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Thrilling Tuesday: Meet the Coxless Crew, Women Who Just Rowed the Entire Pacific Ocean

Heart & Soul Blog

Thrilling Tuesday: Meet the Coxless Crew, Women Who Just Rowed the Entire Pacific Ocean

Alyson Campbell

As a continuation of our Thrilling Tuesdays series, profiling people stepping out of their comfort zone and doing exciting things, we’re pleased to introduce you to The Coxless Crew, four women who made it their goal to row the entire Pacific Ocean - yes, that’s 8,446 miles! 


The Coxless Crew will be featured in an upcoming documentary, Losing Sight of Shore, by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Sarah Moshman, scheduled to debut in the Fall of 2016.   Their message?  “We all have a Pacific to cross.”


Heart & Soul talked with the two of the crew members, Natalia Cohen and Laura Penhaul about their journey, as they have now successfully completed their journey and are back on land to learn more.


Heart & Soul (H&S): Why did you decide to row the Pacific Ocean? What inspired you?

Laura Penhaul (LP), Natalia Cohen (NC):


LP: Working with Paralympic athletes for the last ten years, I'm surrounded by people that have have always pushed themselves to find their abilities over their disabilities and they're the epitome of proving you can achieve more than you imagine. So being fit and healthy myself, it made me question what my mental and physical capabilities are and so I wanted something that would really take me out of my comfort zone to test me and draw on the motivation from those that have a daily Pacific to cross.


NC: Personally I was interested in challenging myself more than I've ever done before and I knew that the journey would be a catalyst in helping me to better understand the human spirit. I have always believed that this strength of human spirit is the most powerful force there is and we all have it within us.


H&S: When/how did you get into rowing?


NC: I only started rowing when I got involved in the expedition!


H&S: What were your main goals in setting out to row the Pacific Ocean?


LP, NC: As a team we wanted to create a global awareness and raise funds for the women who are supported by our two charities Breast Cancer Care and Walking With the Wounded.


Although we chose to take ourselves far outside our comfort zone and deal with the challenges that would be thrown at us, the women we support did not. 


We also had team goals which were to trust in ourselves and the strength of the team, to row with SPIRIT, to be unstoppable and to enjoy the journey.


H&S: Everyone has their own Pacific to cross. What advice can you share with others after this experience? 


LP, NC: Having thrown ourselves wholeheartedly into a project that most believed to be impossible, the main advice I can offer is this: Whatever you set your mind to you can achieve. Believe in yourself and how adaptable we are physically and mentally, overcome your fear and take that leap of faith. If the challenge seems overwhelming then break it down into manageable sized chunks and take it moment to moment, stroke by stroke.


H&S: Can you share some of your most memorable moments from rowing together?


LP, NC: The wildlife encounters have been incredible. Breaching humpback whales metres from the boat, sharks that followed us, turtles, dolphins, birds and fish. The 360 degree view of ocean and sky, sunsets, sunrises and ever changing sea states were mesmerising but some of the most memorable moments have to be the laughter. As a team we supported each other amazingly and laughed our way through all the discomfort, challenge and frustration.


H&S: How did you decide to select the charities you rowed for?


LP: Walking With The Wounded Is a charity that supports injured servicemen and women after rehabilitation, they help to re-educate and re-train to support them through creating a new life pathway for themselves. As a Physio I always look beyond the injury and like to support the person as a whole and not to just focus on the physical disability, so WWTW fits perfectly in what I believe in. They also have created a separate fund where all proceeds we raise, will go specifically towards the women injured at war, as to us they are unsung heroes who people would never imagine were on the frontline. Breast Cancer Care support the families and sufferers from diagnosis through to post treatment. It's a charity that creates a support network, they help to provide awareness of how to create a new life journey beyond cancer and how you can learn to love your body after treatment. A friend of mine Rashid very sadly lost his wife Patricia to breast cancer just 6 months after their baby was born prematurely due to the cancer and it is for this reason why I wanted to raise funds for a breast cancer charity.


To learn more about Losing Sight of Shore and the extraordinary Coxless Crew, visit: