Julie Boxsell - Coolangatta to Broadbeach

Coolangatta Beach to Broadbeach

18.9 km (11.7 miles)

10 hours, 42 minutes on 21 August 2021

Observed and documented by Selina McSharrot



  • Name: Julie Boxsell
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 50
  • Nationality: Australia
  • Resides: Townsville, Queensland

Support Personnel

  • Scott James - skipper
  • Katy Counsell - relief skipper, feeder, lookout, first responder


Selina McSharrot

Selina is an endurance athlete, having completed Triathlons, Ocean swims, Ironmans, and has also swum the 8km Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim twice.

Escort Vessel

Name Type Port
Reg. BAA07Q Karmic 2250 hard-top Runaway Bay

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (AGON knee length), Goggles (Fiski Hunters), single silicon cap.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Tasman Sea, South Pacific Ocean
  • Route Type: one-way coastal swim
  • Start Location: SLSC Coolangatta (-28.165333, 153.537472)
  • Finish Location: SLSC Broadbeach (-28.021583, 153.434611)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 18.9 km (11.7 miles) (map)


This route has been swum before by numerous people. I am told that Anna Strachan, Lynton Mortenson and Christie Leet have all swum similar. There are probably many others, as it’s a well populated area with a wealth of open water swimmers, who I’m sure have swum it for fun, and for training for longer swims.

The Gold Coast Marathon Swim, was to be swum along this route on August 21st, but was cancelled due to covid. It had already been postponed in 2020 for covid, and in May 2021 due to unsafe conditions. 3 friends - Elizabeth Denyer, and Dan and Helen Hobday swam it on Friday the 20th of August. There were quite a number of local swimmers who swam the opposite direction on the same day as I did - from Surfers SLSC to Coolangatta.

Swim Data

  • Start: 21 August 2021, 06:28:53 (Australian Eastern Standard Time (Australia/Brisbane), UTC10).
  • Finish: 21 August 2021, 17:11:22
  • Elapsed: 10 hours, 42 minutes, 29 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (C) 19.8 20.3
Air Temp (C) 15.1 24.5
Wind (knots) 5 61

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Observer Log

Download PDF

Feed Log


by Julie Boxsell

What inspired you to do this swim?

Initially, I had signed up for the inaugural Gold Coast Marathon Swim event starting and finishing in the same general area. However, due to the 3rd postponement and cancellation in 18 months (this time due to border lockdowns), and the option to do it "virtually", we thought we'd go down and swim it anyway. I love a swim with a view, and the idea of swimming along the Gold Coast, watching all those landmarks and buildings go by, sounded sensational. Plus, it's whale season - and I was hoping to hear some whales communicating as we went. Add to that the promise of clear water to swim in (rather than the usually murky stuff at home) and it all sounded like a fabulous idea.

Describe how you planned for the swim.

The skipper who had volunteered to accompany me for the event generously said yes when asked if he'd do it out of event. I asked on a local swim facebook page for an observer, and found one without any problem - even better, she was a swimmer I had met before at swims in Townsville. Decided not to worry about a paddler - the paddler I had found for the swim event lives in NSW, and with covid closing the border to her, that option was gone. We decided that we could safely do it with 3 people on the boat, and were happy to keep it as simple as possible, with as few people as possible, given the covid situation.

Skipper Scott volunteers with Marine Rescue, and knows the waters. He roped in a second skipper, who is also a first responder and volunteer with Marine Rescue, which is reassuring from a safety perspective. She is to act as relief skipper, spotter, feeder and first aider. We have tourniquets, space blankets and radio for emergencies.

In the week leading to the swim, weather forecasts started predicting unseasonal northerly winds. We did try to arrange to swim the day before as the forecast was better, but it wasn't easy logistically to do so. There were a number of locals also planning to swim on the same day as I was, and they were not put off by the forecast. My travelling companions - Liz Denyer, Helen and Dan Hobday swam the route on the Friday, and while they had tough days, they'd managed. I knew the forecast was a little worse for the Saturday, but it didn't seem dreadfully so, though the northerlies were predicted to start somewhat earlier.

Then, by 8pm on the night before, I had word that other pods of swimmers had decided to swim in the reverse direction - however, reassuringly, others had wanted to stick to the original plan but were outvoted - and I'd been told that based on the forecast, it would probably only add an hour to my day. So - we stuck with the original plan as I didn't mind having to swim an extra hour or so. Figured it was good training for the next swim I'd planned around Yunbenun (Magnetic Island) in 3 and a half weeks time.

How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges?

The day started amazingly. We saw 2 whales and 2 dolphins from the boat as we headed to Coolangatta. Magic.

