The World’s Toughest Wahine

Photo by Lawrence Tabudlo

Meet Laura Newton and Cassidy Hurd, half of the powerhouse team aiming to break a world record by rowing across the Pacific.

A six-hour flight across the Pacific can be quite the ordeal. From navigating labyrinthine TSA lines to enduring cramped cabins, it’s enough to test even the most patient travelers.

Now, picture the extraordinary mental and physical strength required to swap the comfort of a Boeing 787 for a four-person rowing boat, transforming what once seemed like a taxing six-hour flight into a month-long odyssey.

For Full Foarce, an all-women rowing team based on O‘ahu, this will soon become their reality. Beginning on June 8, they’ll embark on the adventure of a lifetime, competing in The World’s Toughest Row-Pacific, a competition that spans an incredible 2,800 miles from Monterey, California, to Hanalei, Kaua‘i. With no assistance and no breaks, they’ll harness the strength of their muscles and unwavering determination to row toward the finish line.

The team — comprising both amateur and expert rowers — will confront the elements, enduring seasickness, blisters, salt sores, sleep deprivation, hallucinations and inevitable equipment malfunctions. They’ll row on three-hour shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until they reach the Garden Isle. While the average completion time hovers around 60 days, this quartet is aiming for 34 days, 14 hours and 19 minutes, a moment shy of a world record.

You might be thinking, “Who would willingly sign up for this?”

Enter Cassidy Hurd, Laura Newton, Cait Miller and Elaina Loveless, the women who not only willingly signed up for it but are eagerly awaiting the sound of the race’s starting horn.

Hurd and Newton call O‘ahu home, while Miller and Loveless reside in Idaho and Florida, respectively. Today, these women are inseparable, conversing daily as they prepare to spend more than a month at sea together on a 28-foot rowing boat. It’s funny to think that not long ago, they were complete strangers.

In 2022, Hurd, a Michigan native and speech pathologist, stumbled upon a TikTok account featuring all-women rowing team Latitude 35, the current world record holder for the fastest all-women foursome to row across the Pacific.

“I was just so enamored with what they were doing, and I would check in daily on their progress and what the updates were,” says Hurd. “Shortly after they finished their race, they made a post saying that anybody could sign up … and I was like, ‘What the heck? I want to do this.’ I didn’t know that any regular person could go row an ocean.”

Hurd dove into online forums, where she struck an instant connection with Loveless, a high school rowing coach. Together, they formed a team and sought additional members online but without any luck. Meanwhile, Hurd was also active on an online O‘ahu-based hiking group, where she crossed paths (or friend requests) with Newton. Upon learning about the expedition, Newton was all in. Miller, a business owner, came to the team through a mutual rowing friend, having previously rowed the Atlantic in 2014.

“I’ve always been very adventurous and outdoorsy, and I saw this as an opportunity to take on a big adventure that was going to be more meaningful than something personal,” shares Newton, a Connecticut native and civil engineer. “We’re trying to do it publicly and raise money for charities … I saw it as a way to adventure with a bigger purpose instead of small adventures for my own enjoyment.”

Hurd adds, “You see these crazy stories and these adventurous things that people do, and, at least for myself, I think the majority of people think, ‘That’s not something I could ever do’ — not even physically be able to do but not have the opportunity to do it, like actually sign up for this and compete in this. So, while I was watching (Latitude 35), I was like, ‘Gosh, that just sounds like something I would do. It’s so adventurous and so out there. It’s so amazing what they’re doing.’

“When I found out that I could sign up for it and you didn’t have to meet these special prerequisites of rowing experience or anything, I was like, ‘Sign me up. Let’s do this.’”

All four women come from athletic backgrounds but only Miller and Loveless have prior rowing experience. They’ve made several visits to each other’s locations to train together as a team, but the bulk of their preparation happens independently. Training includes six workouts a week, such as hiking, biking, swimming and weightlifting, and saunas and ice baths.

“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that people probably don’t realize. Aside from the physical training, there’s a lot of mental preparation as well,” shares Newton. “We’ve heard from a lot of previous teams that it’s way more mental than it is physical. Your body will adapt pretty quickly out there, but then being able to stay mentally tough, to make it all the way to the end, is a big challenge.”

In addition to training, fundraising also consumed much of the team’s time. They aimed to raise $225,000 to cover various expenses, such as their boat, gear and supplies, flights and accommodations, mandatory safety courses, and more.

“I think fundraising has taken the majority of all of our time to solicit sponsors, and host fundraisers here in Hawai‘i in person and online. Cait and Elaina have done fundraisers back where they’re living, too. It’s been a huge effort.

“A lot of people have said that the hardest part is getting to the start line,” Newton adds. “Once you’re there, all you have to do is eat, sleep and row. Plus, we’re all working full-time jobs while we do this, so it’s basically a second full-time job for the past year-plus.”

Any overflowing funds raised will be donated to two nonprofits: Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project, a Kailua-based nonprofit created to protect the wildlife and habitats at the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and Play Like A Girl.

“(Play Like A Girl) works with middle school-aged girls and they encourage them to stick with sports and use the transferable skills gained from sports to propel them into STEM careers and leadership positions in more male-dominated fields,” shares Newton. “It kind of ties together my two favorite things: sports and STEM.

We actually got to be part of their mentor program and talk to a group of middle school girls about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how to go about taking on challenging things and not let fears or expectations hold you back from pursuing your dreams. We hope to inspire young girls and women to do challenging things, and break stereotypes.”

Their journey has been as much about preparation as it has been about personal growth. In the past year, they’ve already gained invaluable insights and experiences, even before the competition has officially begun.

“I’m definitely in the best physical shape of my life,” says Newton. “We’ve learned how to advocate for ourselves when trying to get sponsors and things like that. I’m an introvert and if I had it my way, I would do this without telling anybody … but we have to tell everybody — we have to promote ourselves and advocate for ourselves to get funding and hopefully spread the word about these charities and raise a bunch of money for them.”

Hurd adds, “I think the big one for me is having patience and grace with myself and each other, which isn’t always easy … I always joke that I’m a big planner and like to know everything in advance, and a lot of this we can’t know in advance, so it’s been hard for me, so vocalizing that to the team and getting support from the team has been great.”

Once the race ends, Hurd says she looks forward to the positive impact it will have on herself, her spouse, and the circle of friends and family who have supported her through the years.

“Besides that, I don’t know what life will be like after the row,” she says. “I’m going to take some time off work to give my body time to heal, but I do plan on going back to my same job for the time being, otherwise everything else will be different. I will have grown and changed a lot, and I’m looking forward to what that entails.”

Newton, meanwhile, is looking forward to something a little simpler (and sweeter).

“The first thing I want is fresh fruit and ice cream,” she says with a laugh.

“We’re both lucky in the fact that we can take some time off of work after, so I think there will be a lot of time for reflection and processing everything we went through that in the moment maybe we didn’t have too much time to think about,” she adds. “I think, without a doubt, we’ll have a different perspective on life at the end of this and maybe different ideas of different things we want to do. Our priorities might have changed by the end of it.

“It’s tough to predict, but I think we’ll have a new outlook after going through something as challenging as this, and we will definitely all be bonded for life.”

To follow Full Foarce on its journey, visit and @fullfoarce on Instagram.