Just Keep Swimming

By Erika Pedersen

I'm fundraising for mental health and wellbeing

Sometime in the summer of 2021/2022 I will be taking on and attempting the biggest challenge I have ever done or thought of.. Swim the Cook Strait, from Ohau Point, Wellington to Perano Head, Marlborough.

My name is Erika Pedersen-Whale, I am 22yrs of age. I was a competitive swimmer, but only in the pool. That ended several years ago due to a shoulder injury. Who knew a few years later I'd be getting back into it again, but not to race this time. This time, I will be training every single day to accomplish something so mentally and physically challenging.
The biggest challenge for me in this event is to get over my mental fear of the Ocean and conquer one of the greatest swims in the world. But this isn't just for me, this is so Kiwis can enjoy positive mental health and wellbeing and feel supported during difficult times.

Myself, like many of our communities who have been through and are currently going through Mental Health, we as individuals feel a sense of hopelessness and that our greatest goals and desires are just from arms reach.
I'm swimming the Srait to show that there is hope and there are other people who are suffering. But together we can break the silence and show that we all have strength within us.
The swim itself is 26km (the equivalent to swimming 1040 lengths in a 25m pool) depending on weather conditions and tides. I will be accompanied by my support crew and skilled team, lead by the great Philip Rush.
The swim will be tracked for anyone wanting to follow me on this journey.
Link will be posted on the day.
More updates soon, on the exact day of the swim. (As we have to go with tide times etc).


Your donation will help the Mental Health Foundation of NZ provide individuals, workplaces, schools and communities with the tools they need to build positive mental health and wellbeing. I want to raise $1,000000.00 over the next 2 years while I train for the biggest swim of my life, so please donate to me today! Every little bit counts!

My Achievements

Added profile pic

Shared page

First five donations

Half way to goal

Added blog post

Reached goal

My Updates

Day 126/626

Friday 7th Feb

I've been a bit slack on these posts, maybe I'll just write them when I feel like I need to.

2 weeks on from my first even Open Water Ocean swim, and I have gone and entered myself in the Huka Xstream River Race in Taupo last minute.
I wasn't going to do it, but when I got offered a ticket for cheap, I thought I couldn't pass up the opportunity. If I had said no, I would have regretted it.

I'm not really sure what to expect during or to expect anything coming out of the race, so instead I'm just going to have fun. Im guessing its a fun race? Whos knows, lol.

Im pretty excited, as I have never done a river race like this! Especially down the Huka Falls River (and no its not going over and down the falls lol) but it is fast moving, as we're racing down with the current.
It'll be a little bit of an adrenaline race I think.

Well, bring on tomorrow! :)

Day 112/626

Monday 27th Jan

I honestly don't know where to even begin!
This weekend just been and gone, I completed my first EVER open water ocean swim event. I entered in the 2km event at the Napier Port Harbour To Hills Open water Ocean Event and i absolutely smashed it!!

I went into the water with confidence and I faced my fear with courage and absolutely conquered it! I went in not worrying about where I was going to be place, because to me, just doing the swim was enough for me to say that I had won in myself.

With little to no training, and 1 open water train. I went in with a game plan to pace myself at a constant speed but to enjoy every single minute of it. Dont get me wrong, it was bloody hard. But it was also so worth it!

I swam into shore convinced I came last but ecstatic that I actually completed my first ever open water ocean swim. I ran up past the finish line, collected my medal and hugged everyone that came to support me. Honestly, I couldn't have done it without my support crew. They are absolutely amazing and so supportive!

It wasn't until about an hour later I decided to check the results to see what time I came in on.. 40mins and 8seconds! Yes!!
I also noticed that.. I had come 3rd!!!! Holy moley!
I will never forget that.

I still cant believe that, my first open water swim, not only did I smash it out and conquer my fear but I also came 3rd place!! What!!

I now have a new found love for the ocean that I never thought would come this quick. All I want to do now is, get into my wetsuit and just swim for hours in the ocean. I can feel the urge to get back into the ocean running through my veins now.

All of these little but massive steps are my milestones to get me to swim the Cook Strait, and I honestly can't wait!!

Here's to many more open water events, sweat, tears, fun times and most importantly hard work.

