Swimming: Summer beach battle all in the family

By Peter Thornton

Hundreds of young athletes take part in the weekly swim series at Takapuna Beach over summer.
Hundreds of young athletes take part in the weekly swim series at Takapuna Beach over summer.

For the Beaman family of Forrest Hill participating in the State Beach Series on Tuesday nights during summer is a family tradition.

When Sarah and Jarrod Beaman and their four boys - Torr, Matz, Keir and Rafe, aged between 4 and 9 - first heard about the series they would go down to Takapuna Beach to watch.

"It was always brilliant to have so many fit and active people coming out, hearing the starting siren and watching this burst of energy down the beach and across the water," said Sarah Beaman. "It was inspirational, particularly watching some of New Zealand's top athletes out there with the general public."

It is now the Beamans' fifth season of involvement in the Beach Series - and the first year all four boys are signed up. "The fact that we can all be taking part in an event together is great," said Beaman.

With siblings comes a healthy dose of rivalry and the Beaman boys are no exception.

"The older boys run by themselves now, and they really like that it's a timed event and that they can track on the website how they're improving," said Beaman.

"There's plenty of rivalry that goes on between the two oldest, competing against each other and also checking whether they've achieved a personal best. All four boys like running up and across the finish line, particularly if their name gets called out - then they feel super proud."

Beaman believes fitting in exercise is important for a happy family.

"It's critical for parents to be role models - but in reality it's incredibly hard to juggle life, work, parenting and fitness. Having fun as a family, getting fit, and making the most of our incredible marine environment - what more could you ask for?"

The junior events have risen dramatically over the years as the summer series has become established as a "family-friendly" outing.

Last season between 550 and 600 people took part each week, with the junior entrants rising to as many as 147 athletes on one night.

Building on the success of the junior events the series has introduced a new challenge, the State Beach Series - Primary School Competition.

Teaming up with State Insurance, More FM and the Pita Pit, the competition offers students the incentive to accrue points for their primary school and earn prizes.

"Over the past five years there has been a huge increase in the number of children competing," said Scott Rice, the State Beach Series organiser.

"When we saw how many primary school-aged children were taking part with their parents, we wanted to encourage even more ... to get active on a regular basis."

Sara Chatwin, registered psychologist of Auckland-based Mindworks, said combining family time and exercise was a great way to form healthy living habits. "Participating in events like this allows children to enter a fun, challenging event with their parents without too much stress and pressure," said Chatwin.

"They also require training, and are influential in setting up great patterns of participation, exercise and commitment."

Chatwin said children found it easier to adopt a healthy lifestyle and exercise choices if they had the positive behaviours modelled. "For a significant part of children's lives parents are the yardstick upon which children make their choices, formulate their opinions and, often, copy."

Sport was also a great way for the family to spend time together in a different environment, she said.

- NZ Herald

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