Updated: Nov 6
✦ Anybody that undertakes a charitable endeavour always deserves great credit and that is exactly what New Zealander Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson is planning early next year with his ‘Million Baht Swim’.
Axe, who now resides in the tropical paradise of Phuket, Thailand, will be swimming approximately 130 kilometres around the coast of Phuket over a 10-day period between January 2-11 to raise funds for the Good Shepherd School in Phuket Town, with the ultimate target of B1 million (approximately AUD 43,500).
Sounds pretty arduous, doesn’t it? However, there is a further catch. Axe has revealed that he is not limited by time but by the magic figure of the B1 million, essentially meaning that he will not stop the swim until that figure is reached, even if the full 130km loop of the island has been achieved. That could mean the swim is shorter in duration than the 10-day timeframe or, equally, that it could stretch longer. Axe and his team are hoping donations from kind-natured people will mean it is the former.
Hailing from New Zealand, 49-year-old Grant has been based in Phuket for the past nine months, making his pledge to help the local community even more commendable. He will start his swim at the SALA Phuket Mai Khao Beach Resort in the northwest of the island on the morning of Tuesday, Jan 2, 2024. The plan is to cover between 10-20km per day, dependent on tidal conditions and his personal physical condition. There will be one or two support kayakers in the water with Axe at all times to help manage safety and support and he will not come ashore once his daily swim has been completed but will rest in a support vessel between shifts.
“The purpose of the swim is to have a challenging human-powered adventure,” Axe told us. “This is something that I very much regard as my own life purpose and if it can help raise much needed funds to support the brilliant work the team at The Good Shepherd in Phuket do, then fantastic,” he added.
This is not the first time Axe has taken on a seriously ambitious project, having previously made over 50 human-powered expeditions through the world's more remote environments, including summiting Mount Everest, riding across Australia on a bicycle, walking across Scotland, and rowing from Singapore to Australia. In February this year he took to a peddle-powered, ocean-going boat and peddled 2,200km in 23 days and nights from Phuket to Sri Lanka.
“It was a sustainability-driven initiative to try and measure the health of the Bay of Bengal for a scientific model,” Axe explained. “We were trying to prove that very high quality and detailed water sampling could be carried out from a tiny human-powered boat at sea a long way offshore. We ultimately managed to prove we could collect samples but not enough to complete a full set of data as adverse weather kept pushing us off course making the sampling area impossible to reach.”
It was this project that inspired Axe to take on the Million Baht Swim. “I wanted something close to home that could mean giving back to the local community but that still posed an enormous challenge,” he said. “I have no specific swimming background but, as with all my human-powered journeys, I love the challenge and have committed myself to eight months of training to be fully prepared,” Axe added.
Other than the actual daily distance, there will be a myriad of additional challenges. “The west Coast of Phuket is open to the Andaman Sea and the water can get rough depending on wind conditions,” Axe explained. “The east coast of Phuket is more sheltered but has strong tidal currents which change direction regularly. It also has many mangroves and the water visibility is very poor. There are also significant numbers of jellyfish in Phuket waters. Many of them are harmless but some have nasty stings! The water temperature is around 30°C and the temperature under midday sun can be in excess of 35°C. There is a lot of boat traffic around Phuket so avoiding any collision is critical.” Ahead of the project, however, one of the biggest challenges is sourcing a support boat for the duration of the challenge, something Axe is hoping can be resolved shortly.
Axe is not alone, of course, in taking on this ambitious endeavour, with a full support team behind him, including his wife Stephanie and two daughters Rachel and Kate. Others include Michelle Kang, Sukhjit Kang, Luke Richmond, Steve Johnson, Baffelly Woo, Andrea Edwards, Heidi Oxley Whitnell and Jason Whitnell. “I certainly could not even attempt this challenge without the time and support of so many, which I am so grateful for,” Axe said.
Further to raising funds for the Good Shepherd School, the project will also focus on teaching a number of students how to swim. “Learning to swim is an essential life skill that many of them never have the opportunity to learn,” he added.
The Good Shepherd Phuket Town School has been a beacon of hope for a growing number of
students in providing access to quality education since 2013. In 2023 they have a record enrolment of 400 students but not enough classrooms to accommodate everyone. By extending the existing classrooms the school can accommodate a growing number of students and create a conducive, safe learning environment. The expansion is projected to cost B1.245 million and forecast to take three months to complete.
There are plenty of ways to get involved and support the project.
Become an expedition partner and support the journey.
Swim a portion of the journey.
Be part of the event organising team.
Bring your family to the pre- and post-event celebrations to meet inspiring and like minded people.
Times have been tough in recent years for many of us and, indeed, continue to remain tough for many of us. However, if everyone of us could dig deep into our pockets to find even the smallest of donations it would go a long way to helping Axe and his team ensure this extremely worthwhile project comes to fruition.
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