Camille Gulick - Foveaux Strait
Stewart Island to South Island
28.6 km (17.8 miles)
6 hours, 57 minutes on 10 February 2022
Observed and documented by John Scobie
- Name: Camille Gulick
- Gender: gender
- Age on swim date: 34
- Nationality: New Zealand
- Resides: Wanaka
- Rewi Bull - skipper
- Paula Bull - skipper
- Scott Crosbie - IRB pilot
- Owen West - IRB pilot
- Sally McMath - logistics, support, coach
- Belinda Donaldson - crew
- Luke Yates - crew
- Anna-Kate Hutter - crew
- Tom Christie - photographer
- Voting Technical Official of Swimming New Zealand and regularly officiates at both local and regional swim meets and association with the Ocean Swimming community
- Over the last 10 years, regularly competed in the New Zealand Ocean Swim series in events up to 5km
- Helped organise (and competed in), one-off open water swims in his local area
- For the last 9 years, served as Warranted Fisheries Officer involved in the policing of recreational fishing around the greater Marlborough (NZ) coast, utilising both sea and land patrols. As part of my work with fisheries, holds a current -First Aid certificate with CPR
- For the last 25/30 years, John has been involved in boating, spear fishing, and SCUBA diving
- Previously involved in Search and Rescue at a management level and was involved in the management of numerous searches both land and sea in the upper South Island NZ
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (Speedo Aquablade Strikeback), cap, goggles (Orca)
- Body of Water: Foveaux Strait
- Route Type: one-way channel swim
- Start Location: The Saddle, Stewart Island (-46.720768, 167.977706)
- Finish Location: Invercargill Heads, South Island (-46.587379, 168.279357)
- Minimum Route Distance: 28.6 km (17.8 miles) (map)
LongSwimsDB: Foveaux Strait.
- Start: 10 February 2022, 07:29:00 (New Zealand Daylight Time, Pacific/Auckland, UTC13).
- Finish: 10 February 2022, 14:26:05
- Elapsed: 6 hours, 57 minutes, 5 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (C)
|Air Temp (C)
Trackpoint frequency: 20 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: 30 minute intervals. Tailwind Endurance drink mix + Only Organic (brand) baby food pouches. Hot Chocolate every 2 hours.
by John Scobie
The day had started with a 0330 wakeup, quick breakfast and coffee before heading to the wharf at Bluff harbour to board Shangri La for the trip to Stuart Island. I managed to wedge myself into a corner and sleep most of the way.
We arrived at Saddle Point on Stewart Island a bit before 0700 and Camille’s team swung into action launching the IRB and preparing Camille for the “days work” that was to come.
Camille and Sally (Camille’s coach) boarded the IRB and Scott Crosbie (Oreti Surf Life saving Club) ferried them the 100 metres to the start point Saddle Point.
From the bow of the Shangri La, I watched as Camille entered the water and swam a few metres to the shore, made contact with the rock and signalled to me she was ready. I blew the whistle, started the stop watch and we were underway in what would prove to be ideal conditions. The wind throughout the day varied from 0 to 6.5 knots North East through to South West before settling on an Easterly of 6.5 knots from midday. The sea varied from flat calm to a long, lazy .5 meter swell before flattening with a bit of wind chop at about 1300 hrs.
Camille’s support team led by Sally McMath rotated through the day to provide Camille with food, hydration and moral support. Rewi and Paula Bull, the owners and crew of the Shangri La, provided the support crew with food, tea and coffee throughout the day.
At 1345 with about 2.7 km left to swim, the mood on Shangri La was ecstatic. The team started to get gear ready for the last feed and get space blankets onto the IRB. IRB crew Owen, Sally and Luke boarded for the finish.
1415hrs, with approx 500 meters to swim Camille took her last feed in the water, I then moved up the bow of the Shangri La while Rewi and the IRB directed Camille towards the nearest finish point.
