One of the regulars in the State Beach Series is 77-old-veteran Dick Smith (no, not that one) who loves the series but has one pet grump.

"I always win the 70-plus age group mostly because I am the only one in it," said the local swimming legend.

"I wish there were a few more old farts to swim against."

Smith, a former school teacher who finished working 18 years ago, retiring as the principal of Ranui School in 1994, swam four out of the eight events in the 2011-12 State Beach Series. He plans to swim all of the eight remaining 1500m swims and hopes he has some company in his age division.

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What do you enjoy about the State Beach Series?
I like everything about the event. I like that it caters for swimmers of all abilities and all ages, from ex-Olympians down to the strictly recreational.

I like that it is cheerful and fun and that, although it is pretty competitive within age groups, it can still be done in an enjoyable way.

I love the fact that three of my grandchildren also swim regularly and with considerable success.

What distance and times are you trying to achieve every week?
At my age, swimmers as well as other athletes are on a bit of a downward spiral.

My aim is to finish each week in front of as many others as possible. In my diary I note each week the numbers of entrants and my place in the field. I hope not to slip down through the field too quickly.

There is a lady not too much younger than me who swims regularly. Sometimes I beat her and sometimes she beats me.

It is usually very close.

It must be great to mix with some of the younger athletes and be part of a local sporting community?
It is wonderful to swim with the younger swimmers (people under 70) and especially my grandsons.

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One of them usually comes in 2nd or 3rd, and the other two are not far behind him.

When I come in at about 120th one of them is always waiting at the finish line with a recovery drink for me.

What advice do you offer older people who struggle to stay active?
When they can no longer run or cycle, older people can swim or perhaps water walk. Only very few still want to compete past 70, but there are a few and their number is increasing.

I suggest to friends that three swims a week will help their health hugely.

Speed is not important and distance can be tailored to the individual.

Starting with a length or two at a time the average oldie could build up to 1km or so quite easily.

It is very good for the heart and very good for the lungs.

You are 77. How much longer do you see yourself competing?
I am pushing 78, and I know I am slowing and I find it harder to do a long swim without lots of training.

I can see a time in the future when I won't find it easy to do the longer swims. I should like to think, though, that I will still be swimming the beach series for quite few years yet.