33 year old Auckland fella, Jonathan Ridler, has just stepped back onto solid land after spending the last 33 hours swimming an unprecedented 99.1km non-stop across New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf.


Diving into the ocean at 10am (NZST) on Tuesday 2nd of May at Karaka Bay on Aotea Great Barrier Island, Jonathan started his Swim4TheGulf marathon swim. At the 81km mark, he broke New Zealand’s record for longest continuous solo-unassisted open water swim. But he didn’t stop there.

Jonathan powered through the record to finish up at Campbells Bay in Auckland at around 7:30pm local time Thursday 4th of May, after an unofficial distance of 99.1km in 33 hours and 15 minutes.

Due to an unexpected building swell, Jonathan’s original route to Auckland’s Narrow Neck Beach was slightly diverted to reduce his exposure to the rough seas. Towards the end of his swim, Jonathan and his team battled 25 knot winds and a big sea state, so made the call to head for land at Campbells Bay instead, taking his mammoth swimming effort to a whopping 99.1km total.

Breaking the Record

The previous New Zealand record for longest continuous solo-unassisted open water swim was an 80.8km double crossing of Lake Taupo, a large crater lake on the North Island.  

Despite being technically ‘unassisted’, in that he was never physically supported or towed by another person or boat, Jonathan was permitted a support crew to deliver him nutrition, keep the lights on through the night, and for moral support. 

Jonathan is one of only ten people to have completed New Zealand’s ‘Triple Crown’ of marathon swimming – the 23km crossing of Cook Strait, the 40.4km lap of Lake Taupo, and the 28.6km crossing of Foveaux Strait – with his Swim4TheGulf becoming the diamond in the crown. 

But, why?

Despite the challenge of it all, and the record he’s now broken, Jonathan wanted to use his swim and voice to call for action to restore the health of the Hauraki Gulf. 

In 2021, the New Zealand Government announced a plan to help rehabilitate the ocean health of the Hauraki Gulf which lies between the North Island and Great Barrier Island. However, almost two years on, no changes have yet been put in place. 

According to Alex Rogers, Chief Executive of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, areas of the Hauraki Gulf are suffering from ‘dead zones’ due to pollutant run off and fishing pressure, while other areas battle invasive seaweed and out-of-control sea urchins. 

‘Jono’s swim will not only highlight the issues but also give us hope that we have the capacity to do more and do better than we have in the past. We need much more marine protection and restoration to ensure a healthier Hauraki Gulf for the future,’ he said. 

Donations in support of Jonathan and the Hauraki Gulf can still be made, with 100% of donations going directly to marine conservation projects.