He was the captain of the most record-breaking expedition in history,stroke of the fastest boat in ocean rowing history and stroke of the overall speed record-breaking crossings of each ocean. As of 2020, he was the captain of the only three successful human-powered pioneering expeditions into the open-waters of both polar regions.
Fiann's achievements were a major contributor to Iceland becoming the country to hold the world's highest number of sports-related Guinness World Records per capita. Since 2017, his records constituted the majority of the total number of Iceland's sports Guinness World Records.
Fiann has crossed all five oceans in an unsupported human-poweredrow boat with world-record-breaking speed, setting the overall speed records for the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Arctic Ocean (he achieved the only human-powered crossing of the Antarctic Ocean and as a result no speed record was adjudicated due to lack of competition).
Fiann was introduced to ocean rowing in 2007 while working for Swedish charity Chiparamba Foundation coaching athletes in Africa.
In 2011 Fiann acted as a stroke of Sara G which earned the title of "the Fastest Boat in ocean rowing history", established an overall speed record for the Atlantic Ocean and won the Blue Riband Trophy of Ocean Rowing. Their course, The Atlantic Trade Winds I is the most competitive ocean rowing route, sought by rowing legends, such as James Cracknell OBE, and endurance athletes such as Mark Beaumont BEM.
The level of challenge for the crossing was multiplied by a broken center board, which broke less than halfway across the expedition. The story was portrayed in a movie One Ocean, No Limits which was broadcast by Irish National TV.
2014, 2 oceans
In 2014 Fiann became the first person to simultaneously hold overall speed records for the fastest rowing across 2 oceans (Atlantic and Indian). Throughout his career Fiann broke four oars. Three were destroyed in maritime storms and the fourth was shattered during an evacuation mission on the Indian Ocean aboard Avalon, when a tanker, Nordic River arrived to save an injured crew member, yet began to pull the small craft disastrously into its propeller, five times the height of the boat itself. The oar broke in Fiann's hands while pushing the rowers' boat away from the tanker, saving the crew from collision, as the crew radioed the tanker to cut its engines just in time.
In addition to another collision, this time with a blue whale, the critical steering cable broke, which forced the crew to manually steer the boat, thereby reducing the rowing deck to two rowers per shift; half of what it is designed for. Finally, after sustaining injuries passing through a hurricane, the crew narrowed down to only 3 rowers in total (1.5 per shift), who had to power a 2-ton heavy boat designed to be rowed by 8. The incomplete crew had to row 2:40hr on, 1:20hr off shifts instead of the standard 2h:2h pattern in order to maintain their course. This extreme challenge put crew members into a lengthy delirium, lasting many days due to severe exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
2016, 3 oceans
Ocean boundaries following the 3 oceans model
In 2016 Fiann became the only rower ever to achieve all three overall speed records (Atlantic, Indian, Mid-Pacific) and the only rower to hold all three records simultaneously. Upon this achievement, he was awarded by Guinness World Records the title of "The first person to hold simultaneous overall speed records for ocean rowing all three oceans", one of the highest honors in the history of ocean rowing.
Prevailing winds on Earth
Of significance is the fact that Fiann achieved 3 overall speed records in purely human-powered boats, against open-class boats, which are advantaged by partly wind-supported designs on a Trade Winds routes.
In a documentary called Corrida of the Pacific made by Globo TV, Fiann reported that his total sleep time during the first week was 5 hours due to strategically attempting to achieve an advantage by racing ahead, as he stated that it was psychologically much easier to win the race from the front. The world record was broken by 4 days. The next boat arrived 6 days later. Out of 12 boats that announced their participation in the race, only 6 managed to complete the challenge.
2017, 4 oceans
Ocean boundaries following the 4 oceans model
In 2017 he expanded his title by rowing the Arctic Ocean, becoming the first person to row 4 oceans and earning the Arctic Ocean overall speed record.
