Katie Spotz's Solo Ocean Trip Sets World Record

In December, host Neal Conan spoke with Katie Spotz. At the time, she was set to become the youngest person ever to row solo across an ocean. Seventy days and six hours of rowing later, she's done it. She shares her motivation, and highlights from her trip.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your emails and Web comments.

Our conversation about and with first women inspired many of you to share your own stories of the run-up to and through the glass ceiling. Diane Chapman(ph) emailed from Jacksonville, Florida: I was the first female construction lender in the Southeast. In 1979, I worked for a national bank in Atlanta and would visit construction sites to ascertain how far along each project was and how much money could be disbursed to pay costs and subcontractors. I was constantly asked if I was a real estate agent, was I from the IRS, or just who the H are you. My stark reply: I'm here to see if my bank can give you money this week. I was always welcome after that.

Another listener wrote to tell us: In the mid-1970s, I became the first woman staff announcer/newscaster on the first all-news radio station in New York City. The management always insisted that until I came along, they had not been able to really find a deserving woman. I always thought they weren't looking sincerely enough. I was hired when pressure was being brought on broadcasters to hire female talent. I believe they had to be forced into making that decision. I was smart and really good on air, but there were other good women too. Many men told me that it's so hard to find a woman with a voice suited to radio. That from Kate(ph) in Santa Barbara.

And speaking of remarkable women, in December, we talked with Katie Spotz, at the time set to become the youngest person of any sex to row solo across an ocean. Seventy days and six hours of rowing later, she did it. Katie Spotz is back on dry land, home in Ohio, and joins us now on the phone.

Congratulations on your world record.

Ms. KATIE SPOTZ (World Record Rower): Thank you so much.

CONAN: And the first thing people often want to know in these endurance tests, why on earth did you want to do it?

Ms. SPOTZ: Well, I absolutely love to challenge myself. But more than that, I saw it as a great opportunity to raise awareness for a charity called Blue Planet Run. So my overall goal was to help raise funds and awareness for people who don't have access to safe drinking water.

CONAN: And where there any moments along the way when you gave all that a second thought?

Ms. SPOTZ: Of course. I mean, being alone at sea for over two months, there are moments I would have given anything to be back on land. But at the same, there were moments that I felt I would, you know, that being at sea was the best place in - to be. So there are many highs and lows during those days.

CONAN: And can you tell us the most exhilarating moment?

Ms. SPOTZ: As I was approaching the fourth waymark, I wasn't sure how to celebrate. But the decision was made for me when I started to see fins appear, and I had about a pod of 10 or 15 dolphins surrounding my boat. It was like they are giving their own personal show in the middle of the Atlantic for me, doing flips and tricks.

Yeah, the wildlife was amazing. I even had some fish followers for weeks along the bottom of the boat, had sea turtles and birds that would perch up on my solar panels. Sunsets and wildlife are always a good treat out there.

CONAN: Did you see any people along the way?

Ms. SPOTZ: I didn't see any people until two months into the journey. I was near the coast of South America and came across a Venezuelan fishing boat. They looked more surprised to see me than I did to see them. They just kind of shouted loca, loca, loca, which means crazy, and I was on my way.

CONAN: And then the moment when you finally approached shore.

Ms. SPOTZ: Well, I started rowing in at night. So it started as a soft glow on the horizon, and then that turned into lights. And by morning, I could start to see buildings and palm trees. But for an adventure like this, I didn't want to get too ahead of myself. The final bit is often the most difficult, so I wasn't really allowing myself to get excited until my feet were planted on solid ground once again.

CONAN: And was your navigation all right? Did you land where you expected to?

Ms. SPOTZ: Well, on the coast of South America, there is a really strong current. And I knew this beforehand, but I had strong winds, so I had some really turbulent waters, 20-foot waves, and several times I thought my boat would capsize. I wanted to land in Cayenne, but if I approached Cayenne, I would likely need a tow for the last 10 miles. So I wanted to do it under my own steam, and ended up rowing two countries over to ensure a safe arrival that I wouldn't need assistance of any sort for a tow.

CONAN: Just two countries over, no big deal.

Ms. SPOTZ: Just 10 more days, 400 miles, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Katie, again, congratulations.

Ms. SPOTZ: Thank you so much.

CONAN: And thanks for talking with us.

Ms. SPOTZ: No problem.

CONAN: Katie Spotz, 22 years old, just became the youngest person ever to row solo across an ocean, and joined us on the phone from her home in Ohio.

Before we go, a correction: While talking about whether textbooks lean left or right, I mentioned that the Tulsa race riots happened in 1923 -I was wrong, the caller was right. The Tulsa riots occurred in 1921. Our thanks to Nils Hagen Jr.(ph) for the correction.

If you have comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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