Meet the Dubai-based team making a 'world's first' voyage across the Pacific
And how it involves crystals taken from Einstein’s desk, astronaut neighbours, and James Blunt’s ukulele …
Maybe it’s the frontier desert landscape that occupies much of the UAE’s interior, maybe it’s the pervasive sense that anything is possible in this boomtown of ours, but certainly, something seems to fan the flames of pioneering fire within Dubai’s residents. And the latest wild challenge to be chosen by a band of intrepid Dubai-based adventurers is something though attempted in the past, has never been achieved. It’s a journey that will require extreme physical endurance from the team tackling it, bringing them face-to-face with unknown perils of the deep, a tale of three buckets (with dire consequences if confused), cosmic isolation, and the potential for 100ft waves…
We’re speaking to Paris Norriss (AKA Guy in Dubai), one of a four-man crew (which also includes friends Harry Amos, Oliver Amos and Barney Lewis) aiming to row across a treacherous 4,800km stretch of the Pacific Ocean, from Monterey California to the island of Kaua in Hawaii. The scheduled departure date for the ‘Brothers N Oars‘ team is June 12, and — with fair winds and a bit of luck — the voyage will likely take around 40 days.
Top on our list of questions was of course ‘why?’ But we also drop anchor over some of the more exciting, compassionate and frankly terrifying aspects of the trip.
What’s On: What are the biggest dangers and physical challenges that you’ll have to overcome?
Paris Norriss: The most remote place on earth is Point Nemo in the Pacific Ocean, not far from where our route is. Being so isolated means the closest people to us will be astronauts and hence we need to be able to sustain everything the Pacific throws at us. Hurricanes in the ocean can generate waves up to 100 feet high in bitter cold winds. This could capsize the boat which can be very dangerous and we need to know how to correct the situation if it does occur. We may have to deploy a para-anchor (a way to anchor yourself in deep seas using something similar to a parachute underwater) to maintain some stability during hurricanes. These are all things we do drills on frequently.
The thing that keeps me awake at night is sharks. Once every five days someone needs to get in the water and scrub the bottom of the boat to make it streamlined. This takes about 20 minutes and if you’ve been followed by a curious shark, then it may not be a good time to get in the water. Whilst your teammates will be watching out for them with snorkels, it doesn’t take away from the fear of looking down at an ocean that is 11km deep and not knowing what is below.
What’s On: Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to make this journey in particular?
Paris Norriss: We all have our own specific reasons, but underpinning it all is a strong thirst for adventure among the team and friendships that go back a long way.
My own personal motivation came 10 years ago when I looked after someone within my extended family who had a terminal illness (ALS) and eventually passed away. The notion that life is not guaranteed gave me the realisation that I need to make my career the avenue for the life I want to live and came up with the idea to create my own TV series covering the adventures that the eight year old version of myself dreamed of. After the success of my show Guy in Dubai (which airs globally) I made a conscious decision to take on some mega challenges, so when my school friend Oli Amos told me he plans to row across an ocean with his brother, I didn’t waste a second to say “I’m in”.
Harry has inspiration from his time in the British Military occurring from an incident during a raid whereby an explosion took out one of his platoon resulting in Harry having to act quickly to get helicopter rescue to save the life of his fellow soldier. The man was Cayle Royce and he had lost both his legs above the knee, died 9 times and was in a coma for 40 days. Thanks to Harry and other good people around him, Cayle rowed across the Atlantic Ocean within a year of this life changing incident and has since rowed it twice. He has been awarded an MBE by the Queen of England for his duties to support veterans and was the inspiration for both Harry and brother Oli to do this race.
WO: There’s no way to put this delicately, but… What’s the toilet situation on board?
PN: There is no toilet on board so we utilise a bucket. We call it “bucket and chuck it”. We have three buckets on board. One for the toilet, one to wash ourselves with and one in case we lose a bucket. The key to not having to wash your face where you make your mess, is to not get them muddled up or lose two buckets, so they are colour coded and harnessed to the boat.
