Rowing His Own Way: The Full Hot Press Interview With Gavan Hennigan

Having rowed solo across the Atlantic in under 50 days, Gavan Hennigan is one of Ireland’s most remarkable athletes. But that’s just the start of his extraordinary life story – which encompasses a strained relationship with his troubled father, addiction and recovery, working at one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, traversing the globe in numerous adventure challenges, and coming to terms with his sexuality.

Gavan Hennigan is on a well-deserved break, chilling out and doing some snowboarding in Switzerland, when he sits down to conduct this Hot Press interview.

Gavan’s quite literally been riding on the crest of a wave since he smashed the international record to become the fastest Irishman to row solo across an entire ocean in under 50 days. It’s a remarkable feat that has not only turned him into a household name here in Ireland, but has also built him an international following as a formidable endurance adventurer, after his record-breaking achievement was splashed across the international press back in February.

The 35-year-old made history when he finished third overall in the 12-boat Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. He was the fastest solo contestant in the 5,000k competition.

An adventurer and deep sea diver, the Galwegian has endured many other extreme sport challenges, including a 350 mile foot race inside the freezing Arctic Circle; a 700k solo crossing of the sub-temperature conditions of the frozen Siberian Lake Baikal in 17 days; and climbing the 6,856m Ama Dablam Mountain in Nepal.

But Gavan’s greatest achievement – he says – is the fact that he’s overcome his battles with drugs, alcoholism and depression, as well as a long struggle to come to terms with his sexuality. The extreme sports and treacherous adventures, he insists without a trace of ego or machismo, are as nothing against having to face down your inner-demons and stay clean and sober.

This exclusive interview is actually the first time he has candidly told his full unexpurgated, and hugely inspirational backstory, in his own words…

Jason O’Toole: What was your childhood like?

Gavan Hennigan: I grew up swimming and always at the beach. So, I definitely had a thing for the ocean, early on. My dad was an alcoholic. I always remember trouble in the house from a very young age. I remember going outside to have peace in the woods by the side of the house and the river that went out to Rusheen Bay. If I was ever to look at the reasons for doing the stuff I do, it’s definitely connected to my past and finding peace in the outdoors.

It must’ve been tough growing up with an alcoholic father.

Yeah. My dad was a bad drinker and he had mental health (issues). He was bi-polar. We didn’t find that out until a long time later. I think, in Ireland in the early ’80s, someone with a drink problem and a mental illness, it’s very hard to detect. It was a real tough situation. My mother just couldn’t put up with his stuff any longer. And my earliest memories are arguments and her trying to kick him out – and him eventually going. My mum and dad separated when I was young.

Was your father able to conquer his alcoholism and seek help for his mental health issues?

My dad did get help eventually. He got sober. He passed away a month before I went to the row. He’d gotten sober and he’d gotten psychiatric help. He received electro convulsive treatment in Saint John of God’s – he had a lot of stuff there. Bipolar – if you don’t know much about it – it’s characterised by massive highs and really low lows. He had psychosis as well. And then he’d drinking on top of it. He had a really tough life when he was the youngest of 11. He had a lot of rough stuff going for him. The responsibility of having four kids didn’t work out too well for him.

Did you manage to maintain a relationship with your father?

It was pretty sporadic. Not really, like. He was supposed to come around and take me out on Sundays and nine times out of ten he wouldn’t turn up, because he was either off drinking or gambling, or he was AWOL.

How did that make you feel?

There was a lot of anger. It wasn’t until a long time later that I dealt with it. It fuelled me in my teenage years because he was never there and I fed into that resentment that, I suppose, my mother and my older sisters would’ve had – that he was the fuck-up. Look, he didn’t do himself any favours and he didn’t do us any favours. I had every right to be angry, you know?

Were you able to reconcile with him?

Yeah. So, when I got clean and sober at 21 myself – because I went down a similar path as him: minus the mental illness that I’m aware of at the moment! – he was available when I tried to get sober. He put forward the money for the rehab. And even though I didn’t really have a relationship for probably another few years after that, it was definitely on the road to something there. And then in the last few years, I made more of an effort and he made more of an effort to reconcile. I had every right to never speak to him again, but I decided a few years ago that, ultimately, if I wanted to heal myself than I’d have to look at that relationship and try and make something of it. It was never going to be perfect, but I decided to not to be fuelled by the anger. I feel our parents are our ultimate teachers, you know?

