As gender debates rage on to address inequalities Kate Allen is successfully taking a plunge into the deep end to take matters into her own hands, as it were.
In fact, Allen is using her male counterparts as a catalyst to fuel her desire to tick off accomplishments, when it comes to aquatic pursuits in the pool and in the open seas.
"For me the big thing is I'm up there with the boys as well," says the 15-year-old swimmer from Hastings after she finished third overall in the opening round of the inaugural Hawke's Bay Ocean Swim Series at Perfume Point in Napier on Saturday.
Allen clocked 27m 57.71s to tame the 2km race as the first female across the line, behind winner Bevan Jacobs (25:23.82), of Waipukurau, and second-placed Lachlan Cairns (27:31.08).
All three also were competing in their respective 16- to 19-year-old age grades.
"I've raced Bevan in the pool a couple of times," she says, enjoying the challenge of keeping up with her aggressive male counterparts who tend to push the bar.
"I used to train with Lachie as well sometimes but he's away at uni now," she says of the former Lindsfarne College pupil.
Madison Keightley was the 1km winner, finishing in 15:10.50 to beat her male rivals.
Sofia Lumbreras also got on the medal dais with a scorching time of 8m 42.51s in the 500m sprint.
However, Allen is ocean savvy, having competed in the New Zealand Ocean Swim Series in 2017-18, the Across the Lake New Zealand Open Water event and the inaugural "world-class" Ocean Swim Fiji in September this year.
"I was the first female and knowing I had peaked with the guys was such an awesome achievement," she says of the Bay race last Saturday.
The Hastings Girls' High School Year 12 pupil finished fourth in her age group at the national series which offered six events although Allen competed in four.
She was first in Nelson, Wellington, Rotorua and Tauranga.
At the open water event, she was first in the 1km, 2.5km and 5km race of the NZ secondary schools' category.
She describes the Fiji event as an "awesome" experience, finishing second overall (beating all the blokes) and the second female in the 2km race of a three-day series staged at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, Denarau Island, near Nadi, with day trips to Tivua Island, Malamala Beach Club Island and Natadola Beach.
"I'm very excited [about the series here] because you don't have too many open-water ones in Hawke's Bay," she says.
The former Frimley School and Heretaunga Intermediate pupil relishes having the opportunity to compete consistently in Napier to avoid the time and cost of travelling to other venues around the country.
"It's a bit of a shame that not a lot of people supported it [on Saturday]," Allen lamented. "I think it would have been awesome if more people had supported it."
However, she was pleasantly surprised to discover of the 50 odd swimmers who turned up were equally passionate about finding harmony with the open water as she was.
The Greendale Swim Club member doesn't see any conflict between the indoor and outdoor codes. In fact, she believes they are mutually beneficial.
"In the pool you are stuck on the black line in a small area," she says. "In the open water it makes such a difference because one day it could choppy and the next it's flat."
Allen says the reality is she wouldn't be excelling in her ocean-swim events had she not had the reinforcement from her pool sessions.
"For me it's focusing on developing the mental aspect knowing I have the proper training so I should be pushing myself more."
Add to those variables the element of unknown quantities in the field and the excitement levels become increasingly heightened on the playground.
"You never who you are racing alongside."
While still a competitive school pool swimmer she harbours a desire to foray into the open water a little more while raining the standards of her pool training with Greendale club mentor Gary Knight.
The teenager has chalked in the 10km race of the NZ Ocean Swim Championship on the weekend of January 12-13 in the hope of making the junior world championship.
The gym sessions twice a week at Flax Fitness with Knight have been an ideal mental fillip for her.
The Bay series is the brainchild of Dale Long, who says the number of entries had "surpassed our expectations" with a field age ranging from 10 to 76 competing over 500m, 1km and 2km.
"Our safety crew had to rescue two swimmers, one who cramped in both legs but they have made a full recovery," says Long, thanking the safety team for its expertise and other volunteer helpers.
Long expects numbers to increase in race two on Saturday, December 22, at Perfume Point due to the feedback received.
He anticipates entries will be lodged early via www.hboceanswim.co.nz or their Facebook page.
2018 Ocean Series Swim 15 to 19-year-olds:
■ Capital classic 3.3km — bronze.
■ The Big Tahuna 3km — gold.
■ The Big Tahuna 1km — first out of the water, gold.
■ King of the Bays 2.5km — bronze.
■ 15-19 female overall series — 4th.
February 2018, Taupo Across the Lake:
■ 1st female out of the water, 1st female youth.
January 2018, Swimming NZ 5km championship:
■ 5th female in NZ.
Epic Swim, January 2018:
■ 1km — gold.
■ 2.5km — bronze.
January 2018, New Zealand Secondary Schools' Open Water Swimming Championship:
■ 1km — gold.
■ 2.5km — gold.
■ 5km — bronze.
Ocean Swim Fiji in September, 2018:
■ 2nd female overall (beating all the men) over 2km.
■ 2nd overall in the 15-19 age-group category.