Day 105/626

Wednesday 22nd Jan

Well, this week is an exciting week! Or, weekend i should say.
This week I have been trying to get into the ocean to train with other people but unfortunately the ocean has been quite crap. Big swells, hardcore rain, and the water has been quite dirty. (Not my idea of a good time LOL).
BUT today is a better day! The sun is shining and it is HOT. I just hope the ocean is good! Because, this weekend I am competing in my first EVER Open water Ocean swim!!
I have entered myself in the Napier Port Harbour to Hills 2020 Ocean Swim 2km Event that takes place at Ahuriri, Napier on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26th January!

I haven't done any ocean training at ALL. But thats okay, I seem to like just throwing myself in the deep end (no pun intended ;), it makes me not worry about anything other than the race. (although i have done lake swimming and pool sessions).
Its not the first time I've thrown myself at an event without any relevant training. A few years ago my mum and I decided to do the Kincloch Half Marathon together, literally the day before i backed out of it because I hadn't done any training. The day of the race, I thought 'stuff it, I'll do it. Whats the worst that can happen?'
And I did it, I completed the half marathon with Mum. Dont get me wrong it was hard, and I mentally pushed myself but I still did it!

So this time, yes I've done training, in the pool and lake! But absolutely no ocean training. And weirdly, I am so looking forward to it!
I have some of my friends and family coming down to watch and support me!
I cant even explain how excited I am!

Fingers crossed the weather holds up and I can get in the ocean for some sort of training session before the weekend!

Good luck to everyone competing and I'll see ya out there!
Go to my instagram page @erikasswim_justkeepswimming for more updates, one of my good friends will be hooked into my account for Live Streaming, photos and videos! So keep your eyes peeled :)

Day 98/626

Wednesday 15th Jan

I hope everyone had a nice relaxing time over over the Christmas/New Year period!
I certainately did! My Fiance & I tried to fit in as many adventures as possible. We went to the beach to relax, we went bush for a few days for Christmas so we didnt have to deal with Christmas stress LOL. We went camping, and went and spent some time in Kinloch with one of my best mates and her family.

My partner, his Mum and my Mum managed to get me an open water wetsuit. So I finally got to try it out in Lake Taupo, and safe to say I didnt want to get out and take my wetsuit off at all. I could have swam ALL day and still not have wanted to get out of the water.

I think with swimming in the lake has and will definitely help me to get that confidence I need in the ocean. Obviously there is nothing other than fish in the lake, but I've found that thats the least of my worries (fish, sharks etc in the ocean), Its the fact that I cant see the bottom. I am so used to swimming in a pool and following a black line on the bottom of the pool that when i get into the Lake or ocean, I freak out because I cant see the bottom.

So I've found that swimming in the lake will help me get over that fear, so eventually I will be comfortable enough to swim in the ocean with no worries :)

I'm looking into doing a few open water (Lake swims) in a couple of weeks/months in Napier, Rotorua or Hamilton.
I'll have to see how things work out, but that is a goal of mine to at least do one event  or as many as I can and count that as training.



Day 70/626

Wednesday 18th Dec

A fresh week this week! I feel 100% better than i did a few weeks ago, I gave myself time to rest, recover and reflect on my trainings and well-being.
So this week I'm back into the swing of things! And I'm so excited.

I've gotten back into the gym with one of my best mates, and I'll be getting back into the pool too! Also with being a qualified Swim Coach, I've agreed to start teaching a few kids to swim once a week, which will be awesome because not only am I helping them, I'm also expanding my own knowledge. (It's been a hot minute since I've coached kids to swim, so im really looking forward to it).

Since it's Christmas, I'm going to go a bit easy on myself and just enjoy the silly season with my fiance, family and friends. The New Year will be the start of trainings that exceed past my usual 2km swim and to get into the open water a bit more.
I have also signed up to a Open Water confidence course that is held over 5 weeks in January/February, this course will help me to apply my skills from the pool to the ocean, which I think is very essential to me as you all know I am absolutely scared of the ocean, but also because swimming in the ocean is so completely different to swimming in the pool. You've got to worry about currents, temperature, the waves, and the wildlife. Not only all of this, but even the technical side of things like; body position, buoyancy, stroke, stroke rate, kick pace and so forth.

But I am looking so forward to all of this! Woop!

