Rotorua teenager David Boles has proven he is an ocean swimmer of high potential as he added the Generation Homes Sand to Surf title to his growing list of credentials.
Boles, 17, a Year 13 student at John Paul College, blitzed the field in perfect conditions at Mount Maunganui yesterday morning. He won the 2.61km swim around Rabbit Island and Moturiki Island with a spectacular finish at Mount Main Beach in a time of 29m 34s.
Luke Kelly (30.34) finished second and Luke Mitchell third (30.39) in a tight finish.
Boles, who finished third and fifth in the past two years, follows in the footsteps of esteemed former winners in Rotorua's Kane Radford, Tauranga's Nathan Capp and veteran Brent Foster, who finished fifth on Saturday.
Last month Boles won The Legend of the Lake race held on the Blue Lake in his home town.
He says he felt confident at the start line on Saturday.
"I was definitely feeling hopeful especially after the Blue Lake win and I just went out and tried to give it my best shot. The biggest challenge with these types of races is just trying to get to the front of the race and the added challenge of the waves," Boles said.
"The event was well planned and kept us away from the rocks and there was not any jellyfish. It was a safe swim."
The women's event had been dominated by Charlotte Webby, who had three consecutive victories to her name. But she was not part of this year's race which meant a first Sand to Surf win for Dunedin swimmer Stefannie Gillespie (31.36), from Greerton Swim Club's Mia Pugh (33.00), with Hannah Blackwood third (33.04).
Gillespie was also a last up winner in Rotorua and also won the Harbour Crossing event in Auckland that opened the series in November.
For Pugh, 16, who finished second behind Gillespie in Rotorua, it was another encouraging ocean swim building towards the Oceania Swimming Championships in Papua New Guinea in June. She is the youngest swimmer selected in the New Zealand team that includes Boles.
Pugh is the national 5km open water champion after winning on Lake Taupo. She admits the Sand to Surf was a major challenge.
"It was a really nice swim in beautiful conditions but I am not as good in the surf so it makes it a bit harder. The hardest thing I found was getting out with the waves coming in," she said.
"I am trying to get as many ocean swims in to get used to swimming in the ocean. It is a good build-up for the future and it is just fun doing these swims. They are so enjoyable."
The Sand to Surf was the fifth event in the eight-race New Zealand Ocean Swim Series that is now firmly established as a key part of the New Zealand swimming season. A thousand swimmers took part on Saturday in the four distances available: the 200m OceanKids, 500m Give It A Go, 1km Step It Up and 2.6km I'm Going Long races.