So you forgave him?

It’s very easy to close the door and stick your head in the ground and you build up a million different reasons not to go back there. But, at the end of the day, forgiveness and love are the foundation for me. I don’t have any regrets now – even though I did want to kill him when I was 18! And even though when I did have a bit of a relationship with him, it was still very hard because I’d slip back into that anger very easily. But I was there for him for the last two years and I tried to help him because, at the end of the day, he was a lonely old man. And, yeah, he did love me and, ultimately, I did love him. It was good to come round to that.

How old were you when you started taking drugs?

I was 16. I started drinking and then started smoking hash, doing mushrooms, acid and Es. And just like that, one thing lead to another and it went quite quick for me. By the time I was 17, I was pretty full-blown. Drink and drugs swallowed me up pretty easily. I was a bit of a sitting duck, given the fact that I was gay and then all the stuff with my dad. Most times I drank, I would’ve blacked out. There was almost that element of no control. I binged for a whole weekend and ended up waking up on a doorstep somewhere. I knew that I was definitely like my dad in a lot of ways. I remember consciously thinking, “I’ll use drugs here now ‘cause he drank!” That was my logic at the time: that by using drugs I’d somehow be different to him. So, there was that underlining knowledge that I was powerless over it.

Were you taking the drugs and alcohol to numb the emotional pain?

Yes, I suppose. It wasn’t a conscious thing. It just felt good. It was a go-to really. Looking back, it was a sort of self-medication.

Did you ever end up in hospital?

I overdosed on ecstasy, I got my stomach pumped from drink – it was just one thing after another.

Senator Lynn Ruane told me she was shoplifting to feed her habit. Did you go down that route?

I didn’t: I was dealing stuff. I started drug dealing, like petty stuff, just to cover what I was using myself. And I was into gambling. That was another addiction. I was quite heavy into gambling and poker machines. I was able to sustain myself through that as well.

Did you get into trouble with the Gardaí?

I eventually got caught. I had drugs – not a big amount of drugs – on me and they didn’t really want to charge me: they wanted me to do in a bigger guy. They threatened me and took me in. I said I’d do it and then I left the country. Pretty much that day I did a runner. I never got charged in the end. So, the case was dropped.

Where did you abscond?

I ended up going to East London. There was another guy there who was on the run. I ended up living with him and he was a heavy user as well. We were two peas in a pod, living in a little flat and trying to get our shit together, but never really did. I was 21 when I ended up going back and going to rehab.

I read in some profiles that you also lived in Holland?

I took off over there when I was 18. I was living in a squat. I tried to survive a summer but I ran out of money and I got into trouble. I always had notions of taking off to get away from everything. I was doing a ‘geographical’: trying to solve your problems with moving somewhere. I went there and then to Germany a few months later. I ended up going back home after I ran out of money and couldn’t really get my shit together.

In his memoir, The Moon on My Back, Galwegian poet, Pat Tierney – committed suicide 21 years ago on the grounds of a Church in Dublin – wrote about running away after being abused by the clergy, to find a ‘geographical solution’.

It’s a great way of describing it. You think, ‘I’ve got all this shit happening here and if I just move out of here, it’ll be better’. And then you go to another place and you’re still left with yourself underneath (laughs). So, you’re not avoiding anything.

Were you taking heroin and coke and other heavy drugs?

I tried everything. I didn’t give a shit what it was – I’d take it. I smoked a fair bit of heroin – I was never injecting it. It was used to come down off Es. I was into ecstasy and I was into the rave scene. Obviously being into the ecstasy culture and all that, dancing was huge. Even when I was doing drugs.I can’t remember a lot of the parties I went to because I was so out of it.

You were ‘just’ smoking heroin!

It’s a funny one because straight away you think, ‘I’m just smoking it! It’s not that bad!’ But it’s (nervous laughter) pretty bad. I’m still a bit uncomfortable talking about it. It’s weird because you’re going, ‘I wasn’t really doing it properly!’ I know people who are, like, legitimate, injecting for a number of years. You think, ‘It’s almost like I don’t qualify!’ But when you look at everything on a whole, if you end up in rehab at 21, you know there’s something gone wrong!

Do you still like the occasional rave?

