Lia Ditton Reaches Hawaii, Breaks Women’s Record

After 86 days, 10 hours, 5 minutes, and 54 seconds, Lia Ditton rowed into the harbor at Waikiki, Honolulu yesterday, breaking the women’s record for the fastest unsupported solo row from the U.S. to Hawaii by 13 days.

A joyful and relieved Lia Ditton steps onto solid ground.


When Ditton left San Francisco on June 17, she did not expect to take almost three months to reach her destination. Indeed, she was attempting to break Rob Eustace’s 2014 overall world record of 52 days.

Early in the trip, however, it became clear that Eustace’s spritely time was beyond reach. Unfavorable weather along the California coast forced Ditton to focus instead on the women’s record of 99 days, set in 2008 by Roz Savage.

Roz Savage begins her 2010 record row.


Many rowers since have challenged both the male and female records, including two rowers who died during their respective voyages earlier this year.

Angela Madsen’s body was found tethered to her vessel near the Hawaiian coastline just a few months ago. And in March, Ditton’s close friend, Ruihan Yu, died during his second attempt at the same quest.

Misfortunes plagued Ditton’s own journey. Her vessel capsized twice, and although both times she was unharmed, the close calls forced her to make changes. She flooded her cockpit bilge and sea anchor locker. While the extra ballast improved safety, it turned her vessel into a “floating brick” — not particularly desirable during a speed record attempt.

The more stable boat improved her rest, however, as she could now sleep without worrying about further capsizes. She slept in shifts, with a nap during the day and short night snoozes between spurts of rowing.

Lia Ditton capsized twice and heard news of a fellow rower’s death on the same route while at sea.


She fueled herself with repetitive rations of freeze-dried food, including spaghetti bolognaise and Thai chicken curry. Sometimes, sharks tapped at the hull. Her clothes were usually wet, her sleeping bag soggy. Twice, she had to leave the 6.4-metre boat — her greatest fear — to get in the water to remove barnacles.

The coastline of Hawaii hove into sight just three days before the finish. Her final stretch involved 18 hours of non-stop rowing. She touched land at 6:08:23 on Saturday morning.

Lia Ditton is now the fastest woman to row alone across the Pacific.


If not for the pandemic, Ditton would have been greeted by paddlers near shore and family members on the pier. But at least, she can now enjoy the feeling of solid ground underfoot without further self-isolation at sea. And she did receive a traditional lei, or garland of flowers, on her arrival.

At one point on this journey, Ditton confessed, “Be glad when this is over.” Nevertheless, she still plans to row alone from Japan to San Francisco next spring.