In order to receive a permit to row to Svalbard, Fiann needed to apply to the Governor of Svalbard, to introduce an evaluation of the chances and the team's ability to accomplish the expedition. Fiann estimated an average speed for the expedition of 2.7 Knots. The Governor's representative declared the claim a bluff, due to the present Arctic Ocean rowing overall speed record being 0.7 Knots and that small sail boats average 4 Knots. Thus, they pressed the highest possible insurance bond, which became the biggest element of the expedition budget. The accuracy of the ETA declared by Fiann deviated by 4h. As per plan, the rowers flawlessly caught the rising tide of the 108 km long Icy Fjord off of Longyearbyen.
The Polar Row I was the biggest record demolition in the history of ocean rowing: the existing Arctic Ocean record was broken by 3.5 times, despite the Polar Row I team being buffeted by headwinds 60% of the time. Fiann stated that the headwinds they faced were "a validation of our manpower performance". Upon this achievement he received Guinness Titles of: "First to row 4 Oceans" and "First to hold current speed records on all 4 oceans".
2019, Ocean Explorers Grand Slam
Ocean boundaries following the 5 oceans model.
In 2019 Fiann Paul led the first human-powered transit (by rowing) across the Drake Passage, and the first human-powered expedition on the Southern Ocean. It was accomplished on 25 December 2019 and he became the first and only person (as of 2020) to achieve the Ocean Explorers Grand Slam: performing open-water crossings on each of the five oceans using human-powered vessels. He also acted as stroke on the expedition.
Fiann achieved the highest success rate in the history of ocean rowing, measuring the number of attempted-speed-records to successful expeditions. He was on stroke position for each row, the role that sets the boat's pace. His total effort performed in ocean rowing was compared to consecutively running approximately 300[note 3]marathons. In an interview with Washington Times he mentioned that his resting heart rate during off-shift times throughout the record breaking crossings was 95 BPM, almost twice the normal resting heart rate. His record-breaking performance was listed by Grapevine Magazine as one of 7 most notable "Smitings" delivered in the history of Icelandic sports. In this act he was suspected of comradery with Ægir. Presently, he is one of the world's most accomplished rowers.
Despite reaching the top of various ocean rowing statistics, Fiann declared that he perceives the accomplishments of certain past ocean rowers as more admirable than his own, due to their performance taking place in conditions described by the Ocean Rowing Society as "not very different from the times of Columbus". Thus, their level of challenge was incomparably higher.
Pioneering and explorations
Arctic Ocean Open Waters
Contrary to human-powered explorations on open waters, coastal explorations of the Arctic Ocean have been pursued for centuries by indigenous people.
In 2017, Fiann acted as Captain, Stroke and Head of the project Polar Row, the most record-breaking ocean row and most record-breaking expedition in history (over a dozen Guinness World Records). It was the first recorded human-powered expedition and the first recorded row across the Arctic Ocean Open Waters, within the minimum Guinness World Record criteria: "across major water basins above the Polar Circle from land to land ... not around islands, within archipelagos or coastal rows, i.e. not within the vicinity of land nor the possibility to get ashore." Polar Row confronted inconsistent wind patterns, diametrically different from the most frequently attempted rows, typical to lower latitude Trade Winds routes. The crew used no sails, no engine, nor support other than human-power. The magnitude of the challenge was amplified by the unavoidable slalom between icebergs and drift ice. Encountering ice is not unique to coastal rows on the Arctic Ocean, but was multiple times more difficult for the first historical row on the open waters of the Arctic Ocean, where relatively high swells threaten the highly un-maneuverable row boat among the drift ice. Prior to Polar Row, non-open waters Arctic Ocean rows and coastal Arctic Ocean rows experienced more static seas and the ability to access land at any moment.
According to existing historical records, Polar Row achieved the first complete human-powered crossing of the Barents Sea and the Greenland Sea. However, it is unknown if any such crossing had ever been performed by indigenous people in the past.
