1000km journey for mermaid with a mission

Juliana Bahr-Thompson will paddle by hand for 43 days straight. Photo / mermaidwithamessage.com.au
Juliana Bahr-Thompson will paddle by hand for 43 days straight. Photo / mermaidwithamessage.com.au

NSW lifeguard Juliana Bahr-Thompson always expected to move back to Noosa one day.

What she didn't expect was to make the 1000km journey from NSW to Queensland by paddling with her arms.

On June 26, she will set out of Newcastle and paddle for 43 days straight, travelling 1000km to Noosa while battling shark infested waters and blue bottle stings.

She hopes to set a paddling world record and at the same time, rase awareness for domestic violence and environmental conservation.

"I've lived in Noosa, I love Noosa and I kind of thought, I could maybe paddle back there, and maybe that's how I can move back," Bahr-Thomson told AAP.

"So initially it was all in fun and jest, but I went, no I actually want to do this, and I want to do it seriously."So I've spent almost two years planning it and prepping for it."

The 28-year-old has been waking up at 4am almost every day, and spends hours swimming, paddling and pushing herself at the gym.

Not even two torn achilles tendons and recent foot surgery stopped her training regime.

"I've been out at sea paddling in a giant boot, with the busted leg," she said.

"I've paddled past men in fishing boats and they've just lost it (laughing)."

Bahr-Thomson found the urge to up the stakes when she completed a 180km solo paddle ride from Newcastle to Bondi Beach over three and a half days in 2015.

A small headwind almost derailed her ride on the first day.

"At one point I was paddling on the same spot for two hours, looking at the same sand dune," she said.

"That was demoralising.

"With no water safety, no people with her, stopping wasn't an option.

"You've already started, you've just got to get there," she said.

As an iron woman and Australian triathlete, sport has been both a passion and a coping mechanism for Bahr-Thomson.

As a child, she tried every sport she could get her hands on, from gymnastics, springboard diving, soccer and lifesaving.

Barh-Thompson is only now starting to discover her drive to succeed was also a way to cope with the domestic abuse she was suffering at home.

"I fell into sport, using it as a coping mechanism," she said.

"I still rely on sport heavily to keep me sane."

Her paddle is a way to represent her struggle and to help others who have suffered in the same way find help.

Coming forward with her story hasn't been easy.Since going public, Bahr-Thomson has suffered from anxiety and guilt, and received backlash for her honesty.

"I've been scrutinised and I've had some incredibly nasty text messages, which you can also class as domestic violence," she said.

"It kind of frustrates me, but if you look at the bigger picture, I'm doing something about it. Not everyone has that courage."

She hopes to raise A$50,000 for domestic violence charity White Ribbon, and also for the ocean conservation not-for-profit Surfrider foundation.

To support her journey and to donate, visit www.mermaidwithamessage.com.au

- AAP

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