At 1426 I observed Camille touch a rock on the South Island and Blew the whistle and stopped the watch to officially finish the swim in a time of 6hrs 57 minutes 5 seconds.
On a personal note, I would like to say what a privilege it has been to spend time and work alongside this team of swimmer, coach, and support crew, who have dedicated significant time and effort to ensure the success of this adventure.
by Camille Gulick
It’s 7am on Thursday and I’m standing in the galley of the Shangri La fishing vessel just off Saddle Point, Stewart Island. I’m leaning over the sink trying not to lose what little breakfast I managed to eat that morning as Luke applies my swim grease. I knew coming into today that my anxiety would make eating difficult, so the dry heaving into the sink was no surprise. The fact that I managed to keep my piece of toast and half a protein shake down was a surprise. Thankfully my photographer Tom was not inside to capture these moments of panic.
Just before this, I looked at one of my support crew and said something along the lines of, “what the f**k have I got myself into?!” her response was something like, “a really freaking awesome adventure!” Anna Kate never disappoints with her cool calm demeanor, one of the main reasons I wanted her on my crew.
Greased up and all but mentally ready to go, I walked out onto the deck of the boat where everyone was waiting for me. I grabbed the handrail and stood there a minute to take some deep breaths - in through the nose, hold, out through the mouth, like I’ve been practicing with my sports psychologist lately.
Oreti Surf Lifesaving Club members Owen and Scott had prepared the IRB and my coach Sally helped me get in. We were off to the island. Nervous as ever, almost in tears I asked Sally what the water temperature was. “16 degrees,” she lied as she made a funny face - my giveaway that she was bullshitting - but I tried to appreciate why she said it. Scott reminded me of the plan. Get to the rocky shore, raise my hand, the whistle would blow, then I swim, but to take my time before all that. I said no worries, I’ll have to pee first anyway.
I slid into the water, almost gasped at the temperature - definitely not 16 degrees! Then swam over to the rocky shore of Saddle Point. Without thinking I touched the rock and raised my arm, the whistle blew and I was off. But wait, I forgot to relax and pee first! Oh well, time to go now, no stopping until the end.
The first half hour was a bit surreal. I was shocked to actually have made it this far. All the long training days, the hours in the pool and Lake Wanaka, one trip to Christchurch to remind myself what salt water tastes like… it all led me to this point. My anxiety had tried to wreak havoc on my plans many times along the way, but I was so glad I didn’t let it stop me. Time to be grateful for making it to the start of this massive challenge. I started to run through every member of my crew and why I’m grateful for them:
● Sally McMath - coach, friend, and all around amazing organiser. I couldn’t have done this without her!
● Luke Yates - my partner and actual saint for putting up with me through all my ups and downs, stresses and doubts, and the many hours/days he spent supporting me in all my crazy swim endeavors.
● Belinda (Shields) Donaldson - fantastic swimmer and coach, someone I look up to so much and actually the one who planted the seed in my head that I could one day do this swim. I felt so lucky to have her on board.
● Anna Kate Hutter - fellow Wanaka Lake Swimmer and amazing person who I was thrilled to hear would be happy to come along on this adventure with me. She even said she’d be willing to hop in the water if I needed support (even if she was a bit hesitant of Foveaux’s “toothy residents”)
● Sally signals the 5 minute warning before my first feed I thought, “but wait! I’m not finished being thankful for the crew yet!”
● Tom Christie - housemate and super talented photographer/videographer. I knew no matter what happened during this swim I wanted it properly documented and I knew Tom was the guy to do it.
● John Scobie (Scobes) - a swim friend of Sally from Blenheim. When we discussed who we should recruit as our observer Sally had only good things to say about Scobes and his swim and fisheries experience. He came along with all the required gear and definitely did his homework so that he was prepared to do his job on the day.
● Rewi and Paula Bull - owners of the Shangri La who I met last year during Jono Ridler’s record-breaking swim. I saw how well they conducted the swim and ate all the amazing food Paula had cooked up. I knew I wanted them for my swim too!