(Laughs) Yeah, I do. I like trying to get to a festival in the summer. I definitely like the daytime stuff. But I don’t like staying out too late now (laughs). I still go out the odd time if there’s a good DJ or something. I still really enjoy the music. It means different things to me nowadays, you know? When I got sober and clean, I thought that I’d have to give that up because it was going to be at my back. But I get a lot of enjoyment out of the music.

What other type of music are you into now?

A lot of house, electronic stuff, hip hop. I’m mad for a few mixes and stuff like that.

Did you like Trainspotting?

I haven’t seen the new one. But I would’ve definitely liked Trainspotting when I was younger. I think Trainspotting saved a lot of people from heroin use (laughs). It scared people. It painted a pretty dismal picture of heroin addiction.

What was the tipping point to get you into rehab?

When I came back at 21 from the UK – I was here for a funeral and then I didn’t have any money to travel back – I picked up where I left off with old friends and stuff. My mum confronted me. She’d been through the whole thing with my dad. So, she was pretty aware of it. I was at a vulnerable time. I’d just spent two days out drinking and using and I was in a real mess. I was 21; I had dropped out of school; I had no Leaving Cert; I couldn’t drive; I hadn’t held down a job for more than a month or two since I was 18. I had absolutely nothing at 21. I came to that realisation that things aren’t going to get any better. I had underlying self-hatred and low self-esteem: I couldn’t muster the courage to do anything in the outside world, to try and get a job or do something. There was nothing really glamorous about my drug using. I would’ve spent a lot of time inside and stoned, just sitting in a flat. When the opportunity was presented to go to rehab, I said, ‘I’ve nothing to lose’.

How long were you in rehab?

I think it was five weeks in rehab in Ennis.

Did you ever relapse?

When I came out, I relapsed the first few months. It was a shock to the system trying to put one foot in front of the other and I slipped back to old friends. I had a really hard first few months. And at that point, I started really thinking about suicide.

Why?

I was really starting to think that was the only option because I had taken away the alcohol and drugs and I was just left to myself and I really didn’t like what I saw. It was another very low point, just feeling like a real fuck-up. I’d gotten a job on a building site and I’d gotten fired because my head wasn’t in it. I wasn’t able to concentrate; I was just fresh out of rehab and there were a whole lot of emotions there. I suppose the gay thing was a big thing for me as well. I just started to come out at that stage and talk about it – and I found that quite hard.

Did you act on these suicidal impulses?

That all culminated with trying to take… I suppose it was more of a plea for help. It was a botched sort of thing where I took a load of Paracetamol and a few sleeping tablets from the press at home and ended up in the psychiatric unit.

Were you committed to the psychiatric ward?

Yeah. After I took the tablets, I went to casualty and I told them what happened. I rang this woman who was a facilitator for our group – I used to go to this group after rehab every week – and she took me in and committed me for a couple of weeks. I spent two weeks in there. It wasn’t a nice place. It’s funny, at the time – well, not funny but – I thought, ‘Oh, no! I’ve definitely got some psychiatric problems like my dad’. I almost wanted to have something because I thought that there needed to be some description of why I was such a mess. I wanted some medical term to describe it. I think, looking back, what I needed to do was stay clean and sober for a period and try and have a bit of stability, which did come from staying clean and sober. And that was like the foundation for the life I have today.

Did you only try to commit suicide once?

Yeah, yeah.

When’s the last time you had a drink or took drugs?

It would be 15 years this September.

Have you felt the need to go to therapy during the last 15 years?

Yeah. I went to a counsellor every week for a good two years after that. I was going for an hour every week. And I was doing 12-step recovery, with a weekly recovery group that you do after the rehab. So, you go every week for a few years. You just connect with other people there, trying to stay clean and sober. I did have support and there’s definitely a lot of support there for people. There’s way more support nowadays: ten times as much support as there was 15 years ago. I did tap into that and that helped me to stay on the straight and narrow.

Do you ever find yourself getting low these days?

Yeah, I do actually. It’s a tough subject to talk about, but I’ve definitely had low points where I’ve thought about it (alcohol and drugs) as being an option, but it’s very short-lived. Usually nowadays I’ve a lot more self-awareness than I did back then. And generally what’s going on – no matter how bad it is – it will pass. I have such a massive amount of excitement in my life and there’s going to be (lows). I’ve had incredible highs in the last 15 years: I’ve been across seven continents; I’ve done some amazing things; so, naturally there’s going to be ups and downs. Look, whenever I’m a little bit like that, I try to look after myself and talk to others, and not feed into it and believe the stuff in my head.