Diving in from the boat, and swimming into the beach to start, I felt fantastic. Almost lost the goggles in the very mild surf though. I'm such a surf novice! Then I turned around, got back in the water, and started heading north.

Pretty much straight away, I could feel the forces working against me. At the first feed stop, I remember saying to the team "I think it's going to be a long day".

And that it was. As the wind got stronger, so did the current. And it was flowing from north to south, headlong into me. At times if felt like an endless pool underneath me, and a washing machine on top. The chop continually tried to knock my goggles off, and my recovery arm was either going through a wave, or I'd be in the air, with my head slamming onto the water as I went to take a stroke. I felt schools of whitebait hitting my skin, even getting into my togs and mouth at times - I was basically in a bait ball for good while. My skipper mentioned later that he'd seen birds diving for them, and hoped I wasn't in amongst them. Ha! No such luck.

While the scenery on shore was wonderful.…it's not so great when you are still looking at the same building, or the same hill for literally hours. It seemed like an eternity to get past Burleigh Heads - which was about halfway - and from counting the feeds, I knew it'd taken me around 5hrs and 30 minutes just to that point. 2 weeks prior, I'd swum around Keppel - and the whole 20km only took 5 hours 50. Physically, I felt pretty good, but wow...mentally, this was tough. And the wind and current just kept getting stronger. This was way tougher conditions than the forecast had suggested.

My team though, were incredible. It's not like we got a lot of time to chat - and to be honest, the conditions meant I couldn't even get safely close enough to the boat at feed time to hear much but an occasional shouted word of encouragement. For the most part, the chop and wind meant the boat had to be quite well away from me, and at times I couldn't even see it, because of the waves and where the sun was. I knew they would never have taken their eyes off of me, but there were moments where I still felt very alone. I have spent a lot of time swimming by myself in the last 18 months - and at times it's been very, very tough - but I think that mentally, it really helped me get through the day as I was being pummelled around and felt like I was going nowhere.

We plugged on. I had 9 hours of nutrition on board. I hadn't really contemplated ever needing any more than that. However, at the nine-hour feed, I was still slogging it out.

I thought, looking at the skyline, that I had about 1.5 km, maybe 2 km at the most, left to go. I could see the sun was descending, but I thought it was doable. You beauty.

Then at 9.5 hours, the crew let me know the news. I still had a good 4 km to go. That Q1 building was just taunting me. They'd done the math. Several times. At the pace I was managing against the wind and current, I was looking at close to another 2 and a half hours of swimming. Worse, I would be looking at at least a half-hour, probably more, in pitch black. They would have no way of keeping their eyes on me. We had not come prepared with lights or glowsticks etc. Even with a light attached, in the chop, it would be impossible to keep going safely. Plus, after a long day, I'd also have to get from the boat to shore by myself in the dark, through the surf (that I've never been confident in).…it just wasn't safe. I had plenty left in me to keep going...but safety is the most important thing. So, I accepted thier decision.

And here is where this team just moved me to tears. They could have stopped me there and then and been home and showered with their feet up by sunset. They'd had an incredibly long day already. But instead, they'd come up with Plan B. Let me keep going. In another hour or so, I'd get to Broadbeach SLSC. A great exit point that kept with the "SLSC to SLSC" swim I'd planned, and it was pretty much on the 20k mark - a nice round number - and still with enough light to swim in the last few hundred metres by myself. I'd be able to keep swimming until I really couldn't keep going safely, and it would give me the chance to feel like I'd accomplished "something". They'd contacted my friends and had it all set up that I'd be looked after on the beach because they figured I'd probably not want to swim back out to the boat after such a big day.

At 10 hours and 30 minutes, the sun was well behind the skyscrapers, and I had long lost the warmth on my back. I saw the boat ahead turn and wait for me, and knew that this was the end. These amazing humans then watched and waited for me to swim to shore. Even then, I felt like I had to swim diagonally - just to get in straight and finish at the right point. The current seriously just wanted to send me to NSW, I think. At 10 hours and 42 minutes, I was on the beach. Adventure over.

Liz, Dan and Helen were on shore to greet me, and it was just.…special. Thank you. They all knew I would be disappointed not making it to my planned end point, and I can't lie - I am. But, I'm not disappointed in my effort, I'm so grateful to be fit and healthy enough to do something I love so much, and so incredibly thankful that there are people out there that will volunteer their time to help me give these things a go. This was a HUGE adventure, and I can't be disappointed in that. I have no regrets. I gave it my all. I wouldn't change a thing. Except.…I'd liked to have heard a whale at least!


Click to enlarge.


Appendix: Weather & Tides