Christchurch man to cross Atlantic Ocean in the fight against depression
Come next year, Christchurch man Isaac Giesen could be the first New Zealander to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
The 24-year-old will set off on December 12 to row the over 3000 nautical mile-stretch of ocean between the Canary Islands and Antigua, in the 2017 Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.
The row is considered one of the world's most intense physical challenges. Giesen will face up to 90 days alone at sea.
He is one of six solo rowers participating in the 2017 challenge and, if successful, will be the only Kiwi to have rowed this stretch of ocean alone.
Rob Hamill and the late Phil Stubbs won the first Trans-Atlantic Rowing Challenge in 1997.
Giesen's motivation for the event is to raise $1 million for depression and suicide awareness in New Zealand and Australia, after losing his aunt and two close friends to suicide.
"I know I won't be able to solve it all, but if you raise $1m then hopefully there has been a million people who have listened because we've actually started talking about an issue that is quite big."
Giesen said it was an issue that needed to be discussed more openly. "You can see the tingles go up peoples back [when you talk about suicide] – especially men."
He was dubbed "the Blue Rower" because "depression is like when you're blue, when your feeling down or have got the blues, blue is my favourite colour and it's the colour of the ocean, it's pretty straight forward".
Giesen, now based in England, only started rowing in February but had a infinity with the water from a young age through surf life saving, "which has helped me through a lot of my tough times".
He has been rowing, going to the gym and doing yoga in preparation for the Atlantic event.
He was not nervous about the looming row, saying he was "not really thinking" about the worst-case scenario".
"The boat is like a life craft – if you get one hole in it you can fix it, if you get stuck in a big storm you get to hang out in the ocean and see mother nature for who she is and I want to go to see the ocean and play in that playground for a bit. If you kind of break it all down . . . all you've got to do is row, eat and sleep.
"My solitude might be overwhelming, but my discomfort will only be short-lived, because for people who suffer from depression, there is no finish line . . . and what else do you do in 90 days of your life."
Giesen had raised more than $6800 by Thursday. Visit thebluerower.com to donate.
WHERE TO GET HELP
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906 (Palmerston North and Levin)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.