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Why do you sign up for a Learn to Row? Maybe you want to try a new activity. Maybe you have friends in a rowing club. Or, in Isabelle Coté’s case, you’ve committed to rowing across the Atlantic Ocean so you guess you better learn how to row!

When Isabelle agreed to compete in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, also known as the “World’s Toughest Row” she didn’t know the difference between sweeping and sculling. So she signed up for a Learn to Row at Inlet Rowing Club in Port Moody, BC to get some basic skills. Her newfound rowing skills have been combined with her fitness. She is an avid trail runner and open water swimmer who has done a few marathons and ultra marathons. However, it is her love of the ocean that motivates her.

Dr. Côté is a world-renowned marine ecologist, and Distinguished Professor Marine Ecology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, and is rowing as part of the Salty Science team. The four-woman crew is made up of marine biologists and ecologists united in their passion for ocean conservation. Along with the obvious goal of rowing across the Atlantic, the crew hopes to raise $500,000 for marine conservation organizations. One off the three targeted organizations is the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre – a non-profit marine station with large public education and field course programs, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Rowing BC asked Isabelle what led her to sign up for such an epic challenge without even knowing how to row.

“I think that it was very much the incredible scale of the challenge and the unique opportunity that would surely never present itself again (I’m 61!) that made me say yes without even consulting my husband or kids. The idea of being on a small boat, completely self-reliant, both terrified and appealed, and the latter prevailed. Also, as a marine biologist, I saw this as a chance to see animals that I never see working and playing in coastal waters.”

While most rowers in BC don’t aspire to row across the Atlantic, we can be inspired by Isabelles ideals: Embrace a challenge. Protect our oceans. Age is just a number.

Salty Science and thirty-seven other crews from around the world are currently in the Canary Islands, preparing for the start of the race. You can learn more about Salty Science at And you follow the race at

Photos for this story were used with permission from Salty Science and taken by Lindsey Stigleman (

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