Day 63/626

Thursday 5th Dec

I did something different with my training over the weekend. My fiance, Jeremy took me out for a dive, to teach my how to dive properly (freediving that is). HAHA I was so scared! It literally took me 15 minutes to get into the water and follow Jeremy around. Once I was in the water, I freaked out and started hyperventilating. I calmed myself down and just cruised along the surface, sticking very close to Jeremy. I didnt really dive down as much as I wanted to as I didnt have a weight belt and I'll be honest, I was scared like hell! LOL It was fun though, and it has given me more reason to get back out there and get over my fear. The ocean is a scary world, but also a very beautiful one that I would love to come to appreciate.

So the last few weeks were hard, to say the least.
I've struggled with my own mental health and didnt know how to talk about it or deal with it. I felt like I had a massive weight on my shoulders and chest just weighing me down. I had no idea how or why I was feeling like this, but I guess this is what Mental Health is right?
I ended up purchasing some 'Natural' St Johns Wort pill, and they have helped alot!

I ended up talking to my close friends and family and also reaching out to friends who I didnt talk to everyday. I found it helped talking to someone I dont usually talk to everyday even if i didn't know how to talk about it. I just let whatever was on my mind flow out, even if it didn't make much sense to anyone else. It made sense to me, and thats all that mattered. Sometimes you may not actually need or want advice, sometimes its just about having someone there to just listen to you and then to give you a big hug afterwards.

I realised that I had too much of a high expectation on myself, I set my expectation as high as I did when I was racing at Nationals 6 years ago. I had been given some advice from a friend who told me that theres no need for high expectations, its the fact I'm doing something I love (swimming) but applying it to raisng money that has now become a charity that is so dear to me.

Im talking about this, because it is OK to not be OK. But its also OK to talk about it, and thats what I encourage everyone to do.
Turn to your family members, your friends, your neighbours, anybody and just listen to eachother. Talk about anything and everything. Speak whats on your mind and I guarantee you, you'll feel alot better than you did 5 minutes ago.

Even if you would like to talk to me or just have me there to listen, I am always here. Feel free to flick me an email, a message on my facebook or even a message on my instagram page. I'll be there for you :)

Its OK to not be OK
But it's also OK to talk about it.

Day 56/626

Tuesday 26th Nov

Its been a while since I have written about this journey, although theres was no point in me updating everyone when I wasn't doing anything.
I ended up pushing myself too hard and resulted in a chest infection.

But we're back into it this week! And I'm so excited to start making waves and progress.
I've decided to cut down a little bit on training and focus on swim training at least twice a week, and gym twice a week as I need to start taking care of my health. Nothing is going to improve if I dont take care of myself.

If anyone would like to follow my journey on my Instagram, go and follow @erikasswim, and if you have any tips on how to overcome and improve fear, increased motivation, stress and anything that can really just help me whether its mental or physical, then dont be shy to flick me a message. It would be very much appreciated.

Day 35/626

Thursday 7th Nov

Another week down, and to say the least I've struggled.
I've struggled with my own motivation.
I've struggled with the mental side of it all and also the physical side.
I've struggled getting out of bed in the mornings.
I've struggled with a few things.

But I also understand.
I understand mental health.
I undertsand we all handle things differently, I also understand there is no scale of mental health.
Mental health is Mental health.

I knew this challenge would be mentally and physically challenging, but no one could tell me or prepare me for how mentally and physically challenging it ACTUALLY is.
I can go on and on about it, I really could. But even me going on about how hard and challenging it is, no one really knows until they go through it themselves.

So yes. I understand.
And this is exactly why I'm doing what I'm doing.
To show that it IS OK to talk about it, it is OK to feel how you feel. But I'm also doing this to show that anyone can overcome this. You just have to believe in yourself.


Day 28/626

Thursday 31st Oct

Another week down, Its been a hard week, mentally. Especially having it just been long weekend. Who wants to do ANYTHING on their long weekend? I would have loved to just relax and not do anything lol. But i did get in the pool, after much debate with myself.
And it was great! I smashed out 2.4km in 50mins, which is a massive improvement from before when i was swimming 2km in an hour. Super impressed with myself for that. It may seem like a little achievement to some, but to me every little improvment is massive. I did get out of the pool after 50 minutes, I would have loved to go a bit longer but my shoulder was telling me to stop. And if I'm going to successfully do this swim, I need to be listening to my body.
My next session I'll be trying for 3km in an hour.

