When five of the 1600 ocean swimmers throw themselves into the water off Milford Beach on Auckland’s North Shore on Saturday morning in the 10th State King of the Bays Ocean Swim, they’ll know they are part of history.
The five will be the only ones to have swum in all ten of the races, and that fact is not lost on one of them John Thompson, 59, from Torbay.
“I was actually really surprised to learn that I was just one of five to have done all ten. But I love this event and I do it each year simply as part of my effort to stay fit and healthy. The funny thing is I’ve got better each year I’ve done it!” Mr. Thompson said.
The Kings of the Bays Ocean Swim is 2.8km swim starting on Milford Beach and ending on Takapuna Beach.
The event is the brainchild of Scott Rice, a Takapuna businessman and former swimmer himself, with a love of organising big events.
“In my early twenties I used to organise parties for my friends, quite big ones in fact,” Mr. Rice said.
“These parties taught me a lot about what makes a successful event. I loved bringing people together and watching them enjoy themselves.
“The idea for the race came from my O.E., and when I returned to New Zealand there were heaps of triathlons and multisport events, so a professionally run open water swimming race became a natural thing to get up and running,” he said.
Fast-forward 10 years and the event is strong, if not stronger, as it’s ever been.
“We have a strong elite field all vying next weekend to win the overall series prize of $20,000. That’s the richest prize in New Zealand swimming history,” Mr. Rice said.
Leading the men’s series heading into the race is Rotorua swimmer Kane Radford, while New Plymouth’s Charlotte Webby leads the women’s, but both will face enormous challenges from Australians Ky Hurst and Melissa Gorman.
But the event is not just about the elites.
“We have Olympic champions like boardsailor Barbara Kendall, New Zealand representatives in other sports like former All Blacks lock Ian Jones and former Silver Fern netballer Tania Dalton, while broadcasters Brendan Telfer, Michelle Pickles, Charlotte Bellis and Nadine Ross-Chalmers are all swimming too.
“The 1600 strong field is our strongest and our most diverse yet, and we aim to be back bigger and brighter next year,” Mr. Rice said.