It’s a bit of a miracle that you didn’t end up dead or contracting HIV.

That was a huge thing. I had to get a test a few months after I got clean. I was so worried about it because I was promiscuous, in my drink and drug using phase when I was in London – and I was 99 percent sure that I would’ve had it. So, it was really full-on. I was very lucky. That test came upclean. And, looking back, like you said, it does feel like a miracle in one way. I think, “How did I manage to stay clean and sober throughout my twenties?”

What’s the answer?

The reason I did is because I found surfing. I found the outdoors and started to get into that stuff after getting sober. I started to surf down at Lahinch and that became a real new, healthy obsession. I was getting up at all hours to go surfing. And I had that passion and that purpose – and that kept me clean.

What did you do after getting clean and sober?

After spending two years getting my shit together in Galway, I moved to Australia. I went to dive school and became a commercial diver and then became a deep sea saturation diver. I used to dive down to 200 metres doing construction on the oilrigs. So, that was like one of the toughest jobs in the world. You spend a lot of time in a small space because you live inside a chamber for 28 days at a time. And in my time off, I used to take off on these expeditions. I worked as a commercial diver for ten years.

Gavan Hennigan

You mentioned in passing that, growing up, you had problems coming to terms with your sexuality.

Yeah. It was the late ’90s in Galway and I remember not really feeling like I could tell anyone, or really wanting to tell anyone.

Why not?

I had trouble accepting it. I didn’t really feel like I fitted into that sort of world either. There’s a stereotypical gay culture, which was something I didn’t identify with: I was heavily into sport and the outdoors, and obviously would rather be surfing on the west coast of Ireland than in a bar in a big city.

Some younger Hot Press readers might not realise that it was actually illegal to be an actively gay person in the early ‘90s.

Yeah, exactly. A lot has changed in the last 20 years. It was a different time and it was tough for me personally.

When did you come to terms with it?

For me, it’s always been a huge hurdle. It took a long time – even into my mid-twenties – because I am attracted to older men and there was always some shame around that. It’s a little bit taboo, I suppose.

Why do you think you’re attracted to older men?

I get asked it a lot by someone who’s my own age who’s gay and they’re chatting me up: and it’s a question, ‘Why aren’t you into someone younger and fit looking?’ There’s obviously some connection there, because my dad was never around. So, there’s a bit of debate there about how it actually came about.

So your attraction to older men might relate to the fact that you didn’t have a father figure around?

It’s a pretty contentious point. I don’t know how comfortable people are talking about it, especially gay people: whether or not you’re born gay or whether or not you learn through your experiences. I feel, for myself, that my wires got a bit crossed when I was younger just through my own sort of sexual development, through my longing for my father, I suppose, in one way or another. I remember really wanting him to come and take me out on a Sunday and I used to sit on the window ledge for hours waiting for him. It’s hard to pinpoint things, but looking back, I feel that there could’ve been some wires that got crossed.

And you felt ashamed about desiring older men.

Yeah. I had a lot of shame around that. I thought there was something really wrong with me: “I need to go and get cured in some way, or go to therapy because there’s something seriously wrong with me.” Now it doesn’t really bother me. But, at the time, it was really tough because I didn’t really feel normal within being gay, you know? I definitely thought there was something wrong with me because I was into older men. I had no attraction to anyone younger or my own age: it was always someone at least twice my age. So, that was really tough. It’s still hard at times. It’s something that I really wouldn’t have spoken about to anybody.

What helped you overcome the shame?

I thought I was the only gay person like that – but there’s actually quite a few out there! So, I don’t feel as bad nowadays. I’m an adult now and I know a few people who are in the same situation and they’ve got perfectly normal, healthy relationships with older men. It’s something that isn’t talked about, because it’s another, I suppose, subculture or part of the gay scene or the gay sort of world. And, look, ultimately, nobody has control over what they’re attracted to: you’re attracted to what you’re attracted to. You can’t make yourself attracted to something you’re not attracted to. So, you just have to accept it. And that’s the way I turned out. I liked older men and I still like older men. I don’t have any attraction for anyone my own age or younger. I don’t really try to explain it: it’s just what it is.

I can’t see anything wrong with it: we wouldn’t think twice about a man liking an older woman, or a seeing a younger woman with an older man.

