Bonnie Hancock is a woman on a mission. She’s circumnavigating 16,000km around the Aussie mainland on a surf ski, and neither crocs, sharks, nor hypothermia will stop her.

When Bonnie Hancock and her team arrived in Darwin, they got in touch with me to organise a catch up and asked if I knew anyone with a boat that could be their support vessel for the next leg of their journey. We made plans to meet up on a sunny Darwin afternoon, but unfortunately my mate’s tinny wasn’t the kind of watercraft they had in mind.


We Spoke to Bonnie Hancock in The Midst of Her Paddle of Australia, Bonnie Hancock

The Paddle of Aus

Bonnie is about three-quarters of the way through her circumnavigation of the Australian mainland on an surf ski. Her journey began back of December 19th 2021, when she paddled out from the Gold Coast, heading south along Australia’s East Coast.

By the time I chatted to her at the end of May, she’d made it all the way around to Darwin and was hoping to get across the Gulf of Carpenteria, around the tip of Cape York and down to Cairns in a few weeks.


We Spoke to Bonnie Hancock in The Midst of Her Paddle of Australia, Bonnie Hancock


Bonnie told me her trip has three elements to it;

First up, she’s hoping to break two world records – to be the fastest and youngest person to paddle around Australia on a surf ski. And she’s well on schedule to get it done!

‘It’s taken us five months to get to Darwin, and the current record is ten months and 22 days, so we’re about 3 ½ months ahead of the record time. So we’re hoping to get back in the next two months, to do it in seven months or less,’ Bonnie said.

Secondly, the adventure of it all. About three years ago, Bonnie read a book about Freya Hoffmeister, the only other woman to complete the feat and the current fastest record holder. And she just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

‘I spent six months tossing it over. I kept coming back to it. I do not want to get to my 80s and think ‘What if’ and ‘Could I have done it?’ and I’m so glad I did,’ she told me.

And finally, she wanted to make sure her trip did some greater good – that’s why she’s raising funds for Gotcha4Life. A mental health foundation aiming to bring the number of suicides in Australia down to zero.

‘I love that their work starts from school age, I think it’s so important to get our kids talking about mental health and educated. And they do work right up to corporate workplaces,’ she said.

Bonnie and her team have raised over $30,000 so far for the foundation, but have hopes of hitting $100,000 by the time she lands back on the Gold Coast.

A Team Effort But a Solo Mental Challenge

Unlike other paddlers who’ve attempted the circumnavigation before her, thanks to her sponsor Shaw and Partners, Bonnie’s been able to employ a strong land and sea crew to support her along the way.

The team are always ready to feed, water, compress, and stretch her. They keep a look out for crocs and sharks and work out all the ever-changing logisitics, so all Bonnie has to do is put her head down and paddle.


We Spoke to Bonnie Hancock in The Midst of Her Paddle of Australia, Bonnie Hancock


‘It’s pretty monotonous, and I actually love it. I love the grind, I love putting my head down and thinking, ‘Ok you’ve got 110km today, get that done’,’ she said.

Despite always having four crew members on a boat close by, Bonnie said spending so many hours alone on the water can be very isolating. So she brings along some of her favourite artists for the ride.

‘A lot of people say to me, ‘Are you thinking about your technique, and your stroke in the water?’. Absolutely not.

‘I usually have some kind of rap music on, usually Drake or Eminiem are my favourties. I’ve got ten of Eminem’s songs on there and it helps normalise the situation,’ Bonnie told me.

Bonnie’s often paddling at night, especially around northern Australia where the dramatic tides and heat of the mid-day sun need to be drastically avoided. The only trouble is, the ocean is very quiet at night, so every single splash is heard loud and clear.


We Spoke to Bonnie Hancock in The Midst of Her Paddle of Australia, Bonnie Hancock


‘You need something that’s gonna take your mind away enough from what you’re doing,’ she said. ‘The music is absolutely essential and it helps stop me being too nervous and scared. The more uncertain you are, the more likely you are to fall out.’

And falling out is never a good option.

