‘You can do hard things’


 Above: Napoleon High School alum Cassidy Hurd (nee Reid) practices with her team for the upcoming World’s Toughest Row competition. Courtesy photo.

Napoleon alum chases new challenge: Rowing across Pacific Ocean

By Julie Riddle

NAPOLEON ― Cassidy Hurd never did like to do things the easy way.

The 2014 Napoleon grad hard-worked her way into local sports page headlines as a high schooler and collegiate athlete. Now, she’s taking on a new challenge – vying for the title of World’s Toughest Row champion.

Hurd and her three teammates will navigate their ocean rowing boat from California to Hawaii, rowing around the clock in three-hour shifts. Alone on the water, they will endure storms, aching muscles, freeze-dried food, a bathroom bucket, and being stuck with the same people all day, every day, for more than a month.

Despite numerous athletic accomplishments and a long list of sports under her belt, Hurd had never rowed before she signed up for the cross-ocean competition.

The team’s name ― Full Foarce, a play on words to incorporate the word “oar” ― embodies the members’ attitude, and not just about the race. Everyone encounters adversities and discovers obstacles, Hurd said. The best way to tackle them, she said, is with everything you’ve got.

“It will be hard,” she said of the race. “It will be challenging. But we’re going to go at it with our full force.”

Members of the Full Foarce rowing team, which includes Napoleon native Cassidy Hurd (nee Reid), pose before their upcoming row across the Pacific Ocean as part of the World’s Toughest Row competition. Teammates include, from left, Hurd, Elaina Loveless, Cait Miller, and Laura Newton. Courtesy photo.


Hurd’s road to the ocean started when she lived in Napoleon (maiden name Cassidy Reid), earning accolades for her prowess as a hockey-and-softball-playing middle schooler and a volleyball and track standout at Napoleon High School.

Following a summer visit to California after high school that turned into a five-year stay, she added junior college beach volleyball to her repertoire, but it wasn’t until Hurd moved to Hawaii for her job and her husband’s schooling that she took up hiking, surfing, and free diving.

“And now, rowing across the Pacific,” she said. “That’s the most recent hobby.”

The rowing spark ignited in Hurd when she saw a team of women rowers “blowing up” in popularity on the social media platform Tik Tok as they raced from San Francisco to Honolulu.

As soon as she learned anyone could sign up to row across the ocean, Hurd was hooked. One of the rowers that inspired her had also never rowed before.

“I thought, if she can do it, surely I can, if that’s something I want to do,” Hurd said.

Tapping into an online forum, she met and connected with several other interested rowers. Another teammate she recruited while hiking. Eventually, a team of four committed to the race ― one who had rowed the Atlantic and now needed another ocean to conquer, one who rowed at the collegiate level, and two newbies, including Hurd.

They gave themselves a name and got to work. Initial training took place in what she was told is the most polluted canal in Hawaii.

“We were terrified of tipping in this dirty, skin-eating water,” Hurd said. “It was interesting, to say the least.”

Rowing team Full Foarce practices with their ocean rowing boat off the shore of Hawaii. Courtesy photo.

Eventually, the team upgraded to working with a rowing coach out of the United Kingdom, putting in hundreds of hours on a rowing machine in addition to other strength training.

With a month of forced togetherness on their radar, the team conducted group bonding exercises. For instance, one night three of them made dinner with one of them blindfolded, one wearing noise-canceling headphones, and one with duct tape over her mouth.

Personality tests and deep-dive conversations to uncover strengths and weaknesses prepared them to lean on each other and tap into the best of each of them when they’re alone together on the ocean.

Rowing outings of increasing lengths have prepared them for the competition, as well. After graduating from the polluted canal, the team took day trips together, then a 24-hour outing, then a five-day journey around one of Hawaii’s islands. That trip was a big test, Hurd said, as they practiced “working in shifts, eating what we will eat, using the bucket for the bathroom, all the things,” she recounted. (More below)

Team members will have to consume 4,500 calories a day (“That’s a lot of food,” Hurd said), but the boat will have limited space for a month’s provisions. Meals will mostly be freeze-dried food, to which members will add ocean water they have boiled and desalinated. They’ll use the same process to prepare water for drinking and showering.

The ocean trek will be made in three-hour shifts, two rowers on and two off, around the clock. In their down times, the women will cook, do boat chores, check on the weather, make sure they are on course, “and then, yeah, sleep,” Hurd said.

A navigator on land will check in with the team a few times a day, sharing wind direction and other information and pushing out social media posts sharing photos and video from the women on the boat. Within an hour of pushing off from shore, the team won’t be able to see anything but water for weeks, not even the other 10 or so other teams in the race, Hurd said.

“The ocean is ginormous,” she said. “And our boats are very small in comparison.”

If they encounter a storm, the team will have to decide whether to launch their parachute anchor, a device that helps a knocked-about boat stay afloat and turns it in the right direction to keep it upright. They’ve trained with the equipment, but it’s hard to really practice for something like that until it happens, Hurd said.

Launching from Monterrey, Calif., the team will travel 2,800 miles to Hanalei Bay in Kauai, Hawaii, a trip expected to require 13 million strokes. The record for a four-person women’s team is 34 days, 14 hours and 20 minutes.

Most likely, Hurd’s trip will take 38 days or longer, she said, but “We would like it to be 33.”



After two years of physical training, mental preparation, and pouring everything into it that she can ― while also working a full-time job as a speech language pathologist ― Hurd is “as ready as I can be” and eager for the next phase of the adventure.

She’s making the journey for her teammates, who need her help making it across the ocean. She’s also doing it for herself, Hurd said.

Growing up, she always heard she wasn’t fast enough, tall enough, or strong enough to play the sports that interested her. She worked hard to prove those voices wrong, sticking it out even when she sat on the bench and persisting until she showed others, and herself, that no obstacle was going to stand in her way.

Leaving Napoleon for California and then Hawaii provided new challenges for the one-time small-town star athlete. “I was quickly aware that I was not as good as I thought I was,” Hurd laughed.

Moving to a larger world pushed her to work even harder and showed her she was stronger than she realized. The impromptu race across the ocean is one more challenge Hurd believes she can conquer. She’s accomplished some hard things, but “this is really big,” the rower said.

Though she lives in the middle of the ocean, Hurd still feels the support of family, friends, teachers, coaches, and others watching her from her hometown. She hopes to return to Napoleon after the race to talk to students about her adventure, and about what they could do if they put their minds to it.

Young people don’t have to limit themselves just because they are from a small town, or because they aren’t the tallest or the fastest or the strongest, Hurd said.

“You can do hard things,” she said. “You just have to put your head down. You have to be motivated and determined and work hard. You can do it.”


Full Foarce is raising funds to pay off the ocean rowing boat they purchased for the race. Any extra donations they receive will support two nonprofits ― Play like a Girl, which uses sports to equip girls for future careers, and an organization focused on marine debris removal in Hawaii. Team members participate in Play Like a Girl’s mentor program and engage with the community in Oahu to increase awareness of the problems created by marine debris.

To contribute to the team (or buy team swag), visit Donors at some levels can send the team a personal message that will be printed on a sticker, placed on the boat, and rowed across the Pacific Ocean.

An Amazon wish list of supplies needed for their journey is available at
For race updates, including real-time photos and videos during the race, visit, download the free app, and search for World’s Toughest Row – Pacific 2024 under Add Races.

Full Foarce’s race will appear beginning around June 1.

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