Nelson Surf Lifeguard Hopes to Become First Kiwi to Conquer Cook Strait on a Prone Paddleboard

Tuesday, 2 April 2024

With its strong tidal flows, cold water, brisk winds, and great white shark sightings, the Cook Strait is considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world.


A key link between the North and South Islands, it’s normally ferries and boats that cross its path.  However, this April, Nelson surf lifeguard Brittany Spencer will be crossing it on a prone paddleboard. And if she makes it, she’ll become the first New Zealander ever to do so.


“It’s going to be immense; it’s going to be insane!” She says with a laugh.


Last year she paddled 33 kilometres from Nelson’s Tāhunanui Beach to Kaiteriteri.


“It was a challenge and we had terrible conditions for it, but I did it.  What we’ve done now is taken that paddle and increased the danger factor by 10.”


She’ll be setting off from Arapaoa Island in the Marlborough Sounds and finishing in Wellington.  Point to point, the paddle will be 22 kilometres, but with strong tides, Brittany could cover up to 30 kilometres and be in the water for anywhere between four and 10 hours, with only her arms propelling herself.


“I think immense is the word that I keep coming back to in terms of this paddle!  But I’m really, really looking forward to the challenge, and I can’t wait to put my body and my mind to the test again.”


And it’s all in support of the Nelson Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC), as Brittany aims not only to etch her name in history but also to raise awareness and funds for the club through a Givealittle page.


“I love a challenge, but I also love doing something good with it, so I’m raising money for the Nelson SLSC to support them and everything they do for the community - whether it’s patrolling on the beach, event guarding, or our Search and Rescue Squad.”


With the tidal flows working in her favour from 14 – 20 April, Brittany has a small window to complete the crossing.


“If the weather and the conditions are right, I’m going to have to just jump in the water and go for it.  It’s going to be a lot more fluid than my previous challenge.”


But her lead-up is as regimented as it can be.


“The lead up is tough – I’m eating, sleeping, working, training, and repeating.”


All in preparation for the ultimate test in the treacherous waters of the Cook Strait.