Upon the seat of a water-bicycle built for two

ALANA DIXON
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2011
AGAINST THE TIDE: Paul Olson and Peter de Jong are victorious after crossing Foveaux Strait on a sea cycle.
JOHN HAWKINS/ The Southland Times
AGAINST THE TIDE: Paul Olson and Peter de Jong are victorious after crossing Foveaux Strait on a sea cycle.

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Quitting was never an option for the men who cycled across one of the most notorious stretches of water in the country.

On Thursday, Bluff men Paul Olson and Peter de Jong became the first to cycle across Foveaux Strait, leaving Bluff Harbour at 8.30am before finally pulling into Halfmoon Bay just before 5.30pm.

Yesterday, Mr Olson said the duo had never contemplated turning back, despite the testing conditions they sometimes encountered.

Although conditions were ideal for most of the trip, they pedalled against the tide, and struck high winds and waves from all directions once they hit the middle of the strait.

"It was kind of like coming across all four seasons in one day ... [but] we knew we could do it, we just had to push through the pain. We didn't have any doubt, not through the whole thing. We felt the burn and knew it was going to be hard, but we just pulled our sleeves up and kept going," he said.

The pair made the crossing to support their friend Kevin "Stoney" Bourke's project, to build a 20m double-hulled, rope-lashed 18-bunk waka that would be used to spread an environmental message, landing to clean up beaches, and teach children respect for the land, sea and themselves.

For most of their cycle, they were escorted by a school of about seven small sharks and circling above were several mollymawks, so they had plenty to see along the way, Mr Olson said.

Adding to the party were a couple of bottles of beer passed down by the crew aboard the Foveaux Freighter, which tided them over for the final two-hour leg of the trip.

"It was just the energy boost that we needed to get that last little bit done."

They did not wear their lifejackets, because it was too hot to wear them for that length of time, but were sitting on them for the entire crossing so if something happened they could reach them quickly. They also had a radar reflector, flares, an emergency radio and plenty of food and drink, Mr Olson said.

Both men had wobbly legs after stepping back ashore, but the aftermath of their gruelling effort had so far been limited to just stiff knees, he said. "I just wanted to put my feet up. We found it pretty hard to sleep last night, we were still so full of adrenalin, so I'm a bit knackered ... I might go find a masseuse somewhere though."

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