Polar Row consisted of two teams: Polar Row I and Polar Row II. In total, the teams covered approximately 1400 Nautical Miles (1611 Miles or 2593 km), 1250 Nautical Miles measured in a straight line (1440 Miles or 2316 km) across the Arctic Ocean. Polar Row pioneered new ocean rowing routes from Tromsø to Longyearbyen, from Longyearbyen to Arctic ice pack (79°55'50 N) and from ice pack to Jan Mayen. It was the first complete, recorded human-powered crossing of the Barents Sea and of the Greenland Sea, some of the world's northernmost waters, which had long been called by sailors of the past, the "Devil's dance floor". Upon completion of Polar Row I and arrival to Longyearbyen, Fiann was asked by Norwegian TV2 how a rower would name the Barents Sea. Fiann responded that he would call it "Devil's Jaw", adding that the winds you constantly battle are like the breath from the devil's nostrils while he holds you in his jaws.
in 2019 Fiann led the 530 nautical miles first human-powered traverse of the Drake Passage and first row on the Southern Ocean, waters dubbed as "the most dreaded bit of ocean on the globe" by Ernest Shackleton's biographer Alfred Lansing.
The Antarctic Row was conceived in April 2017. Upon completion of Polar Row II in August 2017, in an interview with The New York Times, Fiann vowed he would row an even more difficult route. Next he needed to irreversibly prepay substantial sums of money 18-months in advance of the expedition in order to secure the assisting vessel, which is a requirement of the Antarctic Treaty and IAATO in order to receive a departure permit. Maritime law requires that small human-powered boats and primitive sailboats be accompanied by an assisting vessel during open-water journeys within the actual boundaries of the Southern Ocean. Fiann mentioned that it was all the money he had at the time.
In September 2017 Fiann recruited the first team members, Andrew Towne and Jamie Douglas-Hamilton. The row was initially scheduled for December 2018 but was postponed due to lack of availability of the assisting vessel. In January 2019 he recruited Cameron Bellamy and John Petersen, completing the two-year-long team recruitment process in April 2019 when the final member, Colin O'Brady without prior rowing, ocean rowing or seafaring experience joined the team to serve as Fiann's first mate and aid the project financially.  Colin's participation in the expedition was filmed by Discovery Channel as a series, "The Impossible Row" produced in part by Colin O'Brady himself, whose story the cameras follow.
Fiann, with the assistance of world class manufacturers, designed custom-made hybrid performance/safety suits, specifically profiled and cut for rowing movement. These custom-made dry suits offered more flexibility to row, instead of traditional safety suits that tend to chafe and immobilize. The suits were tailor-made for each team member, following 25 different measurements.
Yamana people who had resided in the Cape Horn area for 10,000 years have been "rounding the horn" solo, fully human-propelled as teenagers as young as 12.y.o. in their primitive self-made paddle boats, as part of their traditional canoe-faring hunter-gatherers lifestyle. By the middle of the 20th century Chilean government restricted their small boat journeys due to being "too dangerous".
Just before the team left South America, a Chilean Air Force C-130 crashed in the Drake Passage. The search area covered their planned route. As the captain, Fiann had to make a decision of how to avoid the 150x150 miles no-go zone announced by Chilean Navy. His capacity to deal with the route had to withstand a one-day-long scrutiny at Cape Horn, conducted by the navy officials. Logic dictated routing west of the search area, just as suggested the advisers, because the wind and swell tend to move east while the current moves east, which would likely have pushed the search zone east too. Moreover, for the same reason, sailors crossing the Drake Passage typically choose to compensate west. However, Fiann, trusting his intuition, went against logic and went east anyway. It proved the correct call as the military had shifted their hunt to the opposite direction. Crew member Jamie Douglas-Hamilton said this call was crucial to their success.
The row took 12 days, 1 hour and 45 minutes, breaking several Guinness World Records. The team experienced sub-zero temperatures, snow and hail, and slalomed gigantic ice bergs unique to Antarctica.Sea anchor was deployed 5 times due to difficult seas. Apart for the sea anchor days, significant mileage was made good against the wind, which differentiates human-power routes from the Trade Winds routes. Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief, Craig Glenday congratulated captain Fiann Paul in person and commented:
"This row represents one of the most significant human-powered adventures ever undertaken."
