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Long Distance Swim Around Koh Tao (23km) on 23rd Dec’12

Gene Giraudeau (a very good friend of mine) has always said she wanted to swim around Koh Tao, but what people say and what people do are often very different. To many I’m sure the idea sounded crazy and if you know Gene you might think that was kind of apt. Yet true to her word with 6 months training behind her she arrived to Koh Tao keen to get it done!

Gene keen to get going !

Quietly slipping in the day before the planned attempt, the weather was checked and discussed at length, last minute preparation was completed and a final planning session with Wilco, Simon and I ensured everyone knew what we were to do.  The next day would see us all getting up at 5am, we are still not sure if it was this fact that caused Simon to throw himself off his bike or not. Battered and bruised, Simon soldiered on – it would later become apparent that he did this with cracked ribs and a bruised sternum – but he’s tough !

Early Morning on Sairee Beach

It’s still dark at 5am but it was important for Gene to be up early to eat before starting out and Wilco and I had to organize all the supplies that we needed for the day.  Gene and Simon were to leave with the support longtail from Maya Beach Club on Sairee Beach. Wilco and I were to load up the Master Divers longtail with all the supplies, which we had stashed at the shop, so we could transfer it to the longtail coming with us.

Sunrise over Sairee

Wilco was captaining the kayak and swept out in the direction of Three Rocks were we would all rendezvous.  All this happened smoothly and bang on 6.30am Gene left Sairee Beach. I caught up with her streaming across the flat waters of Sairee into Mae Haad, transferred the gear and we were off.

Me, the supplies and the feeding Schedule and note book !

I had laughingly be crowned team leader and was in charge of the detailed feeding, energy and hydration schedule as well as interval stroke counting to assist with Gene’s pace. Everything was going ‘swimmingly’ with calm waters and she had reached Sai Daeng by 8.30am. By 9.30am approaching Tanote Bay the waves were making life difficult. Chop had been expected and both Simon and Wilco were becoming a little green. Unfortunately so was Gene and the feeding and hydration schedule was not helping. One of the solutions and fruit juice was having a considerably adverse effect and by this time we were feeding and hydrating based on what Gene wanted.

The first “feed”

Approaching Laem Thian was officially the start of the ‘dark time’ of the attempt, sea sickness, salty mouth, swollen tongue and choppy water were all having a detrimental effect on moral.  To keep Gene company I jumped in to swim and share the pain.

Can you see Gene in the choppy water? (look for the pink hat)

It wasn’t until 13.30 when we rounded the headland into Mango Bay and returned to calm waters that the team emerged from the shadows.  At this point we were all mentally celebrating, we knew the worst was over, flat calm water and the home straight lifted spirits and Gene’s stroke count by 10!  We were confident that we had done it – but look on a map – there still quite a way to go to Maya Beach Club on Sairee!

That’s better !

Bizarrely enough just before the calm water – was the point that we had our first and only man-over-board incident!  Have you tried getting back on a longtail while still in choppy water with broken ribs – Simon has !

Calm water had us all smiling again!

Emerging into the channel in between Sairee and Koh Nangyuan, we got telephone service back and our phones went crazy with missed calls and texts ! So many people were waiting at the finish line! The swim into Sairee wasn’t easy though, the jubilation was mixed with tired arms and the feeling that the beach didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Add to the fact that the wind was now causing issues with the kayak.  This was the only time that there was a kayak / swimmer incident!

Gene by Wilco in the kayak keeping direction.

23kms and 9 hours and 16 minutes after leaving Gene stepped out onto Sairee Beach, hardly able to lift her arms, with some interesting tan lines and an awesome sense of achievement.

The finish line

Gene chose the Koh Tao Animal Clinic as the charity she would like you to give to as sponsorship for this swim.  If you would like to donate she’s on Koh Tao until the 1st or you can pop into Master Divers or the Animal Clinic leave your donation! If you are not on Koh Tao then please click this link to leave you donation !


Below is a short movie of the final few meters but scroll down too and find out more about  Gene and what’s next!!!





About Gene

Gene lived on Koh Tao for a number of years, is a certified Dive Master an underwater videographer and flying trapezeist too!  At the moment she teaches in Korea but she has always had swimming in her blood and swam at a national level when she was younger.

Please do not try this at home !

It’s important that you realize that this was not taken on lightly. Not only did Gene swim 3km every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on a Thursday she swam 5km and on a Saturday 10km. She thoroughly researched energy supplements, feeding and hydration arriving with a detailed plan of what was required when.

Whats next ?

We all learnt a lot about everything involved in this type of mission and ridiculously are all super keen to do it all again. We all know what we are getting into this time and we all know what we would do differently. At the moment swimming from Koh Phangnan to Koh Tao or swimming from the mainland to Koh Tao are being discussed.  So watch this space.

Please tweet and share this awesome achievement and inspire others to go for their goals in 2013!

2 Comments on Long Distance Swim Around Koh Tao (23km) on 23rd Dec’12

  1. commented by Steve de Burgh on 29 December 2012

    Great effort- David Walliams ‘eat your heart out’!

    Hope Simon has recovered from his Mal-de-mere too.

    Will this become an annual challenge I wonder?

    + Thought Clarky was too ill to help… but wasn’t he drinking in the final picture!!!!!

    1. commented by Ayesha Cantrell on 29 December 2012

      Hahah – no next year the swim will be either from the mainland to koh tao or from Koh Phangnan to Koh Tao. Simon is still bruised but OK and Ill let Clarkee answer for himself !!!

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