Uniting Nations – One year on

IMG_4824 ©Ellen Hoke PhotographyLast week marked the one year anniversary of the first ever Great Pacific Race – the biggest, baddest human endurance challenge on the planet.  To mark this occasion, we reached out to the crews from the 2014 edition to see where they are now, one year later.

Team Uniting Nations was the first team to cross the finish line of the Great Pacific Race in 2014.  They completed their crossing in 43 days, 5 hours and 30 minutes and set four new World Records:  First team of four to row the Pacific – mid ocean route E-W; Fastest (all male) four to row the Pacific – mid ocean route E-W; First South Korean to row any ocean; and First New Zealand man to row the Pacific – mid ocean route E-W.

We caught up with Juhno Choi of South Korea, Andre Kiers of the Netherlands and Craig Hackett of New Zealand.  We expect an update from new dad Casper Zafer soon.

For Juhno, the ocean crossing seems as though it was just yesterday even though it has now been a year.  After finishing the Great Pacific Race, Juhno returned to his job as a marketing manager.  During this past year, he has had interviews with the press and has given and continues to give talks on his rowing experience, sharing his story with Korean people.

When asked what his favorite memory was from the race, Juhno responded that “participating in the Great Pacific Race was the greatest moment in my whole life.”   Since the race he is doing his best to live each moment of his life as he did during the row.  “I got to realize challenge makes life passionate and confident and I have lived life with a passion since then.” 

uniting nations kitv arrivalKITV4 caught up with the team when they arrived. (click the image above to play the clip)

Juhno said that even though he had a lot of pleasant memories, there were some painful ones as well which made the crossing difficult for him.  These memories included having sore hips and rowing in a state that was somewhere between being asleep and awake.  Although at the time of the row these seemed like insurmountable challenges, he stated that “now I think they are worth all that suffering.”

Juhno also mentioned that “most of all, I miss my team members, Craig, Caspar and Andre. They are real cool guys.”  He went on to tell us that “I remember that Craig asked me during the Great Pacific Race if I would challenge ocean rowing again.  I firmly said ‘Never’ but I’m preparing for the ‘Atlantic Challenge’ as a solo or pair with a Korean guy.”

Similar to Juhno, we heard that Andre is also giving consideration to rowing the Atlantic, perhaps as a solo or as a pair.

After the race, Andre returned to his day job as a psychiatric nurse in the Netherlands and he  enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.  However, after a few weeks he received an opportunity to work in New Zealand.  “So after just 4 months of being in the Netherlands, I left for New Zealand for a period of 4.5 months” he told us.  Andre’s adventurous spirit had him first working as a skydive instructor and then he spent his final month in New Zealand traveling.  “Now I am back working psyche.  I will see what the future will bring.  No plans … yet!”

When reflecting on the past year, Andre believes that now, maybe more than before, he enjoys life and the “small things it has to offer.”  He is thankful to have had the opportunity to “fulfill one of my dreams” and he would “wish everyone could and would do so!  I feel blessed.  I am grateful.”

His favorite memories from the row were the first time the crew lost sight of of the California coast, diving off the boat and swimming in such a blue, beautiful ocean, and the first time they spotted the islands of Hawaii.  He also reminisced that “every time I hear the Lumineers or Imagine Dragons, my heartbeat goes up a little bit.  We enjoyed them so much when rowing.”

IMG_7635 ©Ellen Hoke Photography

Craig’s life has returned to what he refers to as “normal.”  We caught up with him just after he finished working a job in Mumbai, India and was heading back to New Zealand for a break.

He told us that his favorite memory was “a period when Andre was feeling un-well, and myself Caspar and Juhno were working together to keep the boat moving. I had a period one evening when I was rowing solo, the only noise was the ocean slapping against the boat. Hard to explain but it was very peaceful.”

Craig doesn’t yet have any solid plans for his next adventure, but “I know this isn’t the end and there will be something else.”

We are tracking down other teams from the inaugural Great Pacific Race and look forward to letting you know where they are now.  Entries are now open for the 2016 edition of the Great Pacific Race.  Please visit www.newoceanwave.com for full details.

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