Joep Buijs describes setting foot on Western Australia’s Rottnest Island after swimming 19.7km non-stop from the mainland as a rock-star moment.
After swimming for just over 6.5 hours, the 51-year-old Camp Mountain local stood on the sand and was greeted by wild applause from his team, including coach Codie Grimsey, wife Kerry and his two children Jake and Lily.
Having grown up a competitive 50 metre breast stroker, the Rottnest Channel Swim was Buijs’ first solo marathon swim. While conditions leading up to the February 22nd event had been calm, they soon deteriorated once the swim was underway.
‘The night before and morning of were perfect conditions,’ Buijs reported, then added ‘the wind was in the back and the current was in favour, but after we started, the wind changed and the sea became choppy. It ended up being in the slowest 25 percent of swims they’ve ever had. In hindsight, under these circumstances, I did a good time.’
After battling through the conditions for hours, he could finally see the island in the distance. This was to be a blessing in disguise. However, seeing the island meant you were still a few hours away from finishing. ‘It’s tough mentally,’ he admitted. ‘The last 500m felt like 5km. Everything was sore. But the sun came out at the end and gave me a mental boost to finish.’
Buijs and coach Grimsey had started training for the marathon open water event six months prior. He trained in four-week blocks and swam up to 30km a week. Training consisted of pool squad sessions and open water swims on weekends. Buijs said that swimming with like minded, experienced people helped him stay motivated.
‘It makes such a difference to train with swimmers who have done something like that before. It makes it feel like a normal thing to do,’ he joked.
The Rottnest swim was intended to serve as a stepping-stone for Buijs to do other world famous ultra-distance swims including the English Channel. However, his ultimate goal is swimming the Cook Strait, between the north and south islands of New Zealand.
By Claire Louise