You can decide for yourself what's most impressive about Trulia.com co-founder Sami Inkinen's recently completed row across the Pacific. That the 28,000-mile crossing didn't kill him. Or that his wife didn't.
On Saturday, Inkinen, 38, and his wife Meredith Loring, 34, successfully completed their tandem row, pulling into Honolulu in a 20-foot craft that survived natural storms and suffered no emotional ones. Despite being confined in a 10-square-foot area for 45 days – a time that demolished previous two-person Pacific row records by nearly 30 days – the couple reports their marital bonds are now stronger than a sailor's knot.
"It's almost like we're now in a separate world together after the row," says Loring, who before the journey told USA TODAY that although she initially wasn't keen on it she felt it was important to share such an epic trip with her husband. "It's hard to describe to people what you go through on a boat in that amount of time. It would have been weird to stay home."
Inkinen laughs: "Let me just say that you see your spouse from angles you maybe never thought you would when you're in such a tight space. But we finished a married couple, and that was one of the top goals."
While Inkinen was at sea, a deal was inked selling his real-estate site to Seattle-based Zillow for $3.5 billion. Inkinen, who remains on the Trulia board, says he was aware of the impending deal but it didn't make him row any faster. "I did have a satellite phone though," he says. "I was in touch. But my focus was on the trip."
The mission of the couple's self-funded adventure – whose website was fatchancerow.org, a reference to the fact that neither ultra-athlete had ever rowed before – was to draw attention "to the fight of our generation, which is against childhood obesity and the role of sugar in our diet." The couple packed their own carb-free foods for the journey, which included nuts, seeds, dehydrated salmon and tuna and olive oil.
"Most endurance athletes have a high-carb diet, including us in the past," says Inkinen. "I have to say, our recovery has been incredibly fast. And neither of us had the food cravings we thought we would have along the way. When we arrived in Honolulu everyone asking us if we wanted burgers and ice cream, but all we wanted was a glass of sparkling water with ice."
Highlights of the crossing included watching sea turtles paddle on their backs alongside their row boat, and one day "when the Pacific was so calm it was like a swimming pool and we had to jump in," says Inkinen. Low moments included the first few weeks, when the couple battled harrowing ocean storms "that sent waves the size of houses crashing down on us," says Loring.
Inkinen says the trip caused him to reevaluate rowing as a sport. "I used to think it was so boring, but when you're out there in rough seas and it's dark and you're just trying to stay moving and alive, it's about as extreme a sport as exists."
But it's also not an experience the couple cares to repeat anytime soon.
"It was exciting because it was new for us," says Loring. "Now it's time to find something else. But first I need to recover a few more brain cells."