While Angela Madsen prepares her boat and waits for good weather to start her latest rowing adventure. I would like to introduce this exceptional athlete and her life. For Youlife.Rocks lighthouse series I had the chance for a private interview with her about her adventurous life

Angela Madsen Wheelchair
Angela Madsen Wheelchair Profi

YL: Please imagine yourself born / grown up / work / where do you live / are you married / children?

Born in Ohio, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after high school. I was a military police officer and a center for the women’s all marine basketball team. I am married to debra madsen. I had 1 daughter who passed this year and have 3 granddaughters. Deb has a son and daughter who has a son and daughter. Debs adopted daughter had 5 children so Between us we have 10 grandchildren


YL: How long have you been in a wheelchair (accident / birth)?

I was initially injured on duty in the military when I was 19 and further disabled by a surgery at 33. A long story


YL: if accident what kind of injury was it?

I was tripped in a basketball game and someone landed on my back rupturing 2 discs and damaging sciatic nerve

YL: What are your hobbies or better passions?

I play and coach sports. I also surf, sail, fish and row small boats across vast expanses of ocean without a support boat

YL: Since some time I see again and again pictures and articles from you about your boat and the rowing, how did you come to this sport?

I began rowing in 1998. My wheelchair basketball coach asked me if I would go to a learn to row event for them. Those running the rowing were small boat shorter distance ocean rowers so I started with Paralympic rowing and 20-40 milers in the Pacific like out to Catalina or down the coast to dana point then one of my amputee teammates found an article in the amputee coalition of America newsletter. It was posted by a multilingual Frenchman named JoLeGuen.

He was looking for a male amputee to complete his crew of 4 to row across the Atlantic. My friend stated “your crazy enough to want to do this” they were right! I responded to the ad and the rest is history.

Paraplegic Angela Madsen before take off on a 2,560-mile trip to Hawaii in a rowboat.


YL: You also run races or regattas – how does it work?

USRowing has sanctioned races and regattas adaptive rowers can enter. They are posted on USRowing. Com

Ocean rowing has

TOPLINK to the new rowing Adenture – follow her life onher way!

Most of my ocean rows are independent record attempts and not part of a race

YL: You are also a trainer for disabled rowers, where are there teams and are there many participants?

I started an adaptive rowing program for people with disabilities named the California Adaptive Rowing Program and became a US Rowing level3 coach. We have had many participants over the years and have 3 past Paralympian participants. We can only get about 6-10 out at a time since we have limited equipment.

Angela Madsen is a disable veteran, grandmother and world class disabled athlete. Stephen Carr/ Staff Photographer


YL: Where can I go as a beginner, if I want to try something like this, what is there to consider and do you have some tips?

If you wanted to row you could go to any rowing center if you did not require adaptive equipment and to find an adaptive rowing program if special equipment is needed or to go to a regular rowing center and start an adaptive program as I did.

Ocean rowing has no organized training program. I have trained up able body crews to row across oceans but never people with disabilities. Most people do not want to row across oceans. It takes months and is very difficult. I’ve never been able to get another paraplegic to even attempt it.

YL: what drives you to always be so active?

If I stop moving rigger mortise sets in. I feel better & stay stronger when I remain active

Angela Madsen at the Paralympics

YL: Please tell us a little about other activities and sports?

My last 2 Paralympics were in track and field throwing shot put and javelin. I have a bronze medal from London 2012 in shot put. I surfed in the women’s world championships of long board surfing in Biarritz France. I joke about just wanting to throw things and yell after training & skippering a crew of 16 across the Atlantic Ocean. I tried field events at the veterans wheelchair games after completion of that row and found our I was pretty good at it.

YL: what contacts do you have with other handicapped people worldwide?

I have friends from surfing and Paralympic sport. We are connected on Social media since I don’t travel and compete in Paralympic sport any longer I don’t see them often.

Training for the next Adventure

YL: What are your plans for the future?

To row to Hawaii Solo in 2020 (still waiting for the perfect wheater) people can follow online at or facebook page Rowoflife

YL: Your guiding principle for life with handicap?

 Step 1: Go out and try different things, find what it is you are uniquely able to do

step 2: give it your best shot and if it doesn’t work out go back to step 1

Adaptive Surfing with Angela

Subject: Sports Bio/history, Angela Madsen

      Basketball                         Surfing                           Rowing                   Ocean Rowing                       Throwing

Veterans Wheelchair Games Team US Able Other events

• 15th National Veterans Wheelchair Games- June 13-17,1995 in Atlanta, GA.
(3) Gold medals in swimming, 100-meter freestyle, backstroke, & breastroke. (1) Gold medal in the
Slalom Course, and (1) gold medal in billiards.

