For adventurer Lia Ditton, conquering the world’s oceans and setting records isn’t enough—she wants to lead by example and inspire the next generation of female adventurers, too.

Lia Ditton pulls hard on the oars, propelling her six-meter rowboat through churning seas the color of gunmetal. The Farallon Islands hover like ghosts in the distance, 50 kilometers offshore from San Francisco.

These mythical islands were known as ‘Islands of the Dead’ to Native Americans, and ‘Devil’s Teeth’ to sailors for their dangerous underwater shoals. Many a boat has shipwrecked on these volcanic outcroppings, pushed toward the jagged rocks by currents, tides and wind.

But 38-year-old Ditton is out in these shark-infested waters alone, fighting to become the first person—man or woman—to row to or from the Farallons since 1898, when a lighthouse keeper and his wife rowed ashore to find help for their sick child.