Large Minority Podcast with Johnny Ward


In this episode, Julian sat down with Johnny Ward to talk about his experience rowing the Atlantic and other amazing adventures.

Here a small snippet of our conversation. Hit play below to listen to the whole chat.

JohnnyLong story short, I went to Thailand to teach English spent three or four years teaching English in Korea and Thailand. And then went to Australia for a year. And during my year in Australia, I got a real job in an office and a suit and everything was genuinely depressed, nearly in tears every Sunday. I started a blog during the office hours in Australia to keep me sane to explain what I’ve been doing with my life for the last four or five years in Asia, doing like cool stuff instead of my boring new life in Australia. And then I thought, I’m going to make a go at trying to be a blogger. So I quit my job in Australia, I flew one way to Africa, and then spent the next 10 years and from 2010 to 2020, trying to become the first person from Ireland to visit every country in the world. And then I finished that in 2017. And then since then, I’m trying to become the first person in the world to do the Seven Summits, North Pole, South Pole and every country. And that’s kind of it.

In November last year, like six months ago, I saw a photograph randomly one day saying, we need two people to row the Atlantic in our team of four. And then within six weeks I was in bloody south of England doing a sea survival course.

People laugh at it, but I can’t really swim. And I’ve never been on a boat and I’ve never rowed or anything like that. So it’s all quite scary, but because it was so little time to think about it. It didn’t seem that bad. Actually, I didn’t really contemplate it.

We ended up leaving, not until early March. After a day we had to get rescued by the Spanish Coast Guard. And they crashed into us and smashed our boat. Then we got, we got towed to Ford Aventura, that was awful, took like seven hours.

That was the worst 24 hours of my life without a doubt. I was soaking wet, because I didn’t know where all my gear was. It’s freezing cold.

When you row the Atlantic, for anyone who’s listening, you do two hours rowing two hours resting 24 hours a day, all day, every day for about two months. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We haven’t done any sea trials. We haven’t done any man overboard trials.

It’s like a grown man having to live under a large dining room table [the cabin] for two months. I was hallucinating every night. I couldn’t sleep because I was so depressed. It was the worst two months of my life. And it was the worst experience of my life.

I was more depressed in the cabin, because when you’re rowing, you can get in the zone of working out exercising. Being in the cabin when I was getting into the really dark places, catching myself just crying. I have never experienced that before.

Doing ultra marathons or climbing mountains, or risking your life going to Yemen. There are scary moments in these kinds of things. And there’s painful moments when you do the endurance races, but there’s joy in them too. And you flip between pain and joy and pride and pain, and satisfaction and pain, or fear or whatever. But there’s always a flip side to that emotion that you know, it’s worthwhile.

But when I finished [rowing the Atlantic] I was like, why did I put myself through that, that was just awful.

I think when people hear what you rowed the Atlantic, they think you’re some bass legend who smashed it across the ocean. And it’s not like that at all. And I thought it was like that. It was completely not what I expected.

Julian: I love sailing and like being on the sea, but just the remoteness of being in the middle of the Atlantic must have been pretty cool at some level. Did you get any good wildlife experiences? Or was just pretty dull the whole way?

Johnny: It’s just, honestly a really negative experience for me personally.

It’s the only experience I can think of of anything I’ve done like ultra endurance stuff, that gives you loads of chance, whether you like it or not, to self reflect on everything about who you are, and the life you’ve lived and the decisions that you make, and looking forward to the future and how you’re going to transpire in your life. Because you’ve got nothing but time to think about that stuff. And that is a rare privilege to be honest. You really have time to reflect deeply, and then re reflect and re reflect. You really get to know yourself. And that’s a quite difficult experience and quite difficult journey.

I’m always telling people get out of your comfort zone, but that’s something that’s so far out of my comfort zone that I would never contemplate doing. And then by accident, I fucking signed up for it.

Julian: When you saw land again, must have been like the most amazing euphoric thing that you’ve had you in a while.

Johnny: It was relief, not happiness. Honestly, it was relief.

Julian: I always ask people have done our trips, what were your memories of the Lanka challenge?

Johnny: It, honestly to this day, is one of the best trips we ever did, me and Josh and Jordan. The guys ended up talking about all the time. It’s so good, man. It’s just brilliant.

Check out Johnny Ward’s Website

Listen to the full episode here.