Boozy bet for health

MAKE WAVES: Craig Torckler of Riverhead competes in the State Paihia Classic long distance swim on November 10.
MAKE WAVES: Craig Torckler of Riverhead competes in the State Paihia Classic long distance swim on November 10.

Craig Torckler is turning a bet for booze into a health boost.

The Riverhead man enters the State Paihia Classic long distance swim on Saturday.

His pursuit of fitness was sparked by a less wholesome dare between neighbours during Christmas holidays at Russell in the Bay of Islands.

Mr Torckler was having a drink with a fisherman when they started discussing the 3.3km swim from Russell to Paihia.

"I said ‘I can do that - piece of cake'," says Mr Torckler, the owner of a marine chandlery at Hobsonville.

"He replied ‘I'll give you $500 worth of booze for your 50th party if you do it'.

"He fronted up on the finishing line and he paid!" he says.

Mr Torckler will take the plunge with more than 800 swimmers in the 9.30am event.

This is his second time but he says his motivation is different.

The keen yachtie trained to regain his fitness after a June operation to realign and preserve the knee joint.

His high tibial osteotomy remedied an old injury from motocross riding offroad in Woodhill Forest when he was 17.

"A couple of tree stumps happened to mess me up really badly.

"They smashed the leg up and broke it in two places," he says.

"The surgeon moved my leg across eight degrees to fix up a 30-year-old injury."

The game fisherman got back in the water just a few months after the operation to train for this weekend's gruelling challenge.

Mr Torckler hopes to finish in the middle of the pack despite sporting a titanium plate in his healing leg and failing to wear a wetsuit.

About 95 per cent of competitors wear wetsuits to brave the chilly waters and to aid buoyancy, he says.

"I've never swum in a wetsuit and it just makes it more of a competition.

"The bet this year is that I get to the other side."

Swimming is a way of life for the experienced sailor who loves diving for scallops and crayfish.

For 10 years he swam out to rescue people in stormy conditions as a professional recovery yachtsman for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Mr Torckler holidays with his family in Russell every Christmas.

"The Bay of Islands is such a distinctively beautiful place and swimming keeps me in shape," he says.

"I have three young daughters I have to keep tabs on."

Norwest News