For the last few weeks, we’ve been exploring the mindset of Kurt and John Schwartz as they prepared to set forth on their trans-Atlantic adventure. But what must it be like for the loved ones left behind, the family and friends waiting on the shore, watching their sons/brothers/cousins/boyfriends row off into the open ocean?
As they made their final preparations for the 2016 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the Schwartz brothers were bolstered by the support of quite an entourage. Team 32º North departed last Wednesday; a group of their most inner circle now weigh in on what that was like from their perspective.
In the Schwartz family, everyone turns out to support each other. If there is one Schwartz around the corner, a large, pretty loud group of more Schwartz-related folk is to follow. Gathering to see John and Kurt set off on the race, though, was a humbling experience that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.
As the rowers made finally adjustments to their boats, everyone on the departure dock — whether another team, their family members, or the supporting crowd — could not have been more kind, encouraging and helpful. The sense of unity and excitement was overwhelming. Not only was every rower preparing to cross the Atlantic Ocean by hand, but was (and is) doing so for amazing cause, and that knowledge bonded everyone. The local school kids even came out with a handmade signs for each team and cheered them on by name. This action in and of itself seem to invigorate the rowers even further and tighten their sense of anticipation to get on the water.
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge duty officers have also been very keen to put the families of competitors at ease. They conducted an informational meeting two days before the race that provided insight into what the rowers will experience on the water — the good, the scary, the unfathomable and the naked (the latter of which applies to all categories).
Below are the collected thoughts from family at the starting line:
“People always ask a mother, ‘Aren’t you afraid of what your boys are doing?’ Initially, it was, ‘Absolutely.’ Then when you witness their preparation and the support from Talisker, you feel a degree of comfort. Becoming educated on what they face is key. That said, I do get these waves of emotion that hit me at random points throughout the day since they’ve taken off, but know they have each other, and that is what brings me peace. They are close brothers, and have a great love and respect for each other.” Doris Schwartz (mother)
“I’m immensely proud, excited and inspired by my boys. The undertaking to get out of your comfort zone is something we all need to do, and very few actually follow through with it like they have.” Kurt Schwartz (father)
“I feel like I’m constantly in thought now that they have officially started the race, thinking about how they are feeling mentally and physically and what they are seeing. I also think about how proud I am of them for taking on such a huge adventure and completely being dedicated to the row and the cause.” Amy Laviolette (Kurt’s girlfriend)
“It feels surreal. I know they’re out there but it doesn’t hit me until I’m doing something comforting, like eating a hot meal, and I’m reminded of the conditions they’re in an what they’re facing.” Randy Alanen (cousin)
“I’m glad they didn’t make the fantasy football playoffs because they don’t have to worry about their lineups. I’m also glad the Chargers had a bad season (sorry, Chargers), because the guys need to focus on rowing.” Mayo Alanen (husband of cousin Randy)
“Ever since I met John, I thought he is the most fascinating, adventurous, passionate, kind-hearted, life- and people-loving person. When he first told me about rowing across the Atlantic, I did’t know much about it, but even then I didn’t have any doubts that he is able to do it. He always makes anything he sets his heart on happen. Words can’t describe how proud I am of both him and Kurt.” Aneta Le (John’s girlfriend)
“John and Kurt have always had an adventurous spirit and it’s not surprising they are doing this. They told me they wanted to talk one evening and sprung the ‘We’re going to partake in a global race across the Atlantic … and it’s all going to happen in a two-man rowboat’ plan on me. It was the last thing I expected, but it probably should have been the first. It has been total dedication from that moment and they have been so level-headed about it. I’m so unbelievably proud of them.” Nikki Schwartz (sister)
While we all worry about what it’s like for them out there, we do have some peace of mind. Our latest update from the boat came from Sonya Baumstein (their boat maker). She got a text from their satellite phone asking if a carne asada burrito could be air delivered, so we know they are in good spirits.
– Nikki Schwartz
Please remember that 32º North rows for The Samfund. You can support their efforts by supporting their cause. Visit their Flipgive fundraising page below to make a direct donation or to Shop & Support The Samfund.