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La Jolla store employee looks to set world record by rowing 12,000 miles across two oceans in same year

Zachary Tong, who works at Hammitt La Jolla, will try to row 12,000 miles on two oceans in one calendar year.
(Provided by Zachary Tong)
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All on his own in a small rowboat named the Spirit of La Jolla, Zachary Tong is looking to set a world record by rowing 12,000 miles on two oceans in the same calendar year.

That year is 2025, so he will spend nearly the next two years training and fundraising in preparation for the trip across the Atlantic and Pacific, in which he plans to row from the Canary Islands to Barbados for the Atlantic leg and from La Jolla to Australia for the Pacific leg.

Tong, a native of England who lives in San Diego and works at Hammitt La Jolla — a fashion accessories store on Girard Avenue — moved to the United States a few months ago after spending a few years in Mexico. He said he landed in La Jolla partly because he could train on the water and because the marine experts here and the research they do might help him.

“The community is lovely and I want to integrate myself into it,” Tong said. “My brother and I have lived in different places in our lives — this is the fifth country I’ve lived in. It’s amazing how Hammitt and the community have taken me in. It feels special to me. I’ve been having the most fun out here. I want to see what we can do together.”

He acknowledged that some may think “ocean rowing is a bit of a strange endeavor.”

“It’s not a popular sport for obvious reasons,” he said. “Only a small number of people would want to cross the biggest oceans in a boat less than 20 feet. But being in the water is something I have always enjoyed.”

And knowing that no one has rowed both oceans at such length in the same calendar year was too tempting to resist trying, he said.

“To be the first person in the world to do something, a light goes off in your head,” Tong said. “The Pacific Ocean has been rowed before, as has the Atlantic Ocean, but no one has done both in one year.”

To get there, he will train from now until January 2025, building muscle memory, strength and stamina for the 200-day journey. He said he will row for six hours at a time and take six hours off to sleep. If the currents are pushing him in the right direction, he will allow them to do so. If the currents are pushing the opposite direction, he will set an ocean anchor.

“Only a small number of people would want to cross the biggest oceans in a boat less than 20 feet. But being in the water is something I have always enjoyed.”

— Zachary Tong

Tong said he will be alone in the boat but in communication with people on land.

“I think there is so much to do ... we can get jobs, travel, but we all have that adventurous spirit every day,” Tong said. “[Rowing the ocean is] there to be done. It looks like something that is achievable with the right mindset.”

To help him achieve it, Tong is looking for sponsors to supply the six-figure funding needed for the journey. He’s also looking for a cause that could be a beneficiary from his effort — Tong previously has rowed to raise funds for HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines — and schools to get involved.

“There are interesting ideas we can do surrounding this row,” he said. “I want to find some schools [with students that can] train on the row machines with me. This is a chance to do something really interesting. This is a blank canvas kind of thing.”

A website, hermosaoffshore.com, will go live at the end of this week. In the meantime, Tong be reached via email at hermosaoffshore@gmail.com. ◆