Real Life

How I Live: ‘I’m a policewoman and a world champion’

She’s a policewoman on the beat, but 24-year-old Rachel Clarke is also a world beater champion and an officer.
How I Live: Officer and a champion

“As a policewoman, I help to keep the peace on the streets of Auckland. But what people don’t know when they meet me is that beyond the uniform, I’m a world champion in the sport of ocean surfskiing paddling.

The ski is like a kayak but is longer and thinner, and you sit on top of it. You use a paddle to guide your way through the water.

In May, I reached the pinnacle of ocean surfskiing by winning the Molokai World Championships in Hawaii – a 52km paddle race across one of the world’s most dangerous channels. It starts at the island of Molokai and finishes in Oahu. I won the women’s event in a time of 4 hours and 33 minutes and became the second Kiwi woman ever to win the race.

When I crossed the finish line, I was 10 minutes ahead of the second place-getter, but I didn’t realise that I had won! It wasn’t until I heard all the cheering that it became clear that I was the champion.

A year of intense training while juggling police shifts paid off for Rachel when she was crowned world champion.

My sport and my job go hand in hand – and I feel lucky to be doing the two things I’m very passionate about.

I grew up competing in surf lifesaving, and when I first left school, I became a personal trainer. But I soon joined the police force, where I have remained for the past three years. I had an uncle who was a policeman and I guess hearing all his stories inspired me to follow in his footsteps.

What also attracted me to this kind of work was the opportunity to help the community and make a difference. I am a frontline constable, responding to emergency calls, patrolling the streets, doing preventive work, vehicle stops and helping members of the public who need assistance.

Being a policewoman can be very stressful, but I find that handling the pressure on the job helps me to compete at a top-level in sport because you get used to being in intense situations.

The Molokai SurfSki World Championship is a race every paddler has on their bucket list and it’s very competitive. It involved an intense year of training, juggling shift work and physical workouts. I had no social life at all – you have to be very motivated, outgoing and determined.

It also meant that I sacrificed having a partner and being in a committed relationship.

Rachel says being on the water makes her feel calm and collected.

But, in saying that, I don’t feel lonely at all because I’m always working with other police officers and have an exercise partner whenever I’m in training.

My colleagues are extremely proud of me. I’m a female in a male-dominated world and I’ve proven that you can be treated equally, achieve great things within the workplace, and still have your passions outside it.

Working on the beat can be hectic, but whenever I’m on the water, I feel calm and collected. It’s a great way for me to relax.”

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