• LA Sunrise Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team 1994/1995 Season
• 16th National Veterans Wheelchair Games- July 2-6, 1996 in Seattle. WA.
(3) Gold medals in swimming, 100-meter freestyle, backstroke, & breastroke. (1) Silver medal in the
Slalom Coarse, and (1) gold medal in shot put

• Irvine Lasers Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team 1995/1996 & 1996/1997 Seasons

• Casa Colina Shooting Stars women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team 1997/1998 & 1998/1999 seasons.

• June 6. 1999 Bay to Bay race. San Diego. Ca. 1st place/gold medal in 5 mile under 22′ open row class

• July 10, 1999 Eagle Adaptive Regatta in Indianapolis, Indiana lest place 2X, lst place 1000m 1X, lst place 2000 meter 1X

• July 18, 1999 US Amateur Surfing Championships in Oceanside, Ca. 2nd place prosthetic/handicap division

• July 24, 1999 15 mile open ocean row from Newport, Ca. to Dana point, Ca. lst place rowing

• Sept. 11, 1999 National Adaptive Rowing Championships in Philadelphia, Pa. 1st place 1000 meter single

• Sept. 25, 1999 6th annual Tony Mezzadri Surf contest Exhibition event for surfers with disabilities

• Oct. lOth, 1999 5000 meter head race in Long Beach, CA. 1 St. place adaptive rowing

• Casa Colina Shooting Stars Women’s wheelchair basketball team 1999/2000 season

• Casa Colina Condors Men’s division 1 wheelchair basketball team 1999/2000 season

• June 4, 2000 Bay to Bay race, Mission Bay, San Diego, CA. physically challenged athlete open division 1st place 5mile
• June 24,2000 Baykeepers race, Mission Bay, San Diego, CA. Kyak open class
• September 9,2000 International Bayada Regatta in Philadelphia, PA Gold medals in 400 meter single and double fixed seat scull
• September 11, 2000 Founded the California Adaptive Rowing Program
• September30, 2000 7th Annual Tony Mezzadri Surf contest for Spinal Cord Injury. Most inspirational surfer award
• December3, 2000 Long Beach Rowing Association Christmas Regatta 1st place 1000m Adaptive
• December 16, 2000 14 mile Queen Mary Open Water Row 1st place Adaptive fixed seat
• January 27, 2001 Crash-B indoor rowing 2K beach Sprints 9:05.1
• March 18, 2001 Long Beach rowing Association Spring Regatta 1st place 1000 meter Adaptive fixed seat
• Casa Colina Shooting Stars women’s Wheelchair basketball 2000/2001 season
• Casa Colina Condors Men’s Division 1 Wheelchair Basketball 2000/2001 season
• June 03, 2001 20 nautical mile class 3 open water Bay 2 Bay Race, San Diego, CA. 1X
• September 8,2001 2nd place Bayada Adaptive Rowing Regatta 1000 meter 1X
• September 22, 2001 Catalina Crossing 32 nautical mile class 3 open water race, Marina Del Rey, CA.
• 2002 Crash-B 2K indoor rowing series Beach Sprints 8:22.6
• 2001/2002 Casa Colina Shooting Stars women’s wheelchair basketball team
• Level 1 and Level 2 US Rowing coaches certification
• June 4, 2002 Bay 2 Bay San Diego, Ca. 20-nautical mile class 3 open water race 3rd place 3:25: in 2X
• Team USAble 2002 Ski to Sea race in Bellingham, Washington
• September 18,2002 World Championships of Rowing in Seville Spain. Silver medal in open 1Xta class
• 2002/2003 Shooting Stars women’s wheelchair basketball team
• Level III US Rowing Coaches certification
• Feb, 2003 Amateur Athletic Foundation Honouree “ women who inspire us” award recipient
• April, 2003 Women’s All-star Basketball team
• May 25,2003 Team USAble Ski to Sea Race Bellingham Washington results:199th out of 400 able-body teams and 58th in open division
• May 31,2003 20 mile Bay2Bay open water race, San Diego, Ca. Results: 2nd place in 3:11
• July 5-9,2003 23rd Annual Veterans Wheelchair games Long Beach, CA. SILVER medal in wheelchair basketball, Gold medals in shot put, javelin, discus and weightlifting
• August 04-20 2003 National Adaptive Rowing team training camp Philadelphia, PA.
• August 20-31,2003World Championships of rowing Milan, Italy 1st place gold medal TA 2X
• September 6,2003 Bayada Regatta 2nd place silver medal 1000 meter men’s star fixed seat race
• September 6,2003 received the Leo Reilly, Jr. Award for outstanding spirit and determination
• September 27,2003 1st place surfers with disabilities category, Surfboards for spinal cords surf contest
Formerly known as the Tony Mazzadri surf contest in Ocean Beach, California
• Christmas Regatta
• Spring regatta
• August 01,2004 World Championships of Rowing Banyoles, Spain 1st place gold medal TA2X
• September 25,2004 1st place surfers with disabilities category, Surfboards for Spinal Cords contest
• March 19,2005 Spring Regatta 3rd place 2000 meter 4+ (non adaptive) 3rd place AR2X (adaptive)
• September, 2005 World Championships of Rowing. Gifu, Japan. 1st place gold medal TA2X
• December 11,2005 Paris Open 2000 meter indoor rowing championships. 1st place LTA 7:55
• July 3-9, 2006 Women’s World Championships of Longboarding, Roxy Jamm, Biarritz, France
• August , 2006 World Championships of Rowing. Eton, England. 1st place gold medal TA2X
• 2007 Atlantic Rowing race – 8th place in the pairs class and the only physically challenged/differently abled crew. 21 other boats in the race Rowoflife places 10th overall