● Scott Crosbie and Owen West - Oreti Surf Lifesaving Club members who were also support for Jono’s swim and many other crossings before then. I knew these guys had the experience and local knowledge that would make me feel confident on the day. No matter which way they directed me to swim, I listened because I knew they were the experts.
He’s not part of my crew for this swim, but I feel the need to thank Jono Ridler. I was introduced to Jono through swim friends in January 2021. He was very open to sharing his experience training and planning for his Foveaux swim that season. He invited me along to be part of the crew and I was lucky enough to swim the final kilometre of his record-breaking swim with him. I remember being in the water that day thinking, “I can’t waste this opportunity. I have to at least give this swim a shot!”
It’s time for the first feed. Warm (maybe slightly too hot) Tailwind and a warmed baby food. It goes down easy and I’m thankful for the warmth it provides. I’m feeling chilly, but not too cold. I had remembered advice that marathon swimmer Charlotte Brynn gave me a week before via video call - “Relax, be confident and make sure you pee! These things will help your body deal with the cold.” I still hadn’t peed since the start, but once I dropped my feet for the feed I relaxed and then was able to. This advice had really kept my head in the right place.
Back to the swim, I don’t think they told me distance or exact time, but that could come during later feeds. My swimming felt great. I pushed as hard as I could without feeling like I would tire myself too soon. At some point my big toes started to go numb and the pinky on my right hand started to drift out - my first sign of “the claw” coming on. But this was the worst of it. Soon enough it was time for another warm feed.
Temperature was better this time, still warm, not too hot. I could feel it warming my core. The crew tells me it’s been an hour and I’ve covered 5.5km. “Seriously?” “Yup!” That surprised me a bit as I usually only cover 5km in about an hour and a half. What a great way to start!
This is where the swim blurs into constant steady strokes and nothing but blue (except the occasional shadow moving below). I continued to swim hard, and kick, to keep the chills away. It was working. Feeds came sooner than expected, this was great as I never felt like I needed anything, just kept putting in the carbs.
The crew switched over every 1.5 hours - from Sally and AK with Scott, to Luke and Belinda with Owen. I roughly kept aware of the time based on these changes. They seemed to be having a good time and so was I.
During one feed Luke held up the whiteboard with distance and time: 14km, 2 hours 45 minutes. “What, is that serious?!” I asked, shocked. “Yes, it is serious!” Luke happily replied. “That’s my 10km time on a GOOD day! Where did the other 4km come from?!”
Things continued in this way. I was shocked just how long I managed to stay warm and swim fast. When the pain started to set in from a tightening shoulder muscle or my low back started to ache, it was magically time for a hot chocolate with crushed pain relievers mixed in. We couldn’t have planned the feeding schedule any better than this!
We neared the pointy end. At one point I was told to look at how clearly we could see Bluff, the wind turbines, and buildings on the shore. Another check of the distance and time, still unbelievable for me, I’ve never swum this fast in my life! It started to set in just how special this day was becoming.
I was at one of my last feeds (maybe second to last) and I actually knew what was about to happen. I looked at Belinda in the IRB and said, “Tell Jono I’m sorry!” I knew I was about to comfortably break his record from last year.
The final stretch had arrived and I could clearly see the shore. Just get to those rocks! Keep pushing! You’ve got this! Go break that record! The crew is clapping and cheering. Is this really happening?! Someone pinch me!
Suddenly I can see seaweed below. One second I’m over a patch of seaweed, the next second I’m 5 metres to the left. This current is no joke. It’s pushing me around every which way. Just get to the shore.
My team finds a group of rocks solidly connected to shore - officially part of the South Island - and directed me that way. It took longer than expected to get to them with the water pushing and pulling me around. Eventually I made my way, touched the rock, raised my arm, and smiled the biggest smile ever. I did it! I crossed Foveaux Strait! And as icing on the cake I broke the bloody record!
Click to enlarge.
Otago Daily Times: Records fall across the strait