Upon arrival to Antarctica, Fiann recited The Great Sea Song poem by Canadian Inuit poet Uvavnuk, cousin of Aua. On Christmas day, Icelandic national newspaper published an article about Fiann's accomplishment, dubbed: "Feasted with Ægir on Christmas." Fiann Paul received congratulations in person from the president of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson. As of 2020, Fiann is the captain of the only three successful human-powered pioneering expeditions into the open-waters of both polar regions. Despite rowing many of the world's most difficult seas, Fiann never capsized the boat under his command.
The expedition coincided with 2 major anniversaries, the first sighting of the Antarctic continent by Bellingshausen, taking place exactly 200 winters ago and the voyage of Magellan 500 years ago. Fiann commented that prior to this expedition Antarctica was a Terra Australis Incognita to human-power endeavors just like it was to cartographers prior to Bellingshausen.
When asked what makes one a successful ultra-endurance athlete, Fiann often outlined that love for the adventure is not enough, and that being tough is a must, but it is just the foundation. The critical advantage in his opinion is rarely achieved by men today: good understanding of and communication with one's body, a quality often inaccessible to individuals attached to the cliche version of masculinity. On explorations:
"The last great physical explorations left on the surface of this planet are the boundaries of human-power performance. Every mountain has been summited by a helicopter, but the person who climbs it first is still a pioneer. Every land has been reached by a motor or wind-powered vessel. But many of the major water basins have never been crossed by human power"
Fiann was the first modern day ocean rower to introduce a system of shifts depending on the mileage mark reached by rowers, instead of the more typically used time mark. This system allows rowers to choose how fast they complete their shift and allows the resting rowers to rest longer if the active shifts are completed with a slower pace. Recently, such a system is credited to be linked to the etymology of the word 'Viking'.
Fiann is one of two Icelandic members of the American-based international multidisciplinary professional society: The Explorers Club. He carried The Explorers Club Flag to Svalbard, to the Arctic ice pack and to Jan Mayen during the Polar Row, and from Cape Horn across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula during The Impossible Row. It is the same type of flag that decorated the raft of Thor Heyerdahl during the Kon Tiki expedition.
"Dialog", large-scale, outdoor art installation in 2008
"See It", large-scale, outdoor art installation in 2011
He was one of two authors of "Dialog", an outdoor art installation that spanned two main streets in the heart of the capital city with photographs of Icelandic children, 2008. He was also the author of the visual art project, "See It!" promoting the awareness of breastfeeding, an outdoor art installation in downtown Reykjavík at the facade of street Tryggvagata in 2011.
As an artist, Fiann was also involved in supporting the welfare of an endangered local breed of horses unique to the Faroe Islands. As a photographer he also documented many of his expeditions.
Since 2009 his Arctic photographs have been on permanent display at the International Terminal of Kulusuk Airport, the main airport of East Greenland. Some of his photographs of breastfeeding are displayed in Ísafjörður Hospital. Together with photographs of RAX, Fiann's Arctic photographs were selected to represent Greenlandic Art at the Arctic Winter Games in Canada, 2012. In 2011 Fiann swam with seals in a freezing pond next to an outdoor display of his photographs at the Family Garden in Reykjavik. His name was officially added to the seals' family list and mentioned along with the other seals on the portal of Reykjavik City.
Intersection of activities
On certain occasions, Fiann raised attention not as an athlete or an artist, but as someone uniquely combining different fields of activity. He was featured in a German TV documentary "On 3 Sofas" as a rare example of a person who achieves notable results in rarely combined disciplines, in this case, sports and art. Once in an interview with Icelandic National TV, Fiann was asked whether ocean rowing was in any way similar to art. Fiann responded affirmatively, adding that "They both connect to Depth". In this way, Fiann was also referring to his current postgraduate studies of Depth Psychology.
