Across the sea

A jet ski ad­ven­ture across Tor­res Strait

Paradise - - Contents -

We saw dol­phins, tur­tles and heaps of trop­i­cal fish. Croc­o­diles are ev­ery­where in those wa­ters.

“Am I go­ing to get eaten?” Chelsea Brown asked her­self when cross­ing Tor­res Strait on a jet ski.

Last July, the 16-year-old Syd­ney stu­dent of­fi­cially became the youngest per­son to ride a jet ski from Aus­tralia to Pa­pua New Guinea – and back again. Dur­ing the 480-kilo­me­tre jour­ney she braved high winds, rough seas, croc­o­diles and sharks.

De­spite feel­ing a bit ‘iffy’ at first, she joined a team of ad­ven­tur­ous jet skiers from around Aus­tralia on a char­ity ride that took off from Weipa in north­ern Queens­land and reached the south-west PNG is­land of Daru. After a one-night stopover in the Western Prov­ince cap­i­tal, they headed back to Aus­tralia, fin­ish­ing in Port Dou­glas.

Twelve of the 14 orig­i­nal group mem­bers com­pleted the ar­du­ous cross­ing after a jet ski sank and one rider pulled out be­cause of in­jury.

“It was pretty crazy,” says Brown. “From Thurs­day Is­land the first 110 kilo­me­tres was open wa­ter with 20-knot winds and a 1.5 to two-me­tre swell. I won­dered what I got myself into.”

But as an eques­trian cham­pion, Brown’s horse rid­ing skills helped her stay up­right on her aquatic metal steed and ride the waves to the flat wa­ters of War­rior Reef.

“That was amaz­ing,” she says. “It’s a beau­ti­ful reef and we saw dol­phins, tur­tles and heaps of trop­i­cal fish. Croc­o­diles are ev­ery­where in those wa­ters, but when you re­alise they’re not go­ing to do much, you kind of ease up to the idea.”

Through­out the jour­ney, Brown was safe­guarded by her team, which in­cluded her fa­ther, Matt. There was even a watch­ful eye from above, she says.

“About 50 kilo­me­tres from Daru we were also happy to see an Aus­tralian Coast Guard he­li­copter that flew over to make sure we were okay. That was pretty cool.”

But it was the tri­umphant ar­rival at Daru that was the high­light of the trip for the de­ter­mined young woman.

“Thou­sands of cheer­ing peo­ple were wait­ing for us on the beach and wel­comed us with a spe­cial cer­e­mony,” she says. “It was very hum­bling and brought tears to your eyes. The kids were par­tic­u­larly ex­cited and we later gave them jet ski rides on the river and around the har­bour.”

“Chelsea’s Dad, Matt, spent about two years pre­par­ing for the cross­ing,” says char­ity or­gan­iser, Mark Wal­lace, who ac­com­pa­nied the riders in a sup­port boat.

“It takes time and plan­ning to get au­thor­i­ties to ac­cept that you’re com­ing on a jet ski.”

The July cross­ing was not the first at­tempt to cross Tor­res Strait by jet ski from Aus­tralia to PNG.

Wal­lace, Matt Brown and two other riders com­pleted the jour­ney in 2013. And ear­lier this year an armed Bri­tish man, flee­ing drug sup­ply charges in Western Aus­tralia, al­most made it across the strait on a jet ski, but was nabbed by po­lice just be­fore he reached PNG.

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