This December, Ananya will be setting off across the Atlantic Ocean, rowing 3000 miles over 60 days, to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation.
Ananya aims to be the first woman of colour to row solo and unsupported across any ocean. She hopes to encourage more diversity in adventure sport and rowing, for everyone, but especially for women and minority groups.
Ananya Prasad - Solo rower: World's Toughest Row
So far fewer than 25 women have successfully rowed solo across an ocean. By participating, I hope to encourage and inspire women and people of colour to get involved in adventure sport.
Adventure sport and mental health
Ananya hopes her inspiring voyage can encourage people to try new things, take on challenges outside our comfort zones, and feel the benefits of exercise and adventure.
Ananya grew up with a love of the outdoors and new activities, and aware of the positive impact of the natural environment and physical challenges on her own mental health.
Think back to a time when you got through something challenging, mentally or physically that you didn’t think you could achieve and the sheer satisfaction in realising that you were, after all, capable of it.
For me, this is the appeal of outdoor adventures and physical challenges, that remind us we’re capable of more than we believe.
What motivated you to take on this challenge?
“I’ve always loved the great outdoors, new adventures and trying new activities. Whether that was learning to skydive solo, kayaking, trekking, rock climbing or mountaineering, adventure sport is something I’ve been lucky enough to try.
“However, lack of diversity in adventure sport has always been very apparent to me. While there are a myriad of reasons for this, I hope to inspire more people of colour and women into adventure sport and rowing and offer some representation to the outdoors for women of colour.
“So far fewer than 25 women have rowed solo across an ocean and I would become the first woman of colour to do this solo.”
"By participating, I hope that one day that women and people of colour in adventure sport isn’t something distinctive, but normal.”
Taking on the World's Toughest Row
The World’s Toughest Row (Atlantic) runs annually in December, where amateur rowers of all ages and nationalities row 3000 miles from La Gomera to Antigua in teams or alone.
“As a solo rower, I’ll be rowing in a specially built ocean rowing boat fit for purpose, built to withstand the tough marine environment. Like all adventure sports, ocean rowing is not without its risk.
“All teams are supported 24/7 via satellite phone by the race’s land-based duty officers and two safety yachts in case of emergency. I will also be required to complete several safety courses to prepare for the row.”
Ananya will row in her boat 'Odysseus', a specially built 25ft ocean rowing boat, designed to withstand the tough marine environment. Fully carbon neutral and self-sufficient, solar panels on the boat power all electronics and water desalinator, rowing is the only way forward!
She will face 30ft waves, sleep deprivation, isolation and the forces of the ocean for approximately 60 days, making this as much a mental challenge as a physical one! We’ll let you know about her training, and her upcoming adventure, over the coming months.
Born in India and raised in the UK, Ananya is an economics student at Sheffield University and lives in the city. As you might expect, Ananya has a passion for exercise, the outdoors and adventure.
Having experienced the mental health benefits of adventure sports, she hopes to inspire others to try it themselves.
Ananya is also a passionate mental health advocate, previously raising money to support our work at the Mental Health Foundation. This time, Ananya’s goal is to raise an incredible £75,000 to fund our vital work in mental health.
“Mental health is still unfairly stigmatised in a way that physical health is not, even as mental illness rates continue to raise globally. I think tackling stigma of mental health is crucial to help improve mental health for all.
“Mental health is not just a concern for a few; just as we're all susceptible to physical illness, regardless of background or circumstance, mental health can affect everyone.
“Personally, poor mental health is something I’ve struggled with myself and have experienced how the outdoors can have a profound impact on my own mental state.
“Despite mental health concerns become more common and having friends and family members who have dealt with their own mental health challenges, it can still be it can be difficult for the majority of people to speak about, especially in the Asian community.
“I chose to fundraise for the MHF as they work to change social perceptions around mental health, which is a key barrier to tackling rising mental illness rates. While the majority of resources are directed toward treating mental illness, the Mental Health Foundation focuses on research & prevention of mental ill-health through community led initiatives.”