It usually takes me a few weeks to get around to reading Sports Illustrated. So I’m a bit late to this, but I just read the SI obituary of John Fairfax. He’s most famous for being the first man to row solo across the Atlantic, which he did in 1969. But it seems like everything else in his life was incredible, too.
Died: At age 74 of an apparent heart attack, John Fairfax, who in 1969 became the first oarsman to cross an ocean alone when he traversed the Atlantic in a rowboat, and who three years later became the first to row across the Pacific, this time with his girlfriend, Sylvia Cook.
A daredevil since his youth, Fairfax, who was born in Rome and moved at a young age with his mother to Argentina, ran away at 13 to live in the Amazon jungle and would come back to Buenos Aires to sell animal skins. He later hitchhiked to Panama and spent three years as captain of a pirate ship, smuggling guns, whiskey, and cigarettes all over the world. In the 1960s he moved to London and decided to act upon his childhood dream of rowing across an ocean. His trip in ’69 from the Canary Islands to Hollywood Beach, Fla., took 180 days; his later journey, from San Francisco to Australia, took 361 days, during which time Fairfax and Cook were presumed dead.
Fairfax spent most of the rest of his life in Las Vegas, where he supported himself playing baccarat.
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