Updated: Pacific Rower Angela Madsen Found Dead

Angela Madsen. Photo: outsports.com

Angela Madsen has died during her attempt to row alone across the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Her wife, Debra, confirmed the sad news in a Facebook post this evening.

Angela Madsen during her previous row to Hawaii with Tara Remington. Photo: PressTelegram

Madsen had been at sea for 60 days and covered just over 2,000km of her journey. She was regularly checking in by satphone with Debra and also with filmmakers documenting her row. On the morning of June 21, she told them she needed to go into the water to make repairs to the hardware that deployed the para-anchor from the bow.

After not hearing from her for several hours, Debra began to worry. “When I checked her main inbox, she had not returned any messages,” said Debra. “[From] the tracking, it did not appear that she was rowing the boat, but rather that it was drifting.  She was about as far from any land as she could get, and communication can be a challenge; I was hopeful but still had a feeling of heaviness in my chest.”

Search and rescue was contacted, and the U.S. Coast Guard sent a plane on a flyover that night, and the German-registered cargo ship Polynesia diverted to check on Madsen. The plane spotted Madsen’s boat RowofLife, and her body in the water, still tethered to it. She was recovered from the ocean by the Polynesia, which arrived on site late Monday night and confirmed that she had passed away.

Madsen and Brown winning gold at the World Championships in 2006. Photo: row2k

Madsen was a three-time Paralympian, a former Marine and a six-time Guinness world record holder for ocean rowing. She was aiming to be the first paraplegic, first openly gay athlete and oldest woman to row the Pacific Ocean. In a statement released on the RowofLife website, Debra said, “Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come.  A life forged by unbelievable hardship, she overcame it all…She knew the risks better than any of us and was willing to take those risks because being at sea made her happier than anything else. She told us time and again that if she died trying, that is how she wanted to go.”

“Angela is now en route to Tahiti without me,” said Debra.

Soraya Simi, the filmmaker working on a documentary about Madsen, posted further details on Instagram:

About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Aspiring sports and travel journalist based in the UK.

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9 Comments on "Updated: Pacific Rower Angela Madsen Found Dead"

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Nic Maennling

There is something abnormal about people who risk life and limb doing things like this. It’s a form of mental illness masked by their seemingly heroic deed. She was not thinking of the people who who loved her. I hope too, that she had enough in the bank to cover search & rescue personnel and equipment.

I appreciate your perspective and many times have wondered about the challenges some individuals take on. Sometimes in life, we are handed one unbelievable adversity after another and we step up to not just meet it but defeat it. Some individuals are blessed with a level of perseverance, determination, skill and stubbornness that brings them to the point of turning adversity into opportunity. Please take the time to learn about the impact Angela had on this world. Not just her family and friends, or her local community/state, or disabled veterans, the LGBTQ community (pick one) – the WORLD. Maybe you… Read more »
Jerry Kobalenko

You raise an interesting point, because search and rescue services are usually considered part of the social contract. One could ask, perhaps equally fairly, should smokers with medical issues have enough money in the bank to pay for the care subsidized in large part by healthy people?

To MIc maennling, I am a disabled Veteran who had the honor to meet and talk with Angela. Because she is sadly gone, you will never be able to have the honor of meeting her or the opportunity to gain the understanding. If she was here, she would have talked with you and you would have become a supporter and probably accepted her offer to learn how to row. I had your address. I would send you a copy of her book and I believe after reading it, you would have a better understanding of why she accepted the challenge.… Read more »
Milan Collin
Sorry to hear that you feel like this Nic. Obviously you do not have a higher meaning in life than pleasing your loved ones. Like the text mentions that if she would stay at home she would be less of an interesting/happy person. I know many adventurous that are exactly the same. If you put them in a box they don’t shine and believe me it is better to shine then just fade away like most people do. Sorry to come across rude and tempert but I lost many souls out there who embraced life and their loved ones more… Read more »
G Michael Leonard

Exploration. It’s what separates humanity from rabbits.

This is very sad. The world lost an amazing and inspirational woman, who was even more, then everything reported. I truly hope she did not suffer. Aside from everything Angela accomplished (which is more then most) she and her wife are two wonderful and giving people. My heart and prayers are with her wife, family and friends. I am so grateful I met Angela and have thought about her often since that meeting. I am sorry I did not get the chance to tell her how much she impacted my life and inspired me, after meeting her a few years… Read more »
Milan Collin

I am sorry to hear that this beautiful inspirational warrior soul has passed away. On expeditions like this, you’ll never be on time for a rescue if you need to. I hope you can give it a place.

The same happened to us in 2006 when we were shooting a movie on Mount Everest with a visually impaired climber. To this day, the memories remain and the consolation that it happened in a desired location soothes the circumstances over time.
My thoughts are with you during this difficult time.


✨🙏✨blessings go out to her family, friends and all the people who’s life she seemingly touched…she went to the heavens doing what she loved best …thank the Lord he gave us FREE WILL