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The Power of Human Connection and Stamina: Rowing the Open Ocean for a Cure

Team HPP

Left to right, Patrick Morrissey, Peter Durso, Brendan Cusick and Scott Forman will embark on an epic journey this summer to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson's research.

The following story appears in our Spring/Summer 2024 edition of The Fox Focus on Parkinson’s newsletter. For this story and more, download the full edition.

Rowing 2,800 miles across the world’s deepest and most volcanic ocean, Team Human Powered Potential (HPP) will be one of 11 teams this June to take on the “World’s Toughest Row” — a rowing endurance challenge across the Pacific Ocean from Monterey, California to Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii. With more than 300 pounds of food, a water desalinator and only a satellite phone and GPS chart plotter to guide them, Team HPP will endure weather and marine life and test their own stamina in their effort to raise millions for Parkinson’s research.

HPP Route

The four-person rowing team — consisting of longtime friends Brendan Cusick, Peter Durso, Scott Forman and Patrick Morrissey — will row 24 hours each day in two-hour shifts until they reach Hawaii, likely 30 to 40 days after launch. “We will endeavor to row with the power and strength of everyone who is impacted by Parkinson’s disease,” says Brendan, 49, of Durango, Colorado. And with the power and strength of one such individual with PD as crew on the boat.

Patrick, 53, also from Durango, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s in 2019 and will become the first rower with PD to cross the Pacific. For him, the challenge came at the perfect time. “I needed something to help me move forward and find a new goal after my diagnosis,” he says. To prepare for the expedition, Patrick created a plan with his doctor on how to best manage his symptoms over each 24-hour period. “When we are on the water, I seldom, if ever, note Patrick having a tremor or exhibiting any signs of PD,” says Brendan, HPP’s team captain. “With the intensity this journey requires, it’s remarkable to see how rowing mitigates his symptoms.”

Team HPP’s official training began in May 2023 at a weeklong camp in San Francisco Bay with their on-water coach and weather router Angus Collins. Since then, the team has traveled to California once a month to complete training rows, mostly overnight, to acclimatize and to meet the requirements for the race — 120 hours of rowing on the ocean in unpredictable conditions including challenging southerly winds off the California coast. When they return to their homes in Colorado, New Mexico and Idaho, they spend six days a week at the gym and training on a rowing machine to strengthen and condition themselves for the crossing.

HPP Boat
The boat is 28’ long. No motors, just human powered rowing.

Displayed prominently on the boat’s hull, their slogan, “inspired to endure,” reflects the team’s ultimate inspiration and goal: honoring individuals living with Parkinson’s. While enduring their comparatively short physical endeavor across the Pacific, the team will celebrate those who endure the challenges of PD for so much longer.

As they gear up for the World’s Toughest Row, the men have formed a bond that has become their most formidable asset, proving that unity is not just about staying in sync while rowing, but about lifting each other up when the waves get tough.

In honor of their 2,800-mile journey, Team HPP and the broader MJFF community have set an ambitious goal of raising $28 million for research. Thanks to an anonymous donor, this epic undertaking is supported by a historic 3:1 match. That means every $1 raised will turn into $4 to power Parkinson's research. With your help, we can reach our $28 million goal and maximize the full potential of this unprecedented match. Not everyone can row across the Pacific, but everyone can join us this summer.

Click here to learn how you can get involved and activate this historic match. You can also follow Team HPP's adventure from the warmth and comfort of your home by following along on Team Fox's Instagram and Facebook and by tracking their every row.

  • Brendan Rowing

    Brendan Cusick and Patrick Morrissey rowing in the San Franscisco Bay.

  • Pat and Scott Sleeping Quarters

    Patrick Morrissey and Scott Forman relaxing in one of two small cabins on the boat. 

  • HPP Sunset

    Together, the team has more than 125 years of human-powered experience across multiple endurance events. 

  • Scott and Peter Rowing

    The most challenging part of crossing the Pacific is the start. Trying to battle the tough coastal conditions to get offshore and into the fabled trade winds for around 200 miles. 

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