Strait crossing done on whim

19:59, Feb 11 2013
Wayne Evans
GOING STRONG: Support crew look on as Wayne Evans, of Invercargill, swims Foveaux Strait, starting from Stewart Island and finishing at Bluff, on Saturday.

Two days after achieving a feat few can lay claim to a weary Wayne Evans yesterday admitted to a sense of pride at what he had done.

The Southland masters swimmer on Saturday morning turned up with a group of others to honour the 50th anniversary of John van Leeuwen becoming the first person to swim across Foveaux Strait.

The plan for him was to, along with others, swim part of the journey on Saturday to honour van Leeuwen's pioneering feat in 1963.

When Evans turned up the thought of covering the entire 34-kilometre route wasn't at the top of his thoughts.

He hadn't put in the training required and, to make the swim that bit more difficult, rough conditions from the trip from Bluff to the starting point at Stewart Island meant Evans was seasick and vomiting moments before he jumped into the water for the swim.

It couldn't have been a more disrupted buildup for a swim across Foveaux Strait, but it didn't stop the 46-year-old delivering something quite remarkable over the next nine hours and 20 minutes.


"The plan was a very loose one. I did say to Scott Crosbie when he invited me to join the team, I said 'Why don't I just see how far I can get?' and we left it at that," Evans said.

A streak of stubbornness and plenty of determination, however, meant it wasn't until Bluff when Evans finally did stop.

After starting out the day thinking he'd swim a few kilometres to help mark the 50th anniversary of the first crossing, by the end of it he'd become the seventh person to compete the remarkable swim.

"Look, it was never on the bucket list, but I might add it now and tick it off," he joked yesterday.

"I'm proud of what I've done, but also extremely respectful for all of the other swimmers that have swum that stretch of water.

"I had a wetsuit on and while I felt it was cold, those guys doing it in Speedos is something completely different.

"John van Leeuwen having been in the water for 13 hours, obviously in totally new territory, I've got immense respect for that guy."

Evans also had help from other masters swimmers during the final stretch, swimming alongside him to help guide him to where he was supposed to be going.

Members of the Oreti Surf Life Saving Club also completed the swim as part of a relay and Evans also praised them for their efforts.

"The Surf Life Saving Club members that swam across as a relay, some of them were overcoming physical hurdles, others weren't confident swimmers," Evans said.

"It's a daunting piece of water and, look, all of them would have swum beyond what they initially thought was their capabilities.

"That needs to be celebrated and it was all in recognition of her elder statesman, John."


~ John van Leeuwen February 7, 1963 - 13hr 36min

~ Meda McKenzie March 20, 1979 - 14hr

~ Belinda Shields March 24, 1984 - 9hr 53min

~ Michael Quinlivan February 13, 1985 - 9hr 41min

~ Sandra Blewett February 11, 1988 - 12hr 5min

~ Todd Utteridge February 15, 1989 - 8hr 40min

~ Wayne Evans February 9, 2013 - 9hr 20min

The Southland Times