254 days after she set off, Bonnie Hancock has returned to the Gold Coast completing her 12,700 kilometre circumnavigation of Australia.

The ironwoman and elite downwind athlete was greeted by hundreds of supporters at Northcliffe Beach, throwing her arms in the air with elation – and relief – as she crossed the line.

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

“It is a surreal feeling, I have been waiting for this moment for so long,” she said.

“This 254 day journey has been life-changing with so many lessons, and just memories for me forever.

“It’s been far tougher, but also far more incredible, than I could have ever imagined.”

GALLERY: A selection of the best images from Bonnie Hancock’s homecoming celebration.

Having etched her name into ocean folklore, Hancock also collected a huge slice of history.

The Shaw and Partners Paddle of Aus smashing the record for the fastest kayak circumnavigation of the country by some six months.

At 32, she is now the youngest person to complete the achievement and also the first female, adding to her title of the furthest distance paddled in 24 hours, after clocking 214 kilometres in her Nordic surfski.

Hancock experiencing some of the highest moments – and darkest days – of her life.

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“The first month, my back felt like it was breaking every day,” she says. “But I knew the only way was forward.  

“I knew my body was going to become conditioned to the extremes, but I really did not know how long it would take.

“Although my will to complete this outweighed any pain.”

The records are secondary, however.

Hancock set off on this journey with the intention to raise funds and awareness for mental health charity Gotcha4Life.

With donations still coming in, she’s now approaching an incredible $100,000 for the cause.

But it’s the sense of community she’s helped to create that gives her the greatest satisfaction.

“I had people messaging me and people following with their own mental health struggles,” she says.

“I thought if I could give them some hope in their dark days, if I could get through this, then they can apply it to their life and that’s what we all have to know.  

“We are far more resilient that we believe.”

The Perfect Boat for any Paddler

A documentary of her unfathomable achievement is now in the works, but for now, Hancock is taking a rest.

She’ll join Sam & Macca on for a special episode of The Paddler’s Pod this week.