Tori Murden became a fighter at an early age. As a child, she often had to steel herself, plant her feet and take on the world in defense of her mentally handicapped older brother, Lamar. “I learned how invisible a person can be if they are on the margins of society,” she says of the way people treated her brother. Those days and Lamar’s struggles, taught Tori that she would let nothing and no one stand in the way of her living to life to the fullest.
Tori went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard, a Juris Doctorate of Law from the University of Louisville and a Master of Fine Arts at Spalding, but she was not satisfied. Tori not only had an incredible mind, she had a heart that longed for adventure.
Tori has climbed mountains on five continents. She lived with the Masai tribe in Kenya while she attended the National Outdoor Leadership School. She has climbed Alaska’s glaciers, and kayaked Prince William Sound, The Indian Ocean and the route from the Canary Islands to Barbados. In 1989 Tori skiied 750 miles in 50 days to become the first woman and the first American to reach the geographic South Pole over land. She did not stop there.
In 1998, Tori set off in a 23 foot row boat from North Carolina. Her goal was to be the first woman and the first American to row across the Atlantic alone. A week into her trip, the boat capsized, and though it righted itself, the communications systems were lost. For 78 days Tori could not contact the outside world. She was fully and completely alone in the Atlantic and headed, unknowingly, straight into a hurricane. In the 50 foot swells, she capsized 15 times, dislocated her shoulder and came face to face with certain death. She refused to activate her beacon because she did not want people to risk their own lives for hers. She was eventually picked up by a carrier and returned home in defeat, broken.
A year later though, through her work, Tori met Muhammad Ali, who heard her story and told her that she didn’t want to go down in history as “the woman who almost made it across the Atlantic.” No. She did not. She would try again.
On December 3, 1999, after rowing 3,333 miles, Tori Murden made history by being the first woman to make it across the Atlantic under the power of her own arms and two oars.
Let nothing stop you.