In my next session, I have a few things to work on, as i have been liasing with a couple of coaches (one of my old coaches from Rotorua, and a Napier swim coach). They have both given me a few pointers, especially with my entry/exit on my strokes to get me just that little bit further. So I'll be applying them to my sessions.

Aside from the swim/excerise itself, this journey already has been a self discovery especially pushing through mental barriers. I knew this whole journey would be hard mentally and physically (more mentally) but I never knew actually how hard it would be on the scale of things this early into the piece.

I mean, I can do it. I know I can.
Its just bloody hard lol

Luckily swimming is my happy place :)

Day 21/626

Thursday 24th Oct

Another week pretty much done (yes sorry i post these blogs half way through my week lol).
This week was tough though, both physically and mentally. My body has been hating on me for diving in too hard, too fast and too soon. So I have taken a slow approach to this while my body adjusts.

It has ALOT to adjust to, not only have i just started swimming again, but i've also stopped smoking after 5 years, I've started eating healthy, and im also going to the gym. So alot of changes is happening within my physical and mental state. Naturally, these next few weeks are going to be challenging anyway.

But with the right mindset and support, im sure i'll be sweet as :)

Day 14/626

Thursday 17th Oct

I thought I would just do an update once a week until my swim, as im pretty rubbish at writing/blogging.

I'm well and truly into my 2nd week, and im feeling good! Tired, but good. Half way through Week 1, I was having troubles with my shoulder with the exit of the strokes, very painful. (Ive been suffering from a shoulder injury for 6 years, but im pushing through to build up my muscles and strength). Some pain killers, massages and some rest did me good.
I had also been in contact with one of my old Swim coaches, he's given me a few pointers in my rotation, entry and exit (strokes). It's suppose to stop me from using my shoulder as much when rotating for that entry/exit stroke. So instead of using my shoulders in the overarm movement, i need to be using my full body rotation to pretty much throw my arms over. This is where alot of abdomonal and kick work will come in. So we will see how that goes.

At this stage I am dedicating my mornings to swim training (in the pool at the moment until my fitness increases and the weather gets better lol), afternoons are usually gym sessions or running.

Ive listened to a few podcasts to keep myself movitated, another good one to listen to was The Effortless Swimming with Kim Chambers. Shes an incredible woman who went from being told she would never be able to walk again to learning how to swim and swimming the greatest, most dangerous swim in the world - From Faralon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge. She also has a netflix documenary about that exact swim, I reccommend anybody and everybody to watch that if they're ever feeling unmotivated, or feeling like they can't do anything.
Cause i bet you, whatever it is you keep saying to yourself you cannot do, i guarantee you you wont be able to.
The moment you start telling yourself 'you can do this' or you can accomplish that, then believe me - you CAN do it.

Anyway, that's all for now. Im off to the gym :)

Day 1/626

Monday 7th Oct

Well, what a mission to get out of bed on the first day of training.
Cold & tired (from a full weekends bush trip), I climbed out of my warm bed, chucked on my togs, grabbed my bags and lunch and i was out the door.

On my way to work I remembered, a friend of mine told me to listen to a podcast that featured Joe Rogan and David Goggins. So i found it, put my headphones in and away i went. Drove to the pools, listened to the podcast, I swear thats going to be my new thing to listen to. So motivating! And boy did i need the movitivation this AM.

I got to the pool, waited in my car for a bit then doubts ran through my mind like 'what the hell have i gotten myself into?' 'i cant swim the Cook Strait'... then I remembered what my fiance said to me 'dont think about the big swim, focus all your energy into training and by the time the big swim comes around youll be right'. And you know what, he's right. Ill worry about the big swim later, for now I'll train as hard as I can for as long as I can.

So i got out of my car and into the pools i went.
Put my bags down, stripped off into my togs and dove into the pool.

2km down in an hour! Tomorrow I'll be pushing for 3km in an hour and a half.

If i can keep smash out 2km in an hour (with stops) then SURELY i can smash out 3km in an hour (with no stops).

Day 1 down, 625 to go...

Thank you to my Supporters


Ash, Shaun Brax Steiner



Keep up the good work!


Shona Churchill

Aha my favourite 22 year old niece! Good on you honey. Personally I think you have rocks in your head, but what a great cause! And I know you can do it. Whales swim along the east coast every year hahahahahaha


Maria Lagas

Oh my gosh girl! This is amazing!! Good on you!! I’ll start it off 😂