Taking the kids swimming over summer is a Kiwi tradition, but one dedicated group of parents have taken their duties to the extreme, escorting their children to swimming venues from Paihia to Christchurch, including Rotorua, Mt Maunganui, Auckland and Wellington. Their goal: a unique opportunity to nurture a passion for open-water swimming.
Children aged between 7 and 13 swam 200m at six events during the 2015-16 Ocean Swim Series.
The winning boy and girl in three age-group categories earned a place at the prestigious Jetstar Super Swim Squad camp, captained by former Olympic swimmer Dean Kent and containing past and present Olympic talent.
Thirty-five eager young winners attended an Auckland camp during April 23-25, participating in pool and ocean clinics coached by elite athletes such as Rio Olympic qualifier Emma Robinson, Ocean Swim Series winners Charlotte Webby and Nathan Capp, and Australian champion Michael Sheil. Double Olympic gold medallist Danyon Loader made a surprise appearance as guest speaker.
"I loved getting to know the elites, not only as swimmers, but as people," says squad member Janaye Burns. "The coaches were really friendly. It was cool to learn new drills and they helped us with our technique, especially ocean swimming."
Simone Magner believes the opportunity has longevity for son and squad member Tarquin.
"The immediate value of participation in the squad is enormous, a truly inspirational and rewarding experience. I feel the exceptional future value of this incredible opportunity will be realised in years to come."
Ocean Swim Series event director and camp founder Scott Rice attributes the success of the camp to the calibre of the coaches.
"The total commitment of the team both inside and outside the pool enables us to bring to life our vision for the camp, which is to motivate and inspire youngsters from communities throughout New Zealand towards their potential. Judging by the enthusiasm squad members demonstrated over the last three days, we have achieved that goal. Support like this will make the difference between New Zealand excelling on the world stage [in future] rather than simply turning up to compete."
Loader agrees: "Seeing the passion these kids have and the support they receive is incredible. If they are the next generation of swimming Olympians, we are in good hands."
Super Swim Squad
What: National Swim Camp
For more information: www.oceanswim.co.nz