Across The Sea: Jasmine Harrison’s Record-Breaking Accomplishment


Parker Bates and Grace Li

Imagine being alone on a small 23-foot long boat in the middle of one of the largest bodies of water in the world. Waves crash sporadically up against the boat’s frame as you paddle for twelve hours in different weather and ocean conditions, from the heat of the sun to the cold winds and rain. The amount of time and dedication needed for this challenge is immense. Rowing for 70 days, three hours, and 48 minutes across the Atlantic Ocean is no simple task, but for 21-year old Jasmine Harrison, it was worth every second.  


But before Harrison embarked on her journey across the Atlantic, she was only a young swim instructor from Northeast England with little rowing experience. She heard about the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge from a participant in a bar on Nelson’s Dockyard a while before. The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge is a challenge that was sponsored and started by the Talisker Whiskey Brand. The participants are challenged to row across the Atlantic Ocean within a year. It starts in San Sebastian in La Gomera, the Canary Islands in Spain and participants row for approximately 3,000 miles to their final destination: Nelson’s Dockyard, a harbor in Britain. Harrison was intrigued by this challenge and decided to participate.


Harrison rowed not only in record-breaking time, but also was the first solo woman rower to accomplish the challenge. Harrison’s accomplishment became a famous event among the rowing community and especially, for the women in rowing. Tenth grader Olivia Zscheitzschmann-Meek, an ex-competitive rower, compares her previous experience with Harrison’s.


I think Jasmine Harrison is incredible, when I did row, the longest distance I did was 11k… She’s an amazing role model for anyone who is either doing the sport or thinking about picking it up,” Zscheitzschmann-Meek said. 


Building off of what Zscheitizschmann-Meek said, many women in the rowing community feel inspired by Harrison and look forward to more women accomplishing other prominent feats in rowing. Rowing is a predominantly male sport, and a number of women in rowing faced bias because of it. Harrison’s accomplishment can help prevent bias against women in rowing and allow these women to explore the adventures of rowing more freely in the future. 


Zscheitzschmann-Meek is not the only Paly athlete who was wowed by Harrison’s accomplishments.  


Tenth grader Nathan Pazmino has rowed since he was around nine years old, and for the past three years, has rowed competitively. His team, the Redwood Scullers, was established in 2002 and consists of middle schoolers and high schoolers. The team participated in a number of competitions each year and practice vigorously five days a week. On those mornings, Pazmino would wake up before school at 5:00 a.m., go to rowing practice, attend school, go home, try to finish homework quickly so he can go to sleep early, and then wake up at 5:00 a.m. again the next day. 


“It is… hard to stress how remarkable Harrison’s accomplishment was,” Pazmino said. “She is the youngest of only a few hundred people to row across the Atlantic. It was amazing she had the initiative to decide to undertake such an arduous task without months or years of planning and see it through to the end. For reference, in one go she traveled a distance pretty close to everything I’ve done in the last 3 years.”


Ninth grader Gavin Sun is a part of Pazmino’s team and has also participated in competitions state-wide and nation-wide. Like Pazmino, Sun also admires Harrison’s accomplishment: “Nothing I’ve heard of in the rowing world quite matches what Jasmine Harrison did…  The amount of determination needed to pull that off is amazing, water and wind conditions are incredibly variable just day to day, but making it around 3,000 miles over 70 straight days out there is just amazing,” Sun said. 


Before 2013, most of the participants of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge were males and that would not be changed until 2016, when a few more women started to participate. Since then, the number of participating women has grown steadily, and now with Harrison’s amazing record, it can further encourage more women to participate in not only endurance rowing, but endurance sports in general.


“I am hopeful that this sheds some more light on women’s rowing and will increase interest directed towards it. Too often women’s sports never really receive the same mainstream attention as men’s, rowing sadly being no exception… it should show the world that women’s rowing is every bit as legitimate as men’s,” Pazmino said. 


Pazmino sees how women’s rowing is “underestimated” compared to men’s rowing and looks forward to seeing how Harrison’s impact will heighten the respect and legitimacy of women’s rowing to others in the future.  


After the accomplishments of Harrison and other professional rowers, endurance rowing has begun to gain more recognition in the sports world. Rowing takes dedication, time, and resilience, but the outcome helps breed mentally and physically strong athletes who can really accomplish amazing feats. Although no Paly students have been reported to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean like Harrison, there’s a chance they will accomplish some amazing rowing feats as well in the future. Maybe in the next ten years, you could possibly see the names of Nathen Pazmino or Gavin Sun on the cover of the New York Times for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in record time.