Yesterday I got to tick another big box. I have been dreaming of swimming to Aliwal shoal for over a year now since I was trying to look for some unique training swims to help prepare me for my big Ka’iwi channel swim in 50 days time!
It never worked out last year with finding the right conditions to match with the schedules of my chosen team. So yesterday finally turned out to be the best day.
With one of my passions and huge reason for my upcoming channel crossing being creating awareness for ocean conservation, Aliwal shoal was a great option for a training swim for a few reason- it was to be the first of its kind; it is a marine protected area ad yet still suffers the effect of human impact, it is local and warm and an incredibly stunning stretch of sea to be able to swim.
We met with our boat captain, Carl just as the sun was rising to launch at Scottburgh beach. The morning was incredibly fresh, but the sea was invitingly warm (23-24) Carl dropped us with the boat on the beach and John, Sarah and myself got a good warm up righting the boat and getting ready to launch in the shore break. As soon as we were on the boat and on our way I automatically felt more relaxed. The build up to this has been a long time coming and I now was ready to stretch out my arms and do what I love. On our way we were visited by a pod of dolphins and an incredible sunrise.
The boat dropped me about 800m from my starting point a few kilometres north of Scottburgh beach at high rocks beach. I jumped in and swam to the shore at High to start above the shore line to make it an official swim. On the way back out to sea, I misjudged the shore break and got hit by an incoming wave. It picked me up and threw me face down onto the hard sand! Great way to start the swim! My costume was full of sand, I had to remove it (in the water!) to get rid of all the sand and then I could get going again.
It took me an hour before I found my rhythm and by the time the 3rd feed came, I was going solidly. John had picked the perfect day as we had a slight northwest pushing me towards the shoal. We reached the shoal 6km from our start and I was going at a great pace thanks to the swell pushing me from behind (4km/hr) I was so excited to get to the shoal but unfortunately the visibility was really poor and you could hardly see the reef. It was a little anti climatic, but I carried on just feeling so happy to be in the water doing what I love. Occasionally my mind would drift to what I would usually be doing on a Tuesday morning and it made me very happy to rather be in the ocean (I do love my job though)
After about 2km of swimming along the shoal with nothing to see, we started heading back towards the shore in a south east direction. The wind had changed direction by then and I now had the north east pushing me back to shore! The water started cleaning up and the blueness of the ocean was delicious! John spotted a massive sea turtle on the top of the sea that I got a brief glimpse of before it headed down to the depths. What a treat! I was so happy and I kept thinking how close this was to Hawaii with the clean blue ocean stretched out before me!
Sarah jumped in not long after that to keep me company and immediately my competitive side kicked in and I picked up the pace! The second time she jumped in I had to actively tell myself to slow down!
At about 3 hours in my shoulders started to feel the load and I was getting tired. The water was dirtier and I was a little over the swim. Sarah gave me an option to swim till 20km or 4 hours as they were trying to figure a landing point. By that point I did not want to have to make that decision so she left it hanging till the next feed. That half an hour stretch was tough and i decided I would opt for 4 hours! I started counting to distract myself which helped a lot!
By the next feed there were only 5km to go (just over an hour of swimming – so that took away my 4 hour option! I put my head down and distracted myself by thinking of previous travels I had done and where my dream of ocean swimming all started. Sarah jumped in again which was very helpful too!
5 hours of another dream realised and another box ticked.
The time went pretty fast for the next 2 feeds and by then I could see the shore and knew it was 20 more minutes to go to land. Those 20 minutes took forever and there was big shore break and some waves to navigate. John pulled me aside to show me where to swim and then went ahead of me to get some footage. Sarah jumped back in and helped me navigate my way through the waves and swell. I was so excited to touch the sand and walk up the beach to finish 5 hours of another dream realised and another box ticked.
I was again reminded how happy I am when I swim in the open ocean like that and it is honestly where I feel the most joy as I use what God has given me to give him pleasure.
I am so grateful to John and Sarah for supporting me out there. I have the best team and cannot wait til Hawaii!