Sarah Poplar - Poor Knights Islands to Matapouri

Aorangi, Poor Knights Islands to Matapouri Beach, Northland, New Zealand

22.4 km (13.9 miles)

8 hours, 10 minutes on 25 March 2018

Observed and documented by Mike Cochrane



  • Name: Sarah Poplar
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 42
  • Nationality: Great Britain
  • Resides: Whangarei Heads, New Zealand

Support Personnel

  • Luke Wynne - pilot
  • Tayne Tupaea - deckhand
  • Chris Palmer - feeder / support

Escort Vessel: Bright Arrow (Tutukaka)

Swim Parameters

Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.

Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Tarakihi Reef, Pacific Ocean
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Back of Rikoriko Cave, northwest Aorangi, Poor Knights Islands (-35.481977, 174.734358)
  • Finish Location: Matapouri Beach, Northland (-35.561603, 174.508098)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 22.4 km (13.9 miles)


Second known swim of this route, after Meda McKenzie (1978).

Swim Data

  • Start: 25 March 2018, 07:28, New Zealand Standard Time (UTC+12)
  • Finish: 25 March 2018, 15:38
  • Elapsed: 8 hours, 10 minutes.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp 20C 21C
Air Temp 19C 25C
Wind 0 10-12 knots S

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Observer Log

Download PDF


by Sarah Poplar

Poor Knights Islands to Matapouri Beach. 25th March 2018. 8h 10mins.

We left the Tutukaka marina in still darkness, only the occasional fisherman’s cabin light around us.

Arriving at the Poor Knights islands the light lifted slowly to reveal their magnificence and we slipped into Rikoriko cave to start the swim. WE were all very excited and this helped dissipate the nerves about sharks! The water was cobalt blue and spilling with fish, great shoals of hundreds of small colourful fish and then snapper outside of the cave. Sneaking glimpses under my left arm I watched with the crew as the sun came up over the islands.

Initially the confused swell made slow going at times but the occasional tour boat and then dolphins for company helped pass the time. In the middle of the day the swell and wind calmed immensely. Nearing Tutukaka we decided to make a beach finish at Matapouri, firstly because there was a swell breaking on the rocks at the mouth, and secondly because mIke knew there was a welcoming party! Matapouri is so beautiful I really didn’t mind surfing the swell an extra kilometre onto the beach!

Arranged in only five days, my crew Chris Palmer and Mike Cochrane were awesome. They seemed to really enjoy the day out on the boat which was great positive feedback the whole way. The boat pilot Luke had not accompanied a swimmer before but was spot-on. The conditions were glorious, the landscape beautiful and there was a lot of interest from local swimming groups and friends who tracked the swim online and came to meet me at the finish.


Click to enlarge.


Media Coverage

NZ Herald: Dolphins greet Sarah Poplar on rare Poor Knights Islands swim