'Adventure swimming' grows in popularity

TRAINING SESSION: Derek Eaton, 71, and Margaret Johnston, 58,  used a swim on Wednesday as preparation for the Le Grande Swim in Akaroa.
TRAINING SESSION: Derek Eaton, 71, and Margaret Johnston, 58, used a swim on Wednesday as preparation for the Le Grande Swim in Akaroa.

Sea swimming has been undergoing a minor revolution in Nelson in recent years.

Along with the growth in the Port Nelson Series every Thursday night and the Clements Endurance Series during weekends, there's been a growing trend towards informal groups taking part in what is loosely called "Adventure Swimming".

For example, it's not uncommon for groups of swimmers to meet and swim around Haulashore. This has been happening for a few years.

The latest development is the website adventureswims.co.nz. This is a social networking-type site, although with much tighter privacy provisions than the likes of Facebook.

Hosted by the "Meetup" company, the site allows users to announce their plans and for others to join them. Users can make comment, organise transport and generally discuss the plans for the swim.

The local site was developed by Sports Nelson Tasman Trust organiser, Michele Surcouf, last weekend. The site snowballed quickly, with 29 members joining in the first two days.

The first swim to be planned by Michele was a 2km splash from the yacht club to Tahunanui Beach at 6.45am on Wednesday and 14 swimmers arrived.

Conditions were beautiful. In the dawn light, the sea was like a mirror and the water was warm and clear as we were pushed by the outgoing tide past Haulashore and Fifeshire Rock, with the headlights of early morning commuters reminding us that civilisation was close by.

By the time we reached the beach in little over 30 minutes, the sun was just kissing the peak of Mt Arthur. I had work to get to, so drove back to the yacht club, but 10 swimmers hadn't had enough and turned and swam back to the start point, pushing against the tide but still enjoying the experience.

Among this group were 71-year-old Derek Eaton and 58-year-old Margaret Johnston. The pair were using the swim as a final training session for the 2.8km Le Grande Swim in Akaroa tomorrow.

It's the fourth race in the national State Ocean Swim Series. Derek is the oldest swimmer in the race.

A national swim champion in the pool as a teenager in the 1950s, Derek has become a born-again swim disciple since his retirement as Bishop of Nelson and Assistant Bishop of Cairo.

Last summer he became the national champion in his age group in ocean swimming and is unbeaten in the national series this season. It's not just the older swimmers who have trouble containing him. In our own Port Nelson series, Derek is consistently in the top quarter of the field.

Margaret is on the way back from a difficult season, where she hasn't been able to train or compete regularly, but after a good result in Wellington on January 27, she's on the comeback trail.

Last week in this column I was seeking a beginner triathlete to join reporter James Greenland in experiencing the sport for the first time as part of the Nelson Mail Team Triathlon.

Seven volunteers stepped up, so I was able to choose Natascha Rassekhi to join James and professional triathlete Tom Curtis.

The other six volunteers were all happily united in two teams as well and face some hectic training to ready themselves for the team tri, now just a week away.

Next week you'll be able to follow James in the Nelson Mail as he reports on his progress leading up to the race.

To find out more about the team triathlon, go to teamtri.co.nz.

The Nelson Mail