Leanne Maiden
Photo Credit: Leanne Maiden

Despite calling herself an ‘ordinary woman’, Leanne Maiden has done a most extraordinary thing. She has officially completed the World’s Toughest Row and become the first South African woman to do it!


Global (19 February 2024) — Leanne Maiden can cast any notions of her being an ‘ordinary woman’ out the porthole because she has successfully completed the World’s Toughest Row and become the first South African woman to finish the 3000 mile journey, ever!

An achievement that’s made history, Leanne took something of a midlife crisis spurred by lockdown and turned it into an incredible adventure where she sailed the waves of resilience, isolation, bravery, pressure and dreams across the Atlantic on her boat, Rieka.

Leanne boasted her South African flag on Saturday 17 February when she celebrated the end of the nearly 5000 kilometre odyssey she hoped would help charities in need, and inspire minds in need of inspiration.

The row took her 66 days and 5 hours from La Gomera to Antigua. On the water, December to February became a lifetime.

At times (especially when the canned peaches were running low) she was not sure if she could do it. There were salty tears and quiet moments of appreciation, like seeing a signal of land and being enveloped in the warmth of support from friends, family and strangers when the journey seemed cold (not least because Leanne ran out of hot water). The doubt of such a daunting task may have washed over Leanne from time to time, but she chose to row on anyway. And the real magic of her row lies in this sentiment.

To embark on an endurance challenge of this magnitude takes an extraordinary kind of willpower. To do something despite the doubt is what puts the extra to the ordinary. Above preparations, weather conditions and other side effects that come with living on your own on a boat for so long, nothing will make or break your experience quite like willpower—and in that, Leanne has taught anyone who has ever thought they were not special enough to do something, a life lesson worth a treasure chest.

Because maybe being extraordinary is a choice. Maybe deciding to do something crazy and ambitious and actually doing it, is possible for anyone, from anywhere. Leanne is a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter with a South African heart and a Scottish home. She may not be someone who has done crazy, ambitious things all her life, but she still conquered one of the craziest most ambitious things of a lifetime. How inspiring is that?

A certified South African hero, Mzansi salutes you!

Leanne Maiden

Sources: Leanne Maiden 
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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