Tracey and Nick Smith, Waiheke to Auckland swim (Chopper Swim)
Chopper Swim Challenge
Swim date: 18 March 2019
Age: 48 yrs
Distance: 20 km
Observer / Kayaker: Nick Smith
Tahiti Nui to Moorea
Sea of the Moon Channel
Swim date: 5 October 2019
Age: 49 yrs
Time: 9hrs 38mins
Neutral Observer: Ioane Ng Pao
Circumnavigation Swim of Bora Bora
Swim date: 14 October 2019
Age: 49 yrs
Direction: clockwise (Sofitel Island start finish)
Distance: 23 km
Time: 9hrs 52mins 50 seconds
Neutral Observer: Seti Afoa
Chopper Swim - Waiheke to Auckland
My March 2019 solo swim was the culmination of 3 years of taking part in the Chopper Challenge swim. The swim is a phenomenal fundraising event and a fantastic introduction to Ultra Marathon Swimming.
In 2017 I was asked to take part in a team of four.
No worries, that's only 5 km each, I thought. On the day, the conditions were so rough none of us wanted to sit on the support boat. We made it to 12.5km in swells of over 2 meters in headwind, gusting to 45 knots. Only one relay team made it across that day.
In 2018 I was joined by Karim Rostami, and we completed a duo relay crossing. Karim is my inspiration and a true sporting hero. (The swim was also briefly joined by a mumma and baby orca, making it a memorable swim)
In 2019 Karim and I were joined by Paulette Tasker, and together we all shared a boat to set out and all complete solo crossings in perfect conditions.
That was a very special swim on home ground. The swim also served as the first step of a year of four planned Ultra Marathon swims.
Tougher challenges were yet to come.
Tahiti to Mo'orea Swim
Left, Tracey's entrance to the finish at Vaiare was a tough one with water moving out of the channel at a rate of knots. Right, Tracey at Vaiare on Mo'orea and Tahiti-nui behind
at the end of her second ultra-swim.
The next challenge came later in October 2019 at the Tahiti to Mo'orea swim. The swim was in total contrasting conditions. It started with glassy perfection in translucent Indian ink coloured water that quickly deteriorated to me observing my boat crew donning sou'wester and oilskins that I would more commonly associate with a North Sea fishing trawler. A massive squall swept through. The learning from my original Chopper swim experience came in handy. I remembered my mantra: 'the only thing you can choose is your attitude' and survived 4 hours of 2-meter swells.
Huge thanks go to Mike Cochrane who's absolute glee on the first Chopper challenge taught me that swell can be fun. Seasickness became a matter of acceptance. Flat Coke (another tip from Mike) was a Godsend.
The final 5 km of this swim was a massive challenge in a different way. I ended up on the wrong side of the entrance. I had to swim a dog leg to enter the Vaiare channel in an outgoing tide. The earlier trials faded into the background when this new challenge presented itself, of my own making of course.
Once through the narrow channel, it was a 1-kilometer swim to the finish at the Vaiare marina. I was very happy to finish the crossing. Swim two was done.
What did this swim teach me - Even in terrible storms in Tahiti, you can get very, very sunburnt. Remedial steps were urgent as I had to head out and swim around Bora Bora in 8-days time.
Circumnavigation Swim of Bora Bora
Bora Bora, the toughest part of the swim was reaching Palm Tree Point a few KMS ahead.
Wow - be careful what you wish for, or should that be, dreams can come true.
On the 27th of July 2016, Richard and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on Bora Bora. We spent the morning snorkelling with sharks, stingray and plentiful fish. In the afternoon, we took a jet ski tour around the island.
Sitting on the back of that jet ski, I looked at the island and thought: "this island would be really cool to swim around. I wonder how far it is".
From casting that thought out into the universe, my ultra-marathon swimming journey unfolded in front of me. From being invited to join that first team swim on the Chopper Challenge to watching from afar the first group to swim Tahiti – Mo'orea in 2018. Everything just fell into place, and when the Tahiti tour was announced for 2019, there was even a group looking to head over to attempt to swim around Bora Bora.
The swim was incredible: Manta rays, a big blacktip shark (I think the words I used to describe it to Seti were similar to that), a turtle and thousands of fishes.
Swimming around an island is always going to be challenging, and the back leg certainly was that with reef's to navigate and 'Palm tree Point' that just never got any nearer. At the end of the swim, I was both relieved and elated with having fulfilled my wish to swim around Bora Bora.
That was the most significant achievement of my life, and I am so thankful to Seti and Richard and the boat crew on the day.
Richard (my husband) has probably gained the most from the Tahiti swims. After spending over 18 hours sitting on boats in Tahiti, he decided to allow me to teach him to swim in December 2019. This 2020 - 2021 he has completed his first 3.8km lake swim at the Ruby in Wanaka and the 5 km Akaroa swim.
Richard's success has fuelled my desire to help as many adults as possible to learn to swim. This is proving to be an incredibly rewarding way to give back to the swimming community.
Huge thanks to everyone who made my three swims possible and supported me along the way.
Eds note: Tracey was to complete her four swim year with the Apolima Strait Swim in March 2020, the very same week the world went into COVID lockdown.