O'Rourke's continue harbour swim tradition

Dale O'Rourke will compete in the Timaru Ocean Swim on Sunday in memory of his father Des who won his first Speechly ...
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Dale O'Rourke will compete in the Timaru Ocean Swim on Sunday in memory of his father Des who won his first Speechly Mile (as it was formerly known) when he was 12.

Dale O'Rourke expects his late dad will be looking down on him with pride as he competes in the first Timaru Ocean Swim for 40 years, next Sunday. 

The three O'Rourke children were brought up swimming from a young age as their parents Des and Helen were caretakers of the Waimataitai swimming baths which were located on White St.

Des died in 2013, at the age of 87, but his passion for water lives on in his son.

Like many other swimmers, Dale prefers the comfort of a pool all year round which appears to be one of the main reasons Timaru's Harbour swim lost favour and went into hiatus in the 1970s. He did not think the 1975 Steve Spielberg movie, Jaws, about a shark attacking swimmers, had an influence.

In the 1930s and 1940s Dale's father Des was a successful open water swimmer, winning the Speechly Mile, reintroduced this year as the TImaru Ocean Swim, six times from the age of 12. 

At one stage he held every South Canterbury freestyle record, from 25 yards to three miles, and won the Annette Kellerman race in the Otago Harbour in 1948. The ongoing aftermath of the war put a halt to considering a professional swimming career.

"I think dad could well have been an Olympian."  

Dale, a customs broker in Christchurch, said he was not a swimmer of his father's calibre.

"I train five or six times a week in a pool with two kilometres a day ... I'm an average swimmer."

Des trained by swimming the length of Caroline Bay six times each evening.  

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The younger O'Rourke has completed some ocean swimming, winning the 1965 Speechly Mile when he was 12. It's been about five years since he has competed in any of the ocean swims around the country.

Now aged 62, he will be competing in the 55-plus age group category at Sunday's Timaru Ocean Swim.

Swimming has been such a big part of his life he can't imagine not taking to the water to maintain his fitness.

In the upcoming harbour race Dale will be wearing a wetsuit despite it being summer.

In his dad's day the competition was held in the cooler month of April and competitors wore a full length bathing suit made of fine cotton.  

The 2016 Timaru Ocean Swim is being held alongside the Timaru Triathlon/Duathlon on Sunday, January 24.

PrimePort will temporarily close the port to water traffic to help keep swimmers safe.  

This race will see swimmers cover about 2.5kms, commencing with a deep water start within the harbour before swimming alongside the breakwater and into Caroline Bay.

 - Stuff

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