Water Water Everywhere

For the last few months, Bonnie’s been paddling around WA’s Kimberley region and across the Top End, in some pretty dicey territory.

‘The reality is, when I’m 100km out to sea, most of the time I’m in crocodile-infested waters. I’ve seen Bull Sharks dart across the front of my ski. Someone in my crew saw what they thought was a big Great White or Tiger Shark underneath my ski,’ she said.

But despite spending hours of the day on a very narrow and tippable watercraft, Bonnie told me that the marine life, although daunting and frightening, hasn’t been the scariest experience of the journey so far.



That title belongs to the Great Australian Bight.

‘We were around 300km out to sea, so you can’t see land. It was night, and about 10-11 degrees outside, and just over that in the water,’ Bonnie said.

She was about a week into the paddle across the Bight, with the roughest seas she’s faced so far. In fact, the swell was so rough, Bonnie hadn’t kept any food down for days so was extremely fatigued and sea sick. It was night, and she was finishing off her 100km for the day, when a big swell knocked her off the ski.

‘I could hear the crew calling, but I must’ve started getting towards hypothermia because I couldn’t speak. I was trying everything in my power to pull myself into the ski and eventually, after the fifth time, I was able to get in,’ Bonnie said.

‘But then I fell out again and the ski hit me in the head, twice.’

To top it off, the water Bonnie found herself in was about 3km deep. She didn’t make it back into the ski, but was able to do just enough to push it towards the boat, where the crew pulled her up and out of the water.

‘I just remember uncontrollably shaking and not being able to speak. And it took so long for me to get my core temp back up,’ she said.‘

Bonnie and her crew estimate she was submerged for around 10 minutes. The submersion time before hypothermia in the Bight is 12. She’d only just made it out in time.

‘I’ve grown up swimming, so I’m a pretty strong swimmer and to have that taken away was really different and it was the first time I thought, we’re in a life-threatening situation,’ Bonnie said.

Throughout the crossing of the Great Australian Bight, Bonnie and her crew didn’t touch land for around 13 days. She said it was one of the best days of the trip when she finally stepped foot back on solid ground, despite having to be taken to hospital and put on a drip to recover.


A Change of Sea-nery

Despite the dangers and enormous challenge of it all, the unique perspective Bonnie’s had for the last six months, seeing Australia from the water and coastline, has given her a newfound appreciation for the land.

From the towering cliffs of Jervis Bay, to island-hopping through South Australia, and even paddling up close to the 12 Apostles.

But the most memorable for Bonnie has been the Kimberley region in WA.

‘The Kimberely is what will always stand out to me. I had a day off and we went up the river there to York Sound, and I think it made me realise that what we have in our own backyard is really special,’ she said.


We Spoke to Bonnie Hancock in The Midst of Her Paddle of Australia, Bonnie Hancock


When I asked Bonnie what the most surprising thing of the trip has been so far, she said it was how much she’s enjoyed it.

‘In my mind, I had this professional athlete mentality of ‘How quick can I get around?’ and ‘What can I eat exactly right?’,’ she told me.

‘I think it was around SA, there was the most beautiful island, and I didn’t go. And I was really down that afternoon because I thought I was doing the right thing as an athlete and later I thought, stuff it, I’m gonna make the most of it and start going to these islands. I’m gonna look in at the coast more as I’m paddling.’

We Spoke to Bonnie Hancock in The Midst of Her Paddle of Australia, Bonnie Hancock


Bonnie said her initial goal of finishing the paddle in six months has been extended by an extra month or so. But the added enjoyment and sights she’s been able to see by slowing down a little has all been worth it.

Bonnie’s still got a few weeks left of her paddle, but soon enough will be back in Queensland waters, where she started, and on the final stretch back to the Gold Coast.

You can follow along with the rest of Bonnie’s journey through Instagram and support her paddle and fundraiser for Gotcha4Life through Raisly.


We Spoke to Bonnie Hancock in The Midst of Her Paddle of Australia, Bonnie Hancock


Photos thanks to @bonniehancock