SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A Bay Area woman recently broke a solo rowing record, braving shark-infested waters and big waves on an incredible journey from San Francisco to Hawaii.

The voyage started at the Corinthian Yacht Club when 40-year-old Lia Ditton and her 21-foot boat made their way across the Bay and past the Golden Gate Bridge, heading to Honolulu.

SF to Hawaii rower Lia Ditton (

Ditton has trained for four years before setting off on her solo trip across the treacherous Pacific Ocean. A professional sailor, ocean rower and artist, Ditton now holds the new women’s world record for rowing unassisted from San Francisco to Hawaii 86 days, 10 hours, 5 minutes and 56 seconds.

Ditton says there were some close calls.

“We had something I’ve never seen, which is almost vertical waves! So, in 20 to 30 knot winds, they were becoming towers,” remembered Ditton. “I’ve seen breaks, but never crumble that much. And then it becomes an avalanche of water.”

At nearly the 1,000-mile mark, her boat capsized twice, both times throwing her overboard. Both times, she managed to right the vessel and get back aboard.

“I massively underestimated the psychological toll of being thrown into the water and nearly died. And now I’m living in the boat from which I had been thrown,” she said. “And at that time, and the days that followed, I was deeply afraid of the ocean. I thought I would never go to sea again.”

But with strength, courage and no other choice, Lia kept rowing, kept faith until she at last saw land, finishing her trip on Saturday, Sept. 12.

She made it to Hawaii, unassisted with no chase boat, all by herself. Now Ditton has a larger goal.

“San Francisco to Hawaii is two and a half thousand to 3,000 miles. San Francisco to Japan is twice that, 5,000 to 6,000 miles and will take twice as long.”

With a solo row California to Japan as her next planned record, Ditton says the Hawaii row was simply training.

Rowing fans can check Lia’s website for more details on her record-breaking trip.