Part 1: Summer 2019 Ocean Swimming in Wellington

Wellington harbour showing its dark, unfriendly side

Interislander Capital Classic 2019 – The Ocean Swim Series, Sunday 27 January

The weather that week was not particularly nice and come the weekend it was clear that it was not going to make an effort to improve for the swim. My first glimpses of the ocean that morning instilled a slight sense of terror in my stomach (see photo above) as it looked and sounded rather raucous. However, the sight of people walking in their wetsuits towards the start line made things slightly less grim and perked me up a smidgen. The grumpy weather did not seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of us swimmers as the beach was heaving – over 500 people including children turned up for the swim. Although there were so many other people I still felt a bit unnerved about going into the ocean so when I spotted my friend Tamara I quickly attached myself to her and made a pact with her that we would look out for one other.

The swim was rough but oddly enough it was fun. There is this thing about open water swimming that I have to stay engaged and pay attention to my surroundings all of the time which is as far removed as it could be from pool swimming where I do not even have to be awake to do it – well, almost. One good thing about the bad weather was that the organisers reduced the distance to 2.5km which was very good news for me as 800m is what it is – an eternity that is. That swim was the longest I had swum in the ocean for so when I got out of the water I was so disoriented  that it took a good five minutes to remember who I was and what I was doing but I knew I was happy the moment my feet scraped the ocean floor and my unsure legs carried me across the finish line 🙂

Coming across the finish line

Matiu / Somes swim – Sunday 10 February

I feel very fortunate to have been able to partake in this adventure swim. Matiu / Somes Island is predator-free scientific reserve right in the middle of Wellington harbour. It is also a place of historical significance to both Maori and European settlers alike. Apart from being special in so many ways, it is beautiful to look at too.

Unlike two Sundays ago the weather was looking promising. It was an early morning start, to be exact a 6.30am registration at the Queens Wharf ferry terminal in the CBD. The morning was going fast and we got through registration and boarded the ferry fairly quickly. Once on the ferry we had our briefing and the event organisers informed us that there were going to be 90 of us taking part in this adventure swim.  More than half of the swimmers had already set off swimming to the island from Petone beach which is 4km northeast of the island. I had opted to only do the 3km swim around Matiu / Somes. Quick and easy!

Matiu / Somes Island

When we got to the island we were briefed by the DOC Ranger on duty and those of us who wanted to take anything additional to the swim gear they were wearing had to have it checked and if needed cleaned to ensure no pests, soil or seeds were going to be taken to the island. After the briefing we headed to Wharf beach and readied ourselves for the swim. It was good timing because as soon as we arrived we caught sight of the first Petone swimmers swimming towards the beach to be checked off before they continued on the next leg of the swim around the island. That was a cheerful sight, especially when I spotted my friend Hinano come out of the water!

It was not long before the last Petone swimmer was out so we lined up at the water’s edge ready to be set free.  The swim was in anti-clockwise direction from Wharf beach so as soon as we got through the little passage between Matiu / Somes and the neighbouring baby island, Mokopuna, I could see Wellington city to my right. I think Wellington is handsome any time, any day but it is particularly beautiful in the early morning light on a sunny day.  It was nice to have the sun come out as I could feel its warmth on my back and arms, and it made everything look that extra bit prettier. The water was 17 degrees which is chilly but not numbingly freezing. I am not sure if I am disappointed that the water was not clear enough to see much of what was going on underneath me but did I really want to. Anyhow it was nice to look at the changing landscape of the island to my left, as well as what some of the avian wildlife got up to. The water was very still for the most part of the swim the only section where things got a little choppier was on the final stretch back to Wharf beach, coming round the north end of the island and going along the eastern flank. If anything, the swim was over too soon which goes to show how much fun open water swimming has become for me, minus the cold of course.


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