It's hard to know what happens over the winter.
The dormant seeds of swimmers' aspirations seem to have multiplied and sprouted so the opening night of the Port Nelson Summer Sea Swim Series attracted a record 171 swimmers, a third of them trying the sport for the first time.
Conditions were not perfect, with an extreme low tide and blinding light on the setting sun, but Harrison Dean and Kaiori McGuinniety set a cracking pace over the 900-metre course out to the navigation "dolphin" and return to the yacht club ramp.
In the end it came down to the younger swimmer's pool training as McGuinniety outsprinted the national aquathlon champion to finish in 10min 59sec, three seconds ahead.
More than 40 seconds went by before 15-year-old Luke Kelly came in for third, ahead of Simon Kneebone, racing in 40-49, 20-year-old Joe Thornton, and 25-year-old Jody Keefe-Laing, racing in his first Nelson sea swim.
Denis Cooper showed he is still on top of the game at 53, finishing a few seconds back in seventh, ahead of 40-year-old Jon Linyard, with 14-year-old Hayden Squance and 15-year-old Amy Coulton rounding out the top ten.
The 10th male to finish was 60-year-old Ben Van Dyke. To set the seal on any myths regarding age, Nelson's former bishop, 70-year-old Derek Eaton was only a minute further back, finishing 27th of the 126 swimmers in the event.
With many of last year's top female swimmers not on the start line, it was an intriguing battle to consider, but there weren't any big upsets as previous top-20 swimmers jostled for the top spots.
Coulton came into top form last year, so her win in 12min 37sec was no surprise. Neither was the second place of Flossie Van Dyke in 12min 45sec.
After that, it was a procession of female swimmers serving notice that this year may be their chance to shine.
Grace Woodall, third in 13.03 was followed by Lisa Birkett (13.05), Kerry Mathieson (13.12), 13-year-old Pip Dwyer in her first swim (13.15), triathlete Britta Martin (13.30) and 50-year-old Jude Vincent (13.35). Two 14-year-olds, Bailee Spriggs, another in her first swim (13.38), and Charlotte Handforth (13.53) rounded out the top 10.
The short swim over a 250m course was pure theatre, as first-time swimmers faced their fears and finished triumphant or in anguish.
You can cram a lot into a 10-minute swim and many debutant swimmers will have those minutes imprinted on their brains for days to come.
Terry Bone muscled through his first sea swim, taking line honours unchallenged in 4min 29sec, ahead of Matai McGuinniety (4.46), Merekara McGuinniety (5.01) and Leah Woodford (5.09).
Young female teenagers dominated the next few spots, as Brooke Matheson (5.14), Georgie Trengrove (5.16) and Kea McGuinniety (5.29) reached the shore ahead of Wesley Harris (5.31), Emily-Rose James (5.40) and Amy Raos (6.04).
With less-then-perfect conditions and early-season nerves overcome last night, swimmers will welcome next week's event starting on the high tide.
Full results at nelsonseaswims.co.nz.
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