Fiann Paul is an Icelandic explorer and rower who is preparing to take on new projects as he brings his incredible rowing career to a close.
Over the course of his career, Paul has pushed himself to extreme limits and become one of the most decorated rowers in the world with over 33 Guinness World Records.
Looking back, Paul says an injury in university may have stopped him from going to the Olympics, but it didn't stop his love of exploration, which has driven him all his life.
"I think that leads to self-expression. I felt very authentic doing this as something that calls me and that drives me and some impulse that comes from within and I think I have responded to this impulse all my life as much as I could."
That drive is what led Paul and a team of five rowers to take on an Antarctic rowing expedition in January called the Shackleton Mission, which saw them tackle some of the most dangerous waters in the world.
Paul tells Narcity the mission was especially important to him as it marked the grand finale of his rowing career.
Paul, 43, who was the captain, says the goal was to retrace the historical Shackleton mission that happened between 1914 and 1917, mirroring the explorer's incredible journey through the dangerous and frigid route.
"Ultimately, we completed a row on the Southern Ocean. We completed the most difficult parts of this expedition, the coldest part and the most challenging, being the further south," he explained.
Fiann Paul and his team of rowers on King George Island in Antarctica.Courtesy of Fiann Paul.
Over the course of six days, team endured incredibly difficult weather conditions like high winds, cold conditions and even icebergs during their mission.
Rowing in these types of water takes preparation and Paul says there are specific things he looks at when putting together a team.
Rowers have to be experienced with ocean rowing, capable of enduring cold temperatures and prepared for the physical and mental demands of the journey.
"[It's] a whole different level of challenge. That's why I expect my rowers to be delivering a particular level of fitness and strength because I need to know that they can have all these kinds of conditions."
Fiann Paul and his team rowing across the Drake Passage. Courtesy of Fiann Paul.
"In the whole history of Antarctica, there were only three human power expeditions on the open waters and two of them were led by me. This was the second one of those so this means that it's a rare thing for people to dare to go for," he told Narcity.
"[The] Southern Ocean is definitely one of the reasons (...) it's in many ways, logistically, geographically very challenging."
The challenge was well worth it for the team, as they set three world firsts, including the first to row from the Antarctic continent, the first row on the Scotia Sea and the first row on the Southern Ocean south to north.
A drone image of the team rowing.Courtesy of Fiann Paul.
While setting new records is already an incredible accomplishment, Paul says being the first at something is the ultimate prize because it can never be replaced.
Speaking of firsts, Paul crossed all five oceans and became the first person to achieve the Ocean Explorers Grand slam in 2019.
When we asked the athlete and explorer which one was the most challenging, he explained each one had its difficulties, but the polar rows are always the toughest.
"Temperatures is the obvious one that comes to everybody's mind, but the bigger one is humidity which psychologically can drain you," he explained.
"It takes time because nothing ever gets dry. So it's very frustrating to have these cold wet things all around you. Obviously the geography of the area, not only in the sense of ice and temperatures but also the winds."
With his rowing career coming to an end, Paul is now looking forward to using his past experiences to fuel new projects.
Some of those he says will be creative projects on "dry land," including an upcoming TV hosting gig where he will get to speak to other record-breakers and high achievers.
“Being an explorer is not just about going on expeditions,” he said. “It is an approach to life."