I totally agree with you – and that’s how I feel now. But for me growing up and in my twenties, I had a lot of shame around it. I can say that to you now and you wouldn’t bat an eyelid – but to some people it would. And I did worry about what other people thought. My mother did meet my ex and I found that really tough because it was like, ‘Here’s my partner. He’s 53 or 54!’ Because people expect you to be going with somebody your own age. But it’s just the way it is.

When you came out to your parents were they surprised?

My parents were definitely surprised. They were fine. And my sisters were great. Anyone that I did tell (was fine), you know? I suppose my problems were within myself. People think I’m straight when they’re talking to me (laughs). If you’re trying to go on stereotypes, I don’t fit any of those. I told my mum when I was 19. My mum even asked me a couple of months later did I have a girlfriend! So, I’m not sure if she even believed me – if I was going through a phase or something. It takes time for parents to come to terms with it. There just can’t be an instant reaction – that’s where a lot of young people fall down: they expect everything to be good straight away. People need time to process things as well. I told my dad after I got clean and sober and he was grand about it. It was really tough to do that.

How old were you when you start to feel you could be possibly gay?

Probably 14.

The author John Boyne told me his first relationship would’ve been with girls rather than boys. Were you in a similar boat?

Yeah, absolutely. I had a girlfriend at 16. I never actually had proper intercourse with a girl. It didn’t feel right. I was always attracted to men. I never really saw myself going out with a girl as a front and I still don’t understand how so many gay men in Ireland are married, especially older men. I’m obviously somebody who has a lot of experience with older men – and many are married and doing it on the side, and they’ve lived a complete and utter lie for a long time. I could never do that. I had to try to figure something out and accept it.

How old were you when you started to become sexually active with men?

I was probably 17.

Were you never curious about sleeping with a woman?

It’s quite funny because I jokingly say to some of my gay friends that I’m like a thoroughbred gay! I’m like (laughs) the real deal because I’ve never actually slept with a woman! I couldn’t get it up – it doesn’t do it! (Laughs).

Do you ever think, “Jaysus! I’m 35 and I’ve never been with a woman - that’s weird!”

No. Don’t get me wrong: I do think to myself it would probably be easier if I was straight (laughs). Sometimes my life would be a bit simpler. But I don’t regret anything. I love my life and I’m happy with the way I am at the moment.

Do you feel you’ve missed out by not having children?

No. I know it’s possible and more power to anybody who does it. I actually know two separate lesbian girls now with partners who are pregnant. It’s great to see. But I don’t really have the desire. I’ve beautiful nieces and it’s nice to hang out with them. I like the freedom that I have now. I’m in my mid-thirties: I can’t see it happening at this stage.

What’s the longest you’ve been in a relationship for?

A few years ago, I had a partner for nearly three years. He was 53. I was in my late twenties. It’s been pretty hard with my lifestyle: the amount of travelling I do, I’m not really in the one place.

You are literally all over the place…

I would definitely like to (have a relationship). Before that I never really thought it was possible because I’d never really seen it: a younger guy in a stable relationship with an older guy. Yeah, that was tough, but I did manage to have a first good relationship in my late twenties. It’s given me a bit of hope for the future. We’ll see.

Are you on Grindr?

Ah, stop! I would’ve used it, yeah. I’m on it now and again. I end up deleting it half the time (laughs).

Kenneth Egan once told me he found it difficult to use dating websites because nobody would believe it was actually him! I suppose now that you’ve got a high profile you’re in a similar predicament…

Yeah, exactly. I go on it now when I’m away, maybe, just to have a look. But it’s a bit of a joke, especially in Ireland: it’s still tough to get pictures of people. People are pretty discreet and that’s fair enough. Look, I don’t take it too seriously. If I’m bored I’ll go on there. Even though I’ve used online stuff, it’s never been very successful. It’s better to meet people face-to-face.

Did you feel insulted by any of the comments made during same sex marriage referendum?

Oh, I thought it was quite funny. I can go out the door here now and I can get on Grindr and I can go get somebody and have sex with them – and nobody’s going to do shit about it! I can go out and do whatever I want. I think, “Yeah, people can have opinions, but it actually doesn’t matter a shit – unless someone’s coming around my door with a shotgun trying to kill me because I’m gay!”

