The inspirations of Atlantic rower Kiko Matthews

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Kiko Matthews

World record-holder Kiko Matthews is the fastest female to row solo and unsupported across the Atlantic and the founder of social enterprise Kik-Plastic. In this exclusive interview with Director, she reveals what drives her on

Discovering that I had Cushing’s disease gave me more positives than negatives. The illness is caused by a pituitary gland tumour, which I had surgically removed. It made me realise that life is short and we’re lucky to be here

Only you are putting a limit on your ability. I proved I could row the Atlantic on my own having had brain surgery six months before and no prior rowing experience. There are no excuses.

Facing a 20m wave gave me some perspective. There was a wall of water coming towards me and I thought, ‘this is either going to be it or this will pass’ – and it did. You’ve got to roll with the punches and believe that things will come good.

Having a strong purpose kept me going. I was raising funds for charity and trying to empower women. I never would have been able to achieve what I did without these motivations.

A painful experience will help you grow. When we want to get physically stronger we go to the gym, we ache and hurt and eventually, we get a six-pack. Mental health is the same – no one wants to hurt but it will translate into resilience.

We weren’t put on Earth to make money. Having money doesn’t make us happy, but being out in nature, making connections and helping other people do. Getting paid at the end of the month should be a bonus, not the goal.

What people call mistakes I call learning experiences. The word “mistake” is an adult term. Kids don’t see falling out of a tree as a mistake; they simply see it as falling out of a tree.

Where you channel your energy is key. When you’re faced with a setback, your focus should be on the future and making the most of what you’ve got, not on the setback itself.

My love for nature started early. I was brought up without a television, so I spent a lot of time in the garden as a child.

I was appalled by the amount of rubbish in London’s canals. I’d started a paddleboard business based in Hackney and hated that customers were paying money to wade through trash.

I’m doing 76 beach clean-ups around the UK this summer. As part of my “Kik-Plastic” campaign, I’m cycling 7,200km around the coast and teaming up with local communities and businesses to keep our shores clean.

Humans will not be here in 1,000 years’ time if we don’t make radical changes. Ultimately, it’s down to us as individuals to make environmentally-friendly choices, which means understanding how much we consume and how we consume it.

To find out more about Kiko Matthews, visit kikomatthews.co.uk

About author

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty is the assistant editor of Director magazine. She previously worked on a local news website and at a fashion PR company before joining the Director team in 2016.

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