A good paddling: MInd matters far more than muscle for novice joining landmark rowing expedition across Atlantic

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Tyler Carnevale, 23, had no rowing experience rowing boats and no knowledge about the five people planning to paddle across the Atlantic Ocean in a tiny craft. But an “interest in new challenges” motivated him to reply to an online ad seeking a sixth paddler and ultimately what was in his head mattered more than what was in his arms.

“(The leader) could tell through interviews on Skype I had the mental fortitude to get through this,” said Carnevale, a New Jersey resident, shortly before beginning his epic quest from Longyearbyen with other members of The Polar Row. The five others in the group – all of whom are accomplished rowing champions or explorers –  have already achieved one landmark by completing the first-ever row from Tromsø to Longyearbyen in late July.

Furthermore, adding to the mental challenge for Carnevale – they did so in a shocking quick seven days.

“No one thought it would go so fast,” Tor Wigum, a Norwegian member of the expedition, told Verdens Gang. “We had expected it to take 11-12 days and had rationed for 20.”

The six-man crew set off for Greenland at about 1 a.m. Tuesday. The trip is scheduled to last 22 days, but Carnevale is guessing the actual duration could go a week either way.

“There’s so many variables it’s hard to know what to expect,” he said.

During that time he and two others will alternate two-hour rowing shifts with a second trio, using the rest time to get what sleep they can in two tiny cabins at either end of the boat. Experience during the first leg suggests they can expect to be wet the entire time, which is why motivation matters more tham muscle.

“Once you’re a week or two being in that seat with as much motivation as the beginning” is likely to be the biggest challenge, Carnevale said.

But while he’s a landlubber, he’s one who’s been to more than 30 countries, engaging in everything from major mountain climbing expeditions to glacier research. That convinced him to reply to an online ad seeking a sixth rower for the expedition.

“It was framed as an ultra-endurance event, not rowing,” Carnevale said. “One of the prime challenges is mental fortitude,” he said.

A series of e-mails and online chats with Fiann Paul, captain of the expedition, resulted in him picking out the intrepid novice from the many who applied.

“He could tell through interviews on Skype I had the mental fortitude to get through this,” Carnevale said.

He said his training has included workouts on rowing machines a couple of times a week, but his main concern is being beefed up for the endurance aspect.

“I tried to put on as much weight as possible,” he said. “We’re probably going to lose around 20 pounds.”

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