It sounds like insults roll off you like water off a duck’s back…

I think homophobia is a joke nowadays (laughs)! That’s just my view of it. People can have opinions, they can type stuff online and they can rustle up their feathers – but, at the end of the day, it hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want to do. Fair enough, it might be a different story if I went to Saudi Arabia. But most places I go, I’ve never had any issues. And I think with the same sex marriage referendum, those people got the chance to come out and say their stuff, but it’s quite funny that now they’re kind of in the closet! Now they’ve got to hide their (views). So, it’s a bit weird.

I interviewed the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin last year and he said that the act of homosexuality was a sin but being gay wasn’t a sin. Isn’t that medieval nonsense?

Yeah. Look, don’t get me started on the Church (laughs)! That’s another ballgame. They can say whatever they want: I’m still going out and doing what I want to do and so are all the gay people running around now. You can have these opinions, but it doesn’t mean anything really because if you’re secure in yourself – like I am – you can brush it off pretty easily.

All the profiles I’ve read about you seem to start off with something along the lines of: “It’s hard to square up this alpha male image with someone who was a drug addict and is gay.” Does it piss you off with how the papers always go with the easy, clichéd narrative and headlines?

I don’t pay too much attention to it. I’m pretty secure in myself: I don’t give a shit what people write (laughs). Publicity isn’t really that important to me, it’s just a means to an end.

You’ve said surfing helped turn your life round, but when did you get into the more extreme types of sport?

One thing lead to another: I started snowboarding, climbing mountains, going to cold places, doing mountaineering which lead me into – I was always running – doing ultra-marathons and then winter ultra-marathons, and doing a couple of the so-called “toughest races in the world” up in the Arctic. I get a buzz out of testing myself. So, 18 months ago I planned to row the Atlantic. I stopped diving and spent my lifesavings on a boat. Now, I suppose I’m an adventurer and I’m starting to do public speaking and putting together this expedition to row back: so it’s just been this rollercoaster of jumping from one thing to another. I’m not really going with the status quo – and trying to take more chances with going after things I want to do.

Have you ever put your life at risk?

As I said, I’m a commercial diver: it’s easily the most dangerous job in the world. I’d go down 200 metres under the bottom of an oilrig to do heavy construction. To get back from that depth takes seven days. Like, if something goes wrong you’re dead. So, ten years doing that – you’re life is on the line every day. People say to me, “You go out and you do these really dangerous things!” They’re not really dangerous – commercial diving is dangerous. The perspective I have is: I’m going out to do this – whatever it is: an ultra marathon, or some event – but I’m always about safety. It’s always very calculated. Because that’s where I come from: with diving, you’re doing everything by the book – and safety first.

But you must have frozen your balls off on some of these expeditions!

Yeah – that’s it (laughs). I ran across Lake Baikal in Siberia: the deepest, biggest fresh water lake in the world and it freezes over in the winter – like two metres of ice. I went out there on my own and pulled a 65 kilo sledge across there in 17 days. It was 700 kilometres. It was like doing a marathon a day for 17 days – pulling 65kgs on a sledge behind me. And then obviously having to set up camp in the snow and be self-efficient. Yeah, -30, -40. So, yeah, that was pretty cool!

It sounds like you’re a glutton for punishment?

(Laughs) I suppose to most people it does seem like punishment, but I enjoy it. I enjoy pushing myself and I enjoy the physical and mental challenge of being out there. I really feel like I come into my own as a person. I don’t feel challenged in the day-to-day world like you. To put me in a normal job, like, I think I’d probably end up killing myself!

What are you planning next?

I’m rowing back from New York to Galway in the summer – that’s the big one. I’ll be setting off from Battery Park, the tip of Manhattan. And rowing the same distance: 3,000 nautical miles by 1,000 kilometres across the North Atlantic, which is a much tougher route than the ‘trade winds’ route. It’s only been rowed solo like 15 times. Nobody’s rowed it solo from America to Ireland. And it’s got great significance with the Irish: Battery Park is where a lot of the Irish came ashore, the immigrants and the famine ships. There’s a famine memorial there. So, it’s a really cool thing to be doing. And just to row the Atlantic twice in 12 months will be a pretty spectacular thing to be able to do.

Which of your achievements are you most proud of?

Ah, staying clean and sober. All the expeditions are secondary really. I wouldn’t have done any of them without having stayed clean and sober. So, that’s my biggest achievement and the fact that that I was able to hold out through my twenties, which was a tough thing to do, and to turn things around – from wanting to kill myself to travelling all over the world and doing these cool things. But that’s the absolute foundation.

 

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