I had a traumatic start to life. At the age of 15, I was the sole survivor of a boating accident that claimed the lives of my parents and brother. I was ultimately left without family or the tools to overcome life’s challenges.
Without support, I charged down a path of self-destruction. In the years that followed, I experienced further challenges, from death to single motherhood, domestic violence, cervical cancer, sexual assault, and financial ruin. I endured so much heartbreak.
As I grew into adulthood, I developed an almost survival instinct, learning on my own the tools required to pick myself back up.
As I entered my 40s, I pursued my curiosity for people and the way we think into a career as a licensed investigator: to research trauma, interview experts, and delve deeply into the human mind and behaviour. I also poured my experiences onto paper as I wrote my life story, "The Girl Who Lived".
I learned many valuable lessons from my experiences and, as a result, became a stronger and more resilient person. I'm now sharing my learnings with others so that they, too, may live their happiest life.
For more than 30 years, I fiercely avoided both swimming and open water - they remained my greatest fear after the drowning death of my family. But as part of my journey of self-healing, and to encourage others to confront and overcome their own fears, I accepted a challenge to swim the world’s largest open water event – the Lorne Pier to Pub.
It took me 14 months to prepare both mentally and physically. I started in a 25-metre pool but suffered from severe anxiety and eventually sought the support of a professional coach who specialises in various areas of swimming, including working with people who suffer from water phobia.
Peter Hendriks from SwimWell is the person I credit for supporting me through this process.
Peter swam with me every morning at sunrise - even throughout winter - guiding me stroke-by-stroke.
I achieved my goal of swimming the 1.2km Lorne Pier to Pub on 7 January 2017, reaching the finish line in twenty minutes and 37 seconds (20:37), and raising funds for domestic violence in the process.
SWIMMING THE RIP
Six weeks after successfully competing in the Lorne Pier to Pub, I achieved another difficult challenge - swimming "The Rip," from Point Nepean to Point Lonsdale.
"The Rip" is a bold, iconic bucket-list swim across the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, the gateway to Melbourne. With tides that can run up to 15km/h, the 3.2km stretch of water has gained a reputation as one of the most unpredictable and treacherous waterways in the world!
With my team of chaperones, we completed the challenge in a little over one hour and twenty-six minutes (1:26:02). The moving tide increased our distance to 4.65km.
SWIMMING THE ENGLISH CHANNEL
After completing the Rip swim, I then set my sights on swimming the Everest of all swims - the English Channel - in a 4-person relay. I trained with my team in the bay at sunrise every morning for 18 months, and also attended squad training sessions three times each week leading up to the challenge.
Our team successfully swam the 34km (21mile) distance from England to France on 17 August 2018 in a little under eleven hours and fifty-eight minutes (11:57:48). With the current moving from side to side as the tide ebbs and flows, the distance was closer to 50km. As fate would have it, I was fortunate to be the swimmer to reach landfall.
In undertaking this challenge, I raised funds for "Make A Wish Foundation," to enable children suffering from serious illnesses to fulfill their own dreams.
Unable to turn down a challenge, I then committed to a solo crossing of the channel between Cottesloe Beach and Rottnest Island (Perth, Australia), a 19.7km swim that took place on 22 February 2020. It was a tough challenge, but I managed to complete the distance in just under ten hours (9:55).
I am now training for a solo crossing of the English Channel in September 2022.
I'm also committing my life to help others confront their own fears and achieve personal goals.