Long Beach Woman Rows Her Way Into History Books!
The First Disabled Woman To Row Across Atlantic Ocean

Angela Madsen
a paraplegic from Long Beach, CA,
rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, with Franck Festor, an Amputee from
France. They left LaGomera in the Canary Islands on 12/02/07 and arrived in Antigua
66 days 23 hours and 24 minutes later at 7:24am on 02/07/08

• 2008 Paralympics in Beijing China 7th place TA2X mixed double sculls
• 2009 Indian Ocean speed record row 3,100 nautical miles from Geraldton West Australia to Port Louis, Mauritius. 58 days 15 hours and 8 minutes becoming the fastest crossing by oar, first female and first woman with a disability to row across the Indian Ocean.
• 2009 National Veterans Wheelchair Games- July 13-18, 2009 in Spokane, WA.
(2) Gold medals in swimming, 100-meter freestyle &100 meter breastroke. (3) Gold medals in the
Field events shot put, javelin and discus

• In 2010 Long Beach Aquatic Capital of America aquatic athlete award honouree

• 2010 Rowing circumnavigation of Great Britain Guinness records first women, first disabled woman

• 2011 Atlantic Ocean Rowing Crossing, skipper crew of 16 on Big Blue. Guinness records, largest crew, 1st catamaran
• 2012 Paralympic Games London England Bronze medal in shot put and 5th place in Javelin
• 2013 Book=Rowing against the Wind published by Hellgate available on Amazon
• 2014 Rowed the Pacific Ocean 2,700 miles CA2HI Guinness record #’s first women’s pair, first disabled woman to row the pacific, only woman to row 4 crossings of 3 oceans and circumnavigation of GB
• 2014 Athletes in Excellence Award from The Foundation For Global Sports Development
• 2015 ParaPanAmerican Games, Toronto, Canada 2nd in women’s class 56/57shot put 8.02 and 1st place in women’s class 55/56 Javelin 18.77 PanAmerican Games Record
• 2016 Paralympic Games Rio de Janeiro Brazil, 7th shot put and 8th javelin.

My sports classifications are as follows:
NVWG 4 permanent (National Veterans Wheelchair Games)
Wheelchair basketball Women’s- class 2, International 2.5 Wheelchair basketball Men’s -class 1
Rowing- TA class Surfing –Upright class= sitting or kneeling

Track & Field women’s class 56

Current memberships: United Nations-Pacific Los Angeles chapter, Paralysis Society of America, Disabled American Veterans, Paralysed Veterans of America, Surfrider Foundation, Wheelchair Sports USA, Disabled Sports USA, Heal the Bay, USRowing, Long Beach Surf Club, Women’s LongBoard Club, Huntington Beach Longboard club

Current committees:
Founder and director of the California Adaptive Rowing Programs

Former committees: National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Women’s Division Executive Committee.
National HVOC Committee for Adaptive Rowing
Board of Directors, Paralyzed Veterans of America

Future ambitions: solo unsupported row across an ocean




Alexander Lang for Disabled Magazine Online

Disabled Magazine Online Partner Magazine of

All Pictures by Angela Madsen


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