Less than fifty people have rowed the Indian Ocean and four friends in the UK are planning to do it non-stop and raise awareness of Parkinson’s in young people.
In June, they are rowing 3,600 miles non-stop and are trying to do it in 65 days. They are live streaming the event to schools across the country to help educate them about exercise and Parkinson’s disease.
Robin Buttery, 46, Leicester, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s almost three years ago and is taking part in the row because of his Parkinson’s.
He said: “The whole thing for me is about promoting Young Onset Parkinson’s disease awareness, promoting exercise because I think exercise is the way forward.
“I’ve been considered to be a drunk walking home from the pub before when I’ve not, I’ve had a drink but I haven’t been a drunk, its actually a stagger caused by my leg. There are stigma’s associated with it.”
Robin wants to promote exercise, as it can be effective in slowing down the progression of the disease but can also encourage people generally to keep active.
“Exercise for me has been the single most beneficial thing for treating the disease, this is purely my personal view of it, but I’ve noticed many, many benefits from it.
“I think exercise would do everyone much more benefit then perhaps has been thought in the past, instead of just going down the drugs route.”
Robin doesn’t have much experience with rowing in deep water, but wants people to see that Parkinson’s disease is different for each person who has it, and that it isn’t just tremors. He gets cramps, has issues with sleep and gets stiffness in his muscles when he moves.
He said: “For the rowing, Parkinson’s disease will definitely present itself to people, I want people to see how it effects me, but how it would effect anybody with Parkinson’s disease.
“There probably aren’t that many people that would want to take on a challenge like this, but I feel it’s right for me.”
Billy Taylor, 45, Sussex, wants the challenge to encourage people in all walks of life to take up exercise.
He said: “We don’t expect people to go out and row and ocean, but if Robin can do this, people can get up and go for a walk, or play around with the kids, just something to maintain those levels of exercise.”
The task ahead won’t be easy, as rowing an ocean for 60 days means living without your home comforts for two months, especially with four men sharing a cabin smaller than the size of a double bed.
Billy said: “You row for two hours, and you go into the cabin and your in there for two hours, and come back out again, and that’s 24 hours.
“You don’t sleep more than 90 minutes at a time and in the time that you’re off, you also have to make all of your food, you have to tend to any personal admin to prevent injuries and repairs to the boat as well.”
With three months to go, the four men are putting their bodies through intense training to prepare themselves for over two months at sea.
Barry Hayes, 37, Wales, said: “You lose a lot of weight during these sort of crossings, and I am naturally quite a lean person, so now I am mostly just eating my own body weight in food every day to try and put some weight on. I train every day in some capacity, mostly rowing.”
Rowing an ocean is both physically and mentally challenging for anyone and the four men are preparing for the challenge by training and thinking about how it will affect them in the 60 days they will be at sea.
James Plumley, 28, Guernsey, said: “Physically I know it will reduce my body to a pure rowing machine, excess fat and muscle will go and hardy blisters and a salty beard will replace them.
“It will be tough but I think it’s times like these that you discover just how resilient the human body is.”
While encouraging and promoting exercise, they are also doing it for the thrill and enjoyment of rowing an entire ocean.
James said: “It’s incredibly addictive escaping all the normalities of everyday life and heading off on a great adventure focused on achieving a single goal, I love it and I need it.
“It’s been a long time now in the planning, the excitement has been building and I just want to start rowing. I think I’m in a slight state of bliss about the whole thing, it will probably hit home that we’re really doing this when we touch down in Australia ready to set off.”
Visit their page at www.rowtheindianocean.com to donate and support their row.