In an international television program, Trans World Sports, he was portrayed as someone active in the fields of art, sports and psychology. He discussed the concept of 'Arete', an ancient Greek training of young men into manhood, which included physical, intellectual and artistic training. Arete emphasized that development in each of these aspects must be present in order to achieve manhood.
Since 2017, Fiann has been conducting lectures on the Dark Side of the Hero's Journey, detailing the psychological aspects of ultra endurance sports and the psyche of explorers.
In 2019 Fiann spoke at TEDxBend, where he elaborated on the potential generated by psychological wounds and the possibility of deriving constructive outcomes based on the personality traits related to these wounds. Since December 2019 the talk has been featured by main TED.
Charity and other activities
Fiann's very first creative project to receive public recognition was a charity event that he organized, in which Fiann collected funds and supervised the construction of a new facility building for Götusmiðjan, the center for youth at risk, in Iceland in 2007.
In 2011 Fiann and Natalie Caroline founded Fiann Paul Foundation, which built a primary school in the Himalayas in 2013. The school educates 150 pupils per year. The project demonstrates two of his main academic interests, architecture and pedagogy. Fiann holds a master's degrees in each discipline. In addition to his formal education, Fiann spent 2 years in the Himalayas and 1 1/2 years in remote parts of Greenland. He considers this time as one of the most transformational periods in his life.
Presently, Fiann is pursuing postgraduate level studies in Depth Psychology. He is undergoing training to become a Jungian Analyst at the C.G. Jung institute in Zürich. His main focus is the psychology of ultra endurance performance, and the psychological dynamics within the psyche of explorers and endurance athletes.
He has conducted multiple lectures, and workshops in different parts of the world.
In 2020 he was awarded an Honorary Master Mariner from the Association of Master Mariners at Maritime University in Gdynia, Poland. Master Mariner is the highest seafarer qualification. In Poland, one needs to study for approximately 8 years to achieve this qualification.
Fiann chooses to consume no alcohol. He mentioned music to be his only addiction. The only meat present in his diet is of fish origin, as he states that fish are the only animals he could handle killing by himself. He is also known for eating raw eggs, instead of protein shakes after training.
His favorite places in Reykjavik are Nauthólsvík, and Árbæjarlaug where his personalized outdoor workout is a major part of his daily training routine.
Throughout his career Fiann has mentioned only one coach, Eygló Rós Agnarsdóttir, in an interview conducted in 2017
complete list of official performance based Guinness World Records held by Fiann Paul, 2018
Performance based Guinness World Records
Guinness World's Firsts
"World's First" is the highest form of Guinness World Record, the ownership of this title never expires.
Pioneering and explorations Guinness World's First titles
Diploma from Military Personnel of Jan Mayen for accomplishments in ocean rowing
As of 2018 his records constitute the majority of Icelandic sports' Guinness World Records (68%, or 30 of 44 in total)[note 5] 68% of Icelandic personal Guinness World Records (30 of 44 in total)[note 6] and 30% of the total number of Icelandic Guinness World Records (30 of 99 including Iceland's records for natural phenomenons and geography). Other major holders of Icelandic sports' Guinness World records are Anníe Mist Þórisdóttir (3) and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (4).
Atlantic Ocean overall speed record, 2011: Route: Tarfaya, Morocco to Port St.Charles, Barbados Team: Sara G Boat type: classic 6 Fiann's position: stroke Time: 33 days 21 hours 46 minutes, calculated into exactly 32 days on shorter Trade Winds I standard route, typically used for records comparison. Distance in a straight line: 3168 miles or 5098 km Average speed: 3.386 knots or 3.896 mph
Indian Ocean overall speed record, 2014: Route: Geraldton, Australia to Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles Team: Avalon Boat type: classic 8 Fiann's position: stroke Time: 57 days 10 hours 58 minutes Distance in a straight line: 4208 miles or 6772 km Average speed: 2.650 knots or 3,050 mph
Pacific Ocean overall speed record, 2016: Route: Monterey, CA. USA to Diamond Head, O'ahu, Hawaii Team: Uniting Nations Boat type: classic 4 Fiann's position: stroke Time: 39 days 9 hours 56 minutes Distance in a straight line: 2406 miles or 3365 km Average speed: 2.210 knots or 2.543 mph
The Captain of Polar Open-Waters Pioneering Routes (Non-Trade Winds Routes)
Fiann was the captain of the only three successful human-powered pioneering expeditions into the open-waters of both polar regions: Polar Row I, Polar Row II and The Impossible Row.
