Utah rowing team tries to tackle another ocean to raise funds, awareness for ALS

Jun 29, 2023, 9:00 AM

people on a boat...

(World's Toughest Row)

(World's Toughest Row)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah rowing team is trying to raise money and awareness by rowing across an ocean — again. 

KSL Outdoors Show first met this rowing team, known as the Row4ALS team, back in 2018-2019. The team of five set out to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge all to raise awareness and research funds for ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Row4ALS is a nonprofit, and all the funds it raises go to the University of Utah Clinical Neurosciences Center in Salt Lake City.

The five-man Utah rowing team included Tim Ryan, Dale Smith, Teddy Waldo and Brian Armstrong, along with their Chief Inspiration Officer Alan Alderman. Alderman earned his title after being diagnosed with ALS himself back in 2000. He then decided that, although ALS might eventually take his life, it would not destroy it.

Determined that Alderman would be a rower in this race, the team came up with a specially designed seat and gea. With his participation, they successfully reached the finish line in 51 days, 11 hours and 57 minutes.

That made them the first team to ever complete the Atlantic race with an ALS-diagnosed rower.

But the team wasn’t done yet.

Flash forward to June 2023 — right now — and the challenge of the World’s Toughest Row.

They’ve been sharing their experience via SkyCall Satellite phones each Saturday morning on KSL.


Utah’s rowing team and the World’s Toughest Row

With an initial investment of $250,000, it would be a shame to not get more use out of the boat the team called home crossing the Atlantic.

The allure of a race named the World’s Toughest Row proved to be too tempting for this fearless group. So on June 12, 2023, they launched again. This time from Monterey Harbor California en route to Hanalei Bay in Kauai.

(Photo courtesy of World’s Toughest Row)

Just 82 people in 33 boats have successfully rowed to one of the Hawaiian islands from the U.S. mainland. It’s a 2800-mile trek that, despite being 200 miles shorter than the Atlantic crossing, comes with an estimated 60-day crossing. That’s a full eight days longer than in 2018.

To make the challenge even tougher, the Row4ALS team would be attempting it with a crew of just three. Ryan and Smith would be joined by Ryan’s son, Abel.

Alderman had hoped to be a part of the Pacific challenge, but sadly the progression of ALS, now 23 years post-diagnosis made that impossible.

The Pacific Challenge

Rowing across the ocean is never easy, but the winds and waves of the Pacific are certainly the reasons this race was given the name.

A boat approximately 26 feet long and 6.5 feet wide gives little protection from 40-foot waves, tropical storms and sweltering heat. And a three-man rotation gives little downtime for relief from the constant rowing.

After taking a northern track from Monterey to find favorable winds for the push from the California coast, the Utah rowing team soon figured out that they may have bitten off more than they could chew.

It turns out the waves of the Pacific differed from what the team experienced in the Atlantic — they were less uniform and bigger.

Plus the winds, according to Abel, seemed to be blowing in a circular pattern causing even more of a challenge. To combat the conditions the three would be set on a two-hour rotation of Smith and Abel at the oars, leaving Ryan to row single for his two-hour assignment.

And even though the boat is made of carbon fiber, its weight was also becoming a factor.

So a tough decision was made. They ended their 2023 run. Instead, they chose to conserve enough energy to row back to shore instead of putting themselves in a position of being rescued. Because that would also mean leaving that expensive boat behind.

In all, the Row4ALS 2023 crew rowed a total of approximately 500 nautical miles.

They learned valuable lessons to make a future attempt at the World’s Toughest Row possibly as early as 2024 or 2025 — with Alderman always on their minds.

After all, his continued triumph over ALS — not letting it limit his his life dreams — makes theirs seem quite achievable.

Tim Hughes is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and the host of KSL Outdoors.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Outdoors + Recreation

To store potatoes, you have to take them out of the ground. You can remove the tops and let them si...

Michelle Lee

Harvesting and storing your fruits and vegetables

It is time to harvest your fruits and vegetables. Don’t know how to properly store them? Taun and Maria gave some tips on the KSL Greenhouse show.

6 hours ago

Rollercoaster with riders...

Michael Camit

Lagoon’s newest ride strives to be accessible to all

Lagoon says they have made park accessibility a big focus. The newest park ride, Primordial, is no exception.

7 hours ago

A sign for timpanogos cave national monument...

Alejandro Lucero

Timpanogos Cave: a refuge for explorers past, present and future

Timpanogos Cave has been silently forming dazzling displays since the days of Lake Bonneville.  

11 hours ago

Hand cyclists pedal across a bridge over the Jordan River section of Parley's Trail in West Valley ...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

‘It’s finally here’: Parley’s Trail is now complete with complicated stretch solved

The long-awaited Parley' trail is now open. The goal is to connect communities using different forms of transportation.

14 hours ago

Backcountry skiers make use of the record-breaking snowpack to make some turns at Alta Ski Area, wh...

Don Brinkerhoff

UTA decreasing ski bus service due to driver shortage

UTA ski bus service this winter will be scaled back again because of a driver shortage. This is the second year in a row.

2 days ago

Image of new free street soccer court in Salt Lake City's Sherwood Park. The organizer of Free The ...

Eric Cabrera

Free street soccer court built in Sherwood Park, and there are more to come

Free the Game is a non-profit, on a mission to bring more soccer opportunities to underserved communities across Utah.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Utah rowing team tries to tackle another ocean to raise funds, awareness for ALS