Ruth is the Rotorua Daily Post's sports reporter

Masters: Open water dynamic duo set to make swimming splash

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Come rain or shine - you will find local open water swimming pair Glyn Eason and David Blackmore regularly splashing around in the shimmering waters of Rotorua's lakes.

Even amidst the weather bomb, which forced the cancellation of the Rotary Rotorua open water swim at Lake Okataina this weekend, the dynamic duo trained at Tikitapu (Blue Lake).

The event was the fourth and final round of this year's record-breaking Swim the Lake series in Rotorua.

And although both swimmers were disappointed not to complete the series they said the championships were a "great success".

"It's fantastic and there's a nice local community feel. It highlights the beauty of the local lakes so It's a shame to not finish but safety comes first," Blackmore said.

Rotorua's open water swimmers Glyn Eason (left) and David Blackmore, pictured training in the Tikitapu (Blue Lake). Photo/Stephen Parker
Rotorua's open water swimmers Glyn Eason (left) and David Blackmore, pictured training in the Tikitapu (Blue Lake). Photo/Stephen Parker

The Lake Rotoma Kiwanis Swim, the second in the local series, was selected as a highlight after Eason, 40, won over the 6km distance while Blackmore, 42, finished in second.

"It was the first time I'd swam in that lake so to win was special," Eason said. "It's one of the smaller races but very cool."

Both swimmers are now eyeing debut success at the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland. The pair will race in the 5km open water ocean swim at Takapuna Beach (35-44 age group), along with fellow local Alan Mudie and a large international field.

"It's a unique opportunity to compete with others from across the world," said Eason. "I'd like to win my age group that will always be my top goal but I'd be happy with a top three placing," Eason said.

Blackmore admitted to having a more relaxed approach to the contest: "When I heard it was going to be right on our back doorstep I had to enter. There isn't any rivalry between us - Glynn is a stronger swimmer, I suspect he will get ahead early on."

Eason is well known in the local open water community, having dominated the Hinemoa Swim event in the early 1990's. He won four consecutive titles - his first in 1991 at the age of just 15-years-old.

The route started on Mokoia Island and headed back to Hannah's Bay area, a reverse of the original course while the modern different interpretation sees competitors swimming 2km across Tikitapu (Blue Lake) part of the Economist Blue Lake Multisport Festival.

"I see that as the true course, it's like you were a part of the legend of Hinemoa," Eason said. "I'm still competing now though but I feel I reached my peak a while ago. Now it's all about the young whippets coming through."

Blackmore came into the sport later on in life, taking to the open water just six years ago, but already has five New Zealand Ocean Swim series to his name and is believed to be only the fourth Kiwi to swim the Gibraltar Strait.

David Blackmore was proud to complete the Gibraltor Strait. Photo/Supplied
David Blackmore was proud to complete the Gibraltor Strait. Photo/Supplied

Blackmore, who swam the 20km strait in just over four hours last June, isn't affiliated with any local club but had trained with Henk Greupink's masters swim squad in the past.

"I started late but loved the sport immediately," Blackmore said. "You feel a long way from home out in the middle of the meeting of the Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans. It was an unbelievable experience."

And not content with his "epic" adventure in the ocean Blackmore is playing with the idea of completing 10 Rotorua lakes in 10 days with Eason.

Blackmore said he was inspired by former world-ranked endurance swimmer, local Grainne Moss, who completed seven epic Rotorua swims in seven days back in 2002.

Moss, a Belfast-born swimmer became the first Irish woman to swim the English Channel, then represented Ireland at international level and in 2001 swam Cook Strait.

"It would be a cool challenge. I remember when Grainne did that and it was incredible. The whole point is that we have all these beautiful lakes so close," Blackmore said. "Often when Glyn and I go out for a training swim sometimes we are the only ones out there."

Eason added it would be the "perfect opportunity" to highlight water safety in the area especially after two drowning on Lake Rotoiti this year, with three water deaths on Rotorua lakes in total.

"It's understandable that people do get a little bit frightened of swimming in open water. I want to show people you can do this you just need to make sure you have the support there. We will have a support vehicle - that is crucial. If we can raise awareness and build water confidence that would be a great achievement."

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