My thoughts on Rapa Nui

by | Apr 9, 2019 | View from the sea

This trip has been nothing short of a whirlwind and I am sure a life changing experience. It will take me months to fully process and absorb what went down during our time there. There are 2 questions people have consistently asked me since my return: 1- what does it feel like to be a world record holder? 2- What’s next?

I have found it difficult to answer the first question. I have not changed directly. I am still me, my job is still the same and life carries on as if nothing happened in many regards. Bu, being a world record holder has already opened up a lot of doors and opportunities which I am going to focus on exploring in this next season. I want to fully absorb and process what we have accomplished and maximise on the exposure from this swim.

So, although I have very little doubt that my job as a pioneering swimmer to create awareness is not over, I will not be actively exploring anything big or significant for the next 6-12 months as I get to enjoy the freedom of not having to eat so much food so consistently and to have the freedom to train and exercise because I want to and I love it rather than trying to get a job done or tick boxes.

The biggest impact to me so far from this trip has been the unprecedented power of teamwork. There were over 7 different countries represented in making this swim happen. (South Africa, USA, Chile, Latvia, Denmark, UK, Rapa Nui) The only other time in my life that I have experienced such effective teamwork and unity was when I was a youth leader and university.

Having such different cultures and personalities uniting together to bring their very best skills to a common cause, for me, was mind-blowing and such an incredible joy to experience.

The power of teamwork was second to none. Including the local community in this campaign was such an incredible privelage.

Rapa Nui is an incredibly unique place. The people are remarkable and welcomed us generously into their homes and culture. From a population of 15 000 to 100 they almost became extinct, but through clever planning and hard work they built back to about 7000 people today. Rapa Nui has been seen by some to be the belly button of the earth and is a great example of our human race. We are currently destroying our planet- just like they did so many years ago, but it is not too late to change and restore our land to the way God intended it to be. We need to start being mindful of every consumer choice we make and turn back to our ancestors to learn from their mistakes and successes. It is not a simple task, but it is something that we can do together.

There are 1-2 planes of 300-600 tourists a day who visit Rapa Nui. Most of them are there to see the MOai and have no idea of how much more the island and its people have to offer. Toki music school is a hidden gem and an incredible model of how to build a better more sustainable future.

The day after the swim we were invited to a local fish braai by Tavu, Karina and Konui, we headed to the one and only sandy beach on the island. We set up camp under the trees with a large braai covered in fresh fish, sweet potatoes, taro root and plantains and were treated to a feast- No cutlery, no crockery, just our hands and banana leaves for plates. Bones were thrown into the fire- the way we should all be eating. Batman (Tavu’s cousin) and Mehari (Tavu’s daughter) broke out into a spontaneous song playing the guitar and ukulele together for the first time. It was a beautiful day out with beautiful people.

Horses, cows and dogs roam free on the island. There are no traffic lights, fruit trees are in abundance and we would pick guavas at our leisure whenever we were hungry. There is a strong reliance in the land and ocean to provide food for the locals as well as a deep spiritual connection.

I have no doubt that Gods hand was on every detail of this swim and the build up to it. Showing us a rainbow the day before the swim at the blessing ceremony and 1 the day we left the island. The welcome and acceptance form the local people, the unity of everyone despite such unique personalities and the near perfect swim conditions, are all undeniable stamps of God’s hand at work.

I could totally live island life. The simplicity, dependence on the land and delicious diet plus general respect for nature is inspiring. The increased tourism is a boost for the economy but also brings with it problems of its own as demand for western food and drink starts to impact the island vibe and natural way of living. With our growing consumerism globalisation and tourism in the western world, we have lost the slow pace, hard working lifestyle of the past. Rapa Nuin’s could teach us a thing or two about authentic sustainable living, community and connection.

I walk away from this experience richer than before, not due to the accomplishment of a world record, but because of deep connections with incredibly generous people.  Satisfied with an unbelievable team effort to create a world record for a swim against plastic that not only changed my life, but I think meant so much to the local community as well.

I have no idea what lies in store for me and this next chapter but its going to look very different and potentially a lot more international travel. What does that mean for my job as a physio? How does that look? It’s going to take time to process all these emotions. Life is different now…watch this space.


Thank you’s

  1. To God for giving me this dream and the talent to achieve it- this is all for You and Your glory
  2. Plastic Oceans USA (Tod, Julie and William) who funded this whole event and even came out prior to the swim to do some pre filming for our upcoming documentary
  3. Plastic Oceans Chile (Mark (Dutch), Vivi- social media and Camilla AKA Toto) who arranged all the logistics on the island. Hotel sponsorship, a local kayak crew, the yacht, food on the island, meals pre swim, car hire, permits, negotiations with the navy, translations, official observer for the swim (toto)
  4. Ale and Vicki from Hotel Hotu Matua who were incredible hosts organising massages post swim, special meal times, use of their hotel transport and even doing our washing
  5. Erik (Latvia) videographer
  6. Jamie from ‘Crowd from the UK who did a fabulous job building the 
  7. Jeff who was the title sponsor from Footprint, an incredible alternative to single use packaging company making waves not just in the USA, but globally
  8. Marta and Hian from the yacht- what incredible skippers ensuring a safe circumnavigation for me and the crew and to Marta for her endless energy transporting Sarah and the kayak team with Wofty to and from the yacht to the kayaks via the zodiac.
  9. Kayak rapa Nui- Tavu, Konui and Karina- wow your local knowledge, belief in me and my team and just opening your hearts and sharing your local knowledge with us blew me away.
  10. Wofty (RSA camera guy), Rentia (RSA- doc), John (RSA- safety and navigation- boss) and Sarah H ( RSA coach, feeder, motivator and fellow swimmer) – I could write an essay for each of you in terms of how much your support, expertise, selflessness and belief in me helped me to succeed in this swim. But I will save that for another day. For now, thank you will have to suffice.
  11. Jen (RSA- manager, admin back in SA)
  12. OJ (RSA- PR)
  13. Lauren Cozzie (USA- PR)- organising pre and post press releases media coverage and even media training
  14. Brian, Mackers, Kirsten, Kerryn, Trish, Gabriel, Annelize, Christy, Caron, Judy, family, Scott, the list goes on..
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