A Tauranga schoolgirl is the youngest swimmer registered to take the plunge in the first event of the 2016-2017 New Zealand Ocean Swim Series beginning at Mount Maunganui on Saturday.
Poppy Richardson, 7, from Omokoroa No 1 School will make her debut at the Banana Boat OceanKids race which is the last of four events catering for all ages and swimming abilities.
The I'm Going Long (2.6k), Give it a Go (500m), Step it Up (1000m) and OceanKids (200m) races all begin on the Mount Main Beach opposite Mount Drury, where the prIzegiving will be held at 1.05pm.
Poppy will be joined by older sister Grace, 9, in the 200m event which will be the siblings' first competitive ocean swim.
Poppy recently joined squad swimming after graduating from a local swim school and wanted to take part in the event because she loves swimming and the beach.
"We entered her as we thought it would be a good challenge," Poppy's mum, Amanda Richardson, said.
"She enjoys squad training so we thought she could test her swim skills out of the pool. She is naturally competitive having an older sister and younger brother, and we thought she would enjoy the experience."
NZ Ocean Swim Series event director Scott Rice said it was great to see the next generation of swimmers taking the plunge in the OceanKids event.
"So many youngsters have pool swimming lessons, but the ocean can be quite a different and unpredictable environment, so it's important for children to also gain confidence swimming in the ocean given so much of our Kiwi summer holidays tend to revolve around the beach," he said.
"With Banana Boat's support, we have tailored the OceanKids event to be safe whilst also ensuring everyone on the day is having fun in the sun."
The Sand to Surf event on Saturday is the first of seven in the nationwide New Zealand Ocean Swim Series which includes Harbour Crossing (Auckland), Capital Classic (Wellington), Legend of the Lake (Rotorua), Christchurch Crown (Christchurch), Bay of Islands Classic (Paihia) and King of the Bays (North Shore, Auckland).
The series runs from November to April next year.
Youngsters who win their age group in the OceanKids 200m event (7-12yrs) are eligible to secure one of 36 places in the Jetstar Super Swim Squad and attend an end-of-season training camp in Auckland with top name elite swimmers and coaches.
9.45am I'm Going Long 2.6k start
11.35am Give it a Go 500m start
11.42am Step it Up 1000m start
12.30pm OceanKids 200m start
1.05pm Prizegiving at Mt Drury (across the road from the event site)