The Vandy family

We had a chat to the Vandy family from Whitianga about their love of swimming.

The Vandies is a mother daughter family swim team from Whitianga, can you tell us who makes up the team (ie names ages)

As a mother of four little girls I’ve always dreamed of us being able to do things all together,  and when I (Candice, 33) got into Ocean swimming last season I was hooked,  and really hoped my girls would be keen to get involved. Our eldest daughter, Libby (9) had her first ocean water experience at the Mount swim last year and was so hooked she asked me to purchase her a wetsuit so she could join in with the training out in the ocean too.

Most of our ‘training’ if you want to call it that, is done in the pool, which is only Open from October – April here in Whitianga so it’s tricky keep us swim fit all year! Luckily we have the mad KOWS (Kuaotunu Open Water Swimmers) who swim all year round along Kuaotunu Beach! (The girls have yet to join mum out there – Its a bit fresh at the moment at 13 degrees, but once the water heats up again Libby and Laurie are very keen to join in!) Laurie (6) is very excited to be old enough to enter a few swim series events this coming season and Gracey(5) asks almost every month if she’s old enough yet, so fingers crossed she’s still keen to join us when she’s old enough in 2023! Demi (1) will have to wait a few more years but if her water keenness is anything to go by, I’m sure we won’t have any issues 😊

Living in Whitianga you have fantastic access to the ocean, did this spark the love of swimming?

As a competitive swimmer throughout my teen years, I’ve always had an absolute love for the water – but throw in four children and a busy business, my time in the water was so limited. We moved to Matarangi (from Whitianga) in late 2020 and  in January 2021 (having not swum more than a splash in over 5 years) I decided to do the Rings Beach to Matarangi swim – as part of the Matarangi Summer series!

It was a night before decision and I hoped I still fit my surf wetsuit and gave it a go! It must be muscle memory because I didn’t die like I thought I would 😂 and I loved the entire 1.2km of Ocean goodness!

Libby, Laurie and Gracey are all involved in Junior Surf Lifesaving at Hot Water Beach (and Demi will be old enough to join next season when she is 2!) so our Sunday’s are filled with Ocean swimming and time at the beach! One could say we’re all ‘Ocean addicts’ – we barely miss a Sunday Mad KOWS swim session, or the surf lifesaving training, and if we’re not in the ocean you will find us either on the beach or on the Boat! You could say we have Salt in our veins! 

This will be 7 year old Lauries first swim with us how is she feeling about this? Any nuggets of wisdom for the little mermaid in training?

Laurie will be turning 7 in January and she was stoked when I told her she would be old enough to enter the Ocean Series swims this year. She was able to enter the Taupo Epic swim event last year as a 5 year old and has been nagging us ever since! Laurie loves to swim laps up and down our community pool – even when mum is coaching Libby’s swim group – you will always spot the little pink swim cap paddling along, up and down the 25m pool.

Laurie sounds a lot like mum, and when you ask her what she likes about swimming she says ‘it’s so quiet and you can just sing in your head, pretending to be a mermaid, while you swim as far as you can up and down’. Laurie says if she was a mermaid her mer-name would be Lilly, and she would be friends with all the fish and stingrays! And she always sings in her head ‘just keep swimming’ like Dory from finding Nemo. 

Do you girls think you will manage to drag dad in to the ocean one day? Or is he best served as on land support crew & cheer squad?

Dad always tells us he’s better suited to ‘dry-land’ or his boat – he says he’ll be the ‘top man’ out on our crazy swims, he claims he wouldn’t look good in a wetsuit, and he’s happy to cheer us on from the side! The girls also say ‘Someone needs to look after baby Demi, and it’s Mum’s turn to be cheered on – we used to cheer dad on at rugby all the time, so now it’s like his turn to cheer for us’. Dad always holds our towels and is ready to give us and Mum a big cuddle when we come out of the water!

This year mum is also joining other Mad KOW swimmers on events all around NZ as part of the ocean series so dad is ‘taking one for the team’ and staying at home with the girls! 

Anything else you would like to tell us that would be great!

Open water swimming has definitely been something we can all do as a family and the swim series allows us to book little getaways for the whole family – seeing different parts of NZ, getting out of our comfort zones and pushing each other is really rewarding! I love that the ocean is literally on our door step and my girls love the ocean as much as I do.

I truly hope they all continue enjoying ocean swimming as the years go on – and eventually all 5 of us ‘Vandy’ girls will be swimming side by side in the years to come! 😊

We’re all really excited for the 21/22 Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series season!! 


Ocean Swim Series