Gliding their way into half a century of swimming lessons, competitions and family fun days, the Waikanae Swim Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a splash.

Almost 60 years ago the idea of a swim club and pool in the Waikanae community was floated.

Almost seven years of fundraising was needed to raise the money and in November 1970 the Waikanae Swim Club was established and in 1971 the Waikanae Pool was officially opened.

Fifty years later, thousands of children from around the coast have spent their summers learning to swim in the outdoor pool.

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Spearheading the development of the pool was the Waikanae Pool Development Committee consisting of Don Liddell, John Dickson and Maurice Smith.

"The aim of the pool committee was to build a pool within a garden," Waikanae Swim Club's Rebecca Sunderland said.

"The original aim of the swimming club was to promote swimming, teach life-saving techniques and safety in the water.

"Of course competition was highly valued and results were published regularly in the local newspaper."

The venture was well supported by the Raumati Swimming Club, with newspaper clippings from the time stating the club made a donation along with a day's labour from members.

There was also a very generous amount of volunteer labour from Waikanae residents, co-ordinated by Hugh Warns to help with painting, fencing, and other work involved in completing the pool complex.

This volunteer labour was estimated to be worth $10,000.

With the total cost of the pool coming to $30,000, this support from the rival swim club and Waikanae residents proved to be fundamental.

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The swim club members also played a big role, raising money for essential equipment for the club through a swimathon.

The swimathon was arranged and club members were encouraged to find sponsors at the rate of 10 cents per length.

The children swam anywhere from two to 50 lengths.

Thirty members of the club entered in the swimathon and raised enough money to buy equipment such as timers and lane markers.

The local community also held fundraising events at the local hotel and the Lions Club assisted with the development of the slide later on.

The first president of the club was Neil McDougall with Mrs J Sinclair as the first secretary along with publicity officer Mavis Smith.

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Also appointed were patrons Mr W Lavelle and Mr Don Liddell.

Both made big contributions towards the completion of the pool, with Don still the patron of the club to this day.

Professional swim coach Cor Lenaarts was appointed to ensure a high standard of coaching.

With an average of 120 children receiving swimming lessons each summer, the club has been involved in helping 6000 children learn to swim since the club began with many going on to swim with competitive clubs.

"The Waikanae Swimming Club continues to be run by volunteers and sees around 150 local children learn to swim each summer," Rebecca said.

"They also continue the traditions of distance swims, timing nights and family fun days.

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"It continues with the legacy of a great community spirit."

The 50th birthday celebrations, prizegiving and AGM will take place on August 2 at Waikanae Baptist church from 3pm. RSVP to Karen on 021 463 128 for catering purposes.
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