As a member of National Protection Services and a world class athlete, Constable Rachel Clarke is no stranger to a challenge. For her latest, she’s embarking on an adventure she’d previously only dreamed of, with two people she might ordinarily be called on to protect.
The champion ocean paddler is teaming up with Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard and MP Greg O’Connor to tackle the Coast to Coast multi-sport endurance race.
Over the course of two days, the trio will cycle (Trevor), run (Greg) and paddle (Rachel) their way from Kumara Beach on the West Coast to New Brighton Beach in Christchurch.
For Rachel, that means paddling 70km along the Waimakariri River, including its many rapids.
But Rachel can paddle. Her countless sporting accolades include being a two-time winner of the Molokai Surfski World Championships; nine-time winner of Auckland’s Queen of the Harbour surfski title; bronze medallist in the 2019 World Surf Ski series; a member of the Surf Lifesaving High Performance Squad; and, most recently in December, winner of the Open Women’s division in the gruelling Mount Monster surf lifesaving endurance race.
There’s just one key difference. They’re all ocean-based events.
“I love the ocean, but this is a river and I’m not a river paddler,” says Rachel. “I’ve done a couple of days in South Africa on the rivers and I know how a river moves, but obviously the more time you get on there the better you’re going to go.”
Based in Auckland, it’s unlikely that Rachel will get more than one practice on the river before race day, but she’s still putting in the hours on the water and says her role with National Protection Services works well with her competitive training.
“Work has always been very supportive of giving me the time off to go and compete in sporting events so there’s never a problem with that.
“For me, the race is personally a goal but they’re always very supportive, especially my team in Protection Services. We all get on really well and it’s a really good environment.”