Lukas is the Guinness World record holder as the youngest person to row across the Atlantic Ocean – or any ocean for that matter – solo & unassisted at just 18 years old. Additionally, Lukas’ triple nationality (Italian, Austrian, and British) led him to own the title as ‘the first Austrian to ever row across any ocean solo and unassisted.’
Don’t worry, we know what you are thinking… ‘What on earth makes an 18-year-old college kid give up home comforts, personal safety, and contact with family & friends for a 7-meter long rowing boat among relentless waves, which can be bigger than a four-storey building, for two whole months?’.
So here is a bit about how a young teenager from Windsor (UK), with a cheeky smile and ants in his pants, became a World Record holder, and an inspiration to many young people across the globe.
Thinking back to Lukas’ school days, he recalls the struggle he always felt with being dyslexic, striving to pass his school exams and survive the education system. A recurring theme throughout his schooling years was one of never quite being good enough in the classroom, and so sport played a huge part in him finding himself and building his self-esteem. Sport was an outlet that let Lukas excel and be himself, allowing him to shed the feeling of fighting a relentless battle. In his own words…
SPort GAVE ME CONFIDENCE! I LEARNED TO TRUST MYSELF! ALLOWING ME TO TAKE ON BIGGER CHALLANGES, TRUSTING THAT I COULD FIGURE OUT A WAY TO THE FINISHING LINE. THE BEST PART...THIS TRUST IN MYSELF FOUND ITS WAY INTO THE WORKING WORLD TOO.
When asked, Lukas always tells the story of the first challenge he undertook, as the catalyst that set him off on his journey of adventures. It was a combined indoor rowing marathon with an endurance swim to be completed on the same day. Lukas was 15 years old, when he rowed on the indoor rowing ergo for a distance of 42.2 Km, followed by a 2.1 Km swim in support of Child Action Nepal following the Nepal earthquake in 2015.
That first taste of successfully completing an important challenge led Lukas, at 17 years old, to head out on a “little bike ride” whilst visiting his father in Austria. The “solo bike ride” took Lukas from the mountains in Austria to the Croatian coast. This amazing bike ride covered almost 800 Km in 5 days, from Saalfelden in Austria, through Italy & Slovenia, to Croatia before the long ride back home, with a whopping 16 Km assent. In line with Lukas’ giving nature and kind heart, he completed this challenge in aid of the Teenage cancer trust, a charity that supports teenagers during their fight against cancer.
The momentum kept building up. Lukas’ taste of adventure and wish to push his physical limits proliferated. In April 2018, Lukas managed to secure a last-minute charity place at the Virgin Money London Marathon supporting ToyBox charity. Lukas not only completed the 26.2 miles in a very respectful time of 3.56 hr, but he also became one of the youngest people to complete the long-distance running event, at 18 years and two days old.
The summer of 2018 saw Lukas qualifying for the prestigious rowing event, Henley Royal Regatta in his Oratory Schoolboys 8+ crew. This was an accumulation of years of training and endless hours, both indoors, and outdoors on the River Thames. Showing his sporting ability wasn’t only wild adventures and endurance events but he also has elite sporting ability to compete on such a stage.
Fresh on the ‘runner’s high’ following the marathon, Lukas knew he had to find his next challenge, and this one had to be bigger and bolder than any of the others he had previously done. The accumulation of all of the previous challenges Lukas undertook, his love for rowing led him to an exciting google search in May 2018 of ‘big adventure challenges’. The search resulted in a phone call Lukas made to his Italian mum, Maria: “Hi mum, I am going to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Alone and unassisted!”. This was followed by a long awkward silence when the phone went dead and maybe his mum dropped off her chair. His mum tried to absorb the shock of such news. A few minutes later a call from mum to Lukas: “This challenge is truly scary from all perspectives but I will support you in whatever way I possibly can on one condition: you now ONLY focus on your A levels and we will talk about the solo crazy row on August 16th”. Mum tried to buy herself some time; maybe the idea would go away…but it didn’t. After his A-levels, Lukas had only four months to prepare mentally and physically. This proved to be harder than expected, aside from the enormous life changing challenge ahead of him, he was faced with the addition of an enormous financial challenge, as sponsors were nowhere to be found. No one believed an 18 year old would really keep to his extraordinary goal. “Alone” in many more ways than just being in his little rowing boat “Cosimo” in the Atlantic Ocean.
So far I’m sure you agree with us on two points. Firstly the support network Lukas’ mum, brother, Leonardo, and very special friends/family have provided him is a fantastic show of love, belief, and genuine support. And secondly, Lukas has something inside of him that can inspire everyone around him to believe in their own inner strength, and to face all unforeseen challenges head on.
His mum and his younger brother Leonardo, with whom he lives with in Windsor, have definitely been put through the wringer with the emotions that go along with having a son & sibling that dreams as big as Lukas. In his mums words describing the feeling of having her 18 years old son in the middle of the Atlantic completely on his own…
In the few months of preparation for the row, I never saw any hint of panic or re-thinking from him. I knew that Lukas would find a way to overcome foreseen and unforeseen challenges that would come up in the Ocean.
I tried to be close to him. I would look at the nautical miles of the traker he had onboard every one or two hours, day and night, relying on it to convey to me whether he was OK or not.
I don’t recall sleeping much for those 59 days he was out there but I was at least safe at home. I never felt Lukas being scared in the few minutes we had every 3-4 days on the satalite phone and his New Year satellite message filled my heart with further strength but I also knew he would never show it to me if he was scared or ill or anything….. as I learnt after the row hearing the stories he told.
Thankfully Lukas survived the row, whilst Leonardo and I survived 59 days of heart rumbling nerves. I am a truly proud mum as I see how much the solo row has shaped my boy into a fine young man.
Dr Maria Sarno - aka Lukas' very stressed Mother
Following the crest of the wave that the Atlantic crossing created, has seen Lukas move across the UK, to study for his Mechanical Engineering degree at Swansea University. But there is no surprise Lukas is not your standard university student and is in fact, currently planning his next adventure challenge as part of a team called ‘Pedal 4 Parks’. P4P aims to cycle the entire length of Britain raising awareness for National Parks and green spaces in the UK and the benefits these areas can have on mental health and wellbeing. Of course in the twist and turns of the challenges, the team will be going one step further than the traditional John O’Groats to Lands End route. The team will begin on the Orkney Isles, completing a World first ‘sea-bike’ crossing to the UK mainland, before cycling through as many national parks and green spaces as possible on the way to Lands End, before a second sea-bike leg finishing them up on the Isles of Scilly.
For a 21 years old young man, Lukas has an extraordinary story of willingness to achieve against all odds, to lead by example and to help other people along the way, and there are still plenty more chapters to write. With a rather extraordinary story as a teenager, Lukas aims to keep inspiring all young people across the UK and worldwide to find their passion, and to take on their own challenges.