziker, 32, works in purchasing and sales at a small electronics company in Switzerland. She said she became fast friends with Lore at La Gomera.
“We all had an amazing time there. We helped each other to get our boats ready, shared our stories and kept contact [afterward],” she said. “When the idea of the Pacific row came up, it wasn’t a question for me if I wanted to join. I love the ocean, I love the team, and the cherry on top is to do it for a good cause.”
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Her training for the Pacific row incorporates physical lessons learned in the Atlantic row, as well as reacquainting herself with navigation and other equipment on the boat.
“I personally need to train more muscles and less cardio for the next row. So I’m working on that,” she said. “On my last crossings we had to deal with power issues and other problems. This taught me to stay calm in any situation and stay positive no matter what.”
Preparation, she said, “is the main lesson.”
About the Talisker Whisky challenge
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge — the title sponsor is Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Scotland’s Isle of Skye — was billed as the “world’s toughest row” with participants enduring sleep deprivation, exhaustion, exposure and other health challenges.
Still, every December about 30 teams from across the world race unique row boats — self-righting but with no motors or sails — from the Canary Islands to Antigua to benefit a charity of their choice.
The 2021 winner was Swiss Raw, a four-man team from Switzerland that finished Jan. 16. The team completed it in 34 days, 23 hours and 42 minutes and are the first team from an inland country to win, according to the Atlantic challenge.
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