WO: What kind of supplies and equipment will you be taking?
PN: The boat is a Rannoch R45 Elite. It’s built of carbon fiber to make it more lightweight than traditional fiberglass. It’s 7.5m long and about 2m wide and has two cabins which we sleep in. We generate electricity from two solar panels which feed our communication equipment as well as our water desalinator and anything else electric we wish to take with us.
Our food is mainly freeze dried food from Real Turmac which we add hot water to hydrate. We take some highly calorific snacks also. Malt loaf seems to be one the team like. Kcal based in Dubai have developed some good snacks for us also. We need to eat between 5-6,000 calories a day as we will be burning around 9,000 a day.
The celebrity mystifier Uri Geller who is a personal friend, sent the team four crystals that were found on Albert Einstein’s desk when he died, for good luck. We’ll be taking these with us.
WO: What sort of shanty bangers are going on your mid-Pacific playlist?
PN: A bit of Hawaiian music seems topical, though Oli Amos is in charge of our playlist as he seems to have a taste that we all agree on. We also have a signed Ukulele being donated by James Blunt (who is the cousin of the Amos brothers) for Paris to play along the journey. As the Ukulele is an instrument native to Hawaii, we thought of creating a few songs along the way to let the Hawaiian’s know we are on the way.
WO: What does your training schedule look like?
No one on our team had rowed across a river until we got our boat in October. So we don’t have much experience, however we do believe in our physical abilities through various athletic feats the team has had as well as our ability to resolve. We’ve been working at this for two years now, learning everything we can and getting support from the best in the business
We are being trained by coach Gus Barton who has coached 10x WR beating teams and hit the gym 6 days a week which is a combination of strength training and the rowing machine. On the water with the boat twice a week where we row the length of Dubai through the day and night. Plus we need to do a number of courses to learn Navigation, First aid, Sea Survival and a specific course on ocean rowing. We do these through our training partner in Dubai, JLS Yachts training institute.
WO: What annoying habits do you or members of your crew have that you will have to keep an eye on?
PN: We generally go out of our way to annoy each other, it’s a boarding school banter thing and all of us have been to school with Oli so he is generally the recipient of all pranks.
Oli likes to pull ugly faces behind his brother’s back when Harry is trying to say something serious that everyone should listen to. Harry generally has a huge amount of patience with his younger brother.
WO: How did you choose the charities involved?
PN: We are supporting two charities, The Invictus Games which was a strong supporter of Cayle Royce MBE and hence a nice way to give back to a Charity that helped a good friend of the team.
We wanted to support a charity focusing on marine conservation as it’s something we all naturally support but our mission to row the Pacific will take us past the Pacific trash dump, a catastrophic failure of the human race to look after the planet we share with other animals. We want to raise awareness and funds for the inspirational projects that the Blue Marine Foundation are doing to conserve 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030.
WO: Who are your ‘adventurer/pioneer’ heroes?
PN: Personally, Bear Grylls was a big inspiration for what I do now making adventure TV shows. I was also inspired by the likes of Felix Baumgartner who jumped from space because he orchestrated such a massive challenge and took it to the limits.
Ben Fogle who completed at Atlantic row, and Ernst Shakleton who adventured the season of the artics are ones close to Oli Amos in particular.
The recent mountain conquests of Nimsdai Purja and the legendary stories of Ranulph Fiennes and Alex Honnold are inspirations for Harry Amos.
WO: Other than your current crewmates, who would be your ideal fantasy fellow oarsman?
PN: I think Moana would be a good fellow oarsman, if the Disney character was a real person. A strong willed Polynesian would navigate the Pacific better than anyone and a bit of rowing wouldn’t be a chore for their tough nature.
We’d like to extend a big thank you and good luck to Paris, and the rest of the team. May peace be the journey. You can follow their journey on their Instagram page @brothersnoarspacific2023