And then the time came. On the Monday after Saturday’s win, she will finally see Gaylene again, after which they will travel together for a week. “We were meeting at a hotel in Nelson and she picked me up for our trip. When we saw each other, those first 30 seconds were a little emotional. It was then that I realized that we had met again after all these years and that we were still here. But then came the positive energy. We were both so excited for the week ahead. And she was also so proud of me for winning Ironman. The click was there immediately.
Photo of Els after winning Iron Man in New Zealand. The text continues below the photo.
Els and Gaylene travel to Golden Bay in New Zealand. Despite the fact that Gaylene is already 61, they do a lot of sports activities. They go rock climbing and Gaylene is particularly happy to finally have someone as athletic as her. Els discovers during their trip that Gaylene has also done several extreme races.
“Already in 1994, she had won the Coast to Coast race, a multi-sport championship in which she had to kayak, mountain bike and run. It’s really weird. I realized I couldn’t have asked for a better person to swim to the island with. Both in terms of fitness, knowledge and surviving on an island. She has thought of everything so well. She could read the sea and understood the island. It really became clear to me at that moment.
During their week, they also reflect on what happened in 2014. “It was very nice talking to him about it. We didn’t get emotional, it just happened. How we lived there especially in the moment. She said that in the morning she had already realized that I wanted to swim, but she didn’t think it was a good choice. At that time, she thought we were still leaving something safe, but in the end, she too thought we had to take the risk. She didn’t see the point of waiting any longer at the boat either. When she said that, I dared too. And I thought, ‘I’m really going now. This night on the island was already very familiar. She was like a mother to me. »
“The loop is now complete. I so wanted to see her again. But I couldn’t do that right after it happened. I hadn’t given him a place then. Only her I really wanted to see, our bond was very intense. Together we took the swimming trip and ended up on the island. Now it’s complete.
One last stop
But as RedBull makes a documentary about Els’ life, she also returns to the island where they were found. “At first, I didn’t need that. I didn’t feel like it after that great week with Gaylene. I had just closed it. But when I got there, I was very grateful. It meant so much to be back on the water in this place. It did the whole trick. We walked around the island and I recognized the place where we had slept. When I was there, I also came back when it all happened. I realized, ‘It all really happened here’ and the sense of danger that came with it came back.”
“The shipwreck changed me. Still, I think that if it hadn’t been for the sinking, I might also have become a triathlete. I have always been adventurous. But nevertheless, I have certainly changed. I feel much more grateful for life and I now live more day to day.
Els radically changes his life after the shipwreck and becomes a triathlete: “I have only just started doing it”
“Devoted bacon guru. Award-winning explorer. Internet junkie. Web lover.”