Isaac Giesen lost his aunt and two close friends to suicide.

In their honour, he has set out to be the first New Zealander to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

The 26-year-old, from Christchurch, is currently about halfway through a 4800km journey - positioned somewhere between the Canary Islands, in Spain, and Antigua.

So far, he has been rowing for 41 days straight, with nothing but some dehydrated food, some friendly whales, and the tunes on his iPod to keep him going.

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But behind his grit and determination, his true motivation is the desire to raise money and awareness for mental health.

"It is an issue we need to talk about," he said.

"I want to start a conversation because I think more people need to share their stories and start talking about their mental health."

Isaac Giesen, 26, from Christchurch is rowing the Atlantic Ocean solo as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Photo / Facebook
Isaac Giesen, 26, from Christchurch is rowing the Atlantic Ocean solo as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Photo / Facebook

Giesen - also known as The Blue Rower - learnt to row last year, but has been a surf lifeguard since he was 14.

He decided to tackle the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge because of the intense mental challenges the row entails.

"I thought it would be a good way to raise awareness of mental health, because being out here is very mental - more than physical," he said.

"You don't have to be a good rower to row one of these boats, you just need to understand the ocean."

Having set off on the December 12, Giesen has faced some ups and downs in his solo travels, including no wind and lack of speed.

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"I've had a lot of no wind – for about half of it - and I think I have one of the heaviest boats in the fleet, so I've had to push it along the whole way. You definitely feel it in every stroke," he said.

"I also had one night that it was so still, that the current actually drifted me 2-3 miles north so I had to spend all morning rowing back on myself which was quite demoralising."

WILDERNESS & HAPPINESS combined with the elements of the Atlantic ocean. STRAIGHT in from SpY SUNTIKI: Isaac Giesen, team The Blue Rower

STRAIGHT in from SpY SUNTIKI: Isaac Giesen, The Blue Rower WILDERNESS & HAPPINESS combined with the elements of the Atlantic ocean and look at that smile...! #twac2018 #talisker #3000miles #madebythesea #wildspirits #newzealand #happiness #

Posted by Atlantic Campaigns on Saturday, 19 January 2019

However, Giesen said he has managed to get through the challenges with the help of friends and family, and a little breathing.

"I usually just try and breathe. That is the main one, just try and breathe it out, and then it is about keeping it simple rather than sweating the bigger picture of it.

"I also have my auntie's name and my two mates' names on my boat – so I always look at their names and that helps me get through," he said.

"I've had a couple of times where I really didn't want to keep going but I rang my sport psychologist and he has helped me push through it and told me the things I need hear.

"It is very helpful to have someone like that on the line."

Despite tough points, Giesen said he has enjoyed the whole experience.

"You learn a lot about yourself out here. It has been a very good experience," he said.

The inside of Isaac Giesen's boat, where he sleeps for at least 8 hours a night. Photo / Facebook
The inside of Isaac Giesen's boat, where he sleeps for at least 8 hours a night. Photo / Facebook

"One of my highlights was the summer equinox, when the moon was coming up and the sun was going down. It was like they were at the same point.

"Also all the wildlife I have been seeing. There have been a few whales, and about a week ago I had 30 dolphins come along in the morning and jump around."

Giesen has also found pleasure in the simple things, like weekly treats and fishing.

"I've got dehydrated food – it's actually not bad - but I also have weekly rewards like Pringles, Swiss chocolate, and chorizo," he said.

"I have an iPod full up with podcasts and music - I listen to a lot of drum and bass and trance. I also do the occasional fishing."

While most of Giesen's time is spent rowing, an auto-helm allows him to sleep about eight hours a night, as well as naps through the day.

Graphic / Supplied
Graphic / Supplied

"My boat has a big back cabin, that is about 6ft, and I hunker down in there with some sheets and two nice pillows that wedge me in as it is a bit like a pinball machine out here," he said.

Giesen still has approximately 25 days to go before he hopes to find land in Antigua.

"My goal was 60 days, plus or minus a few. I am not really fazed about time, I am just enjoying my time out here, enjoying some time on my own and taking in the view.

"Hopefully I can encourage more Kiwis to get out here because it is quite a lovely experience."

• Giesen is raising money for Bravehearts, Black Dog Institute and Victim Support New Zealand. Go to The Blue Rower to donate.