Remuera's Jonathan Ridler is giving back to the cause that rescued his brother after a fall of at least 10 metres.

The 29-year-old is set to brave a 20km stretch from Waiheke Island to Auckland City in the annual Chopper Swim Challenge in March.

But first he wants to conquer swimming the Cook Strait.

Ridler has put himself forward for the Chopper Swim Challenge to raise money for the rescue helicopter that was there in his brother's time of need.


As a teen, Andrew Ridler nearly broke his back in a fall at Karekare that could have changed his life forever.

It was November 26, 2002. The day before Andrew would turn 16.

He was climbing aloft a large rock on beach with friends when he fell at least 10 metres, Andrew said.

"I tumbled backward, pin-balling down the rock," he said.

"I was really lucky actually because I landed on my back but if my head was 2cm either way my head would have cracked open ... I was lucky my head landed on the sand."

The teen felt a sharp pain in the middle of his back.

It was a 20 minute walk to reach further help and his father was contemplating putting him on a surfboard to use as makeshift stretcher.

"But the surf lifesavers were like 'definitely don't do that'," Andrew said.


"It's really dangerous to move people if they have had any kind of spinal injury."

The wait for the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was nerve-racking as Andrew lay motionless in the sand.

"I just didn't know. At that stage you are thinking the worst," he said.

"You are thinking 'oh God am I going to be able to walk?' You just don't know."

It was an incredible sense of relief to see the helicopter land on the sand, he said.

"It just felt like I was in really safe hands.

"It happened in a flash. One minute I was on the beach and the next minute I was in hospital.

"Having that transfer, so quickly, I think made a big difference."

He sustained a serious compression injury in his back and would spend months on the mend with crutches at a time when he should have been playing basketball with mates.

But he said he was grateful it had not been worse.

"Sometimes I get a slight twinge of pain but that is nothing compared to what it could have been," he said.

It was an amazing service, he said, adding that it meant a lot to him.

Jonathan Ridler with his older brother Andrew. Photo / Supplied
Jonathan Ridler with his older brother Andrew. Photo / Supplied

Jonathan Ridler has been an ocean swimmer for about a decade but admits the 20km on March 18 will still be a challenge.

While training had been rigorously regimented, it was a different story when it came to the pre-race diet as the 29-year-old admits he could stand to put on a few kg.

"I haven't been eating the best foods, I have been eating the foods where you get results quickly in terms of putting on fat."

Cake and doughnuts had become a staple food, he said.

It was a big swim he wanted to tick off and he had also wanted to support a charity for a long time, he said.

It was set to be a "really hard swim" but would be super fun, he said.

He is training six days a week for the swim, for a period of about seven weeks, and is about to swim the Cook Strait in the next couple of days.

From there onwards it will be about maintaining that level of fitness for the Chopper Swim Challenge.

The Chopper Swim Challenge has raised more than $200,000 across the event's four-year history.

Lead organiser Olaf Adam said the number of participants had snowballed over the years alongside the funds raised which rocketed up to $120,000 last year.

"With everything you like to go one better than the one before," Adam said.

"I'd love to see a similar amount. I'd love to see over $100,000."

But it was really about everyone having a good day and making it home safe, Adam said.

"It's a cool, fun event. We'd like people to get behind it," he said.

"The distance from Waiheke to Auckland is exactly what the chopper does."

Adam said they were keen to hear from any boaties who would like to help on the day.

Every solo swimmer who takes on the distance must be an experienced open ocean swimmer and must be accompanied by a kayaker, he said.

• You can support Jonathan Ridler here