Arctic Ocean overall speed record, 2017: Route: Tromsø, Norway to Longyearbyen, Svalbard Team: Polar Row I Boat type: open 4 Fiann's position: Captain, stroke Time: 7 days, 7 hours Distance in a straight line: 600 miles or 965 km (512 miles or 824 km to Hornsund) Average speed: 2.56 knots or 2.95 mph
Northernmost Latitude record, 2017: Route: Longyearbyen, Svalbard to Arctic Ice Shelf, Ice Shelf to Jan Mayen, Norway Team: Polar Row II Boat type: open 4 Fiann's position: Captain, stroke Time: 12 days, 18 hours Distance in a straight line: 150 miles or 240 km to Ice Shelf + 690 miles or 1111 km to Jan Mayen = 840 miles or 1351 km 
Ocean Explorers Grand Slam, 2019: Route: Cape Horn, Chile to Charles Point, mainland Antarctic Peninsula 64°23'S Team: The Impossible Row Boat type: open 4 Fiann's position: Captain, stroke Time: 12 days, 1 hours 45 minutes Distance in a straight line: 610 miles or 981 km
^Performance based records don't include age, salary and other non-performance-based criteria
^Higher numbers of Guinness records have been held by Record Breakers such as Ashrita Furman who claim records in a variety of feats, but not by competing in one singular sport
^This number refers to the days on the ocean alone while his daily training in the preparations period usually consists of rowing approximately ¾ marathon (30km) and weights training.
^Overall speed record in ocean rowing stands for the fastest crossing regardless of any additional criteria such as number and type of the crew, class of the boat, hull type, race, exact departure and arrival points, departure date etc. Average overall speed is calculated and compared. The distance used for the overall speed calculation is the straight line distance between the departure and the arrival points, while the actual distance rowed and the actual average speed is usually much higher
^As of 2018, the remaining 14 Sports Guinness World Records are:
1. Most wins of the World's Strongest Man
2. Smallest margin of victory in the World's Strongest Man competition
3. Most weight lifted in one minute barbell snatch (female)
4. Furthest distance 400 kg farmer's walk
5. Highest beer keg toss (male)
6. Heaviest elephant bar deadlift
7. Most weight lifted in one minute barbell thruster (female)
8. Fastest time to pull 10 cars 20 m
9. Fastest 20 m carrying two fridges
10. Most wins consecutively of the World's Strongest Man
11. Most goals scored in a single season of the UEFA Women's Champions League by a football (soccer) player
12. Most weight lifted in one minute clean and jerk (female)
13. Highest aggregate score in a European Cup / Champions League match
14. Fastest swim 200 m freestyle - S14 (male)
^As of 2018, the remaining 14 personal Guinness World Records are:
1. Largest recorder
2. Most weight lifted in one minute barbell snatch (female)
3. Furthest distance 400 kg farmer's walk
4. Heaviest elephant bar deadlift
5. Most weight lifted in one minute barbell thruster (female)
6. Fastest 20 m carrying two fridges
7. Fastest time to pull 10 cars 20 m
8. First Head of Government to enter into a same sex marriage
9. Most wins consecutively of the World's Strongest Man
10. Most goals scored in a single season of the UEFA Women's Champions League by a football (soccer) player
11. Longest journey on a pocketbike (minimoto)
12. Most weight lifted in one minute clean and jerk (female)
13. Fastest swim 200 m freestyle - S14 (male)
14. First app in New York's Museum of Modern Art