Two mates who ran out of petrol on a Hawke's Bay drive started an impromptu and "hard case" tourism attraction to get some money for fuel.

The pair's sign, enticing paying tourists to "swim with the eels" for $1, launched Felix Ellis-Jones, 24 from Napier, and his mate Stuart "Stu" Young, 26 from Flaxmere, into summer social media infamy when it was shared on a local Facebook group.

Ellis-Jones and Young told Hawke's Bay Today they were driving towards Clive from Napier recently when their car, coughed, spluttered and died due to an empty petrol tank.

"It's a bit of a hard case story," Ellis-Jones said.


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"We weren't in any type of a hurry and we ended up near the estuary (near Waitangi Regional Park) just before Clive, and decided to just go for a bit of a swim.

"It was a nice day so we ended up swimming down by the eels and we had never really done it before.

"It felt a bit weird but fun to have them swimming all around you and in-between your legs."

Although they were enjoying their swim they still had the problem of not having any petrol, so they decided to use the experience they were having in an attempt to make money.

The eels enjoyed a bit of a feeding frenzy. Photo / Supplied
The eels enjoyed a bit of a feeding frenzy. Photo / Supplied

"We had a fun time and wanted to share that a little so we made a sign from the stuff in our car saying 'Swim with the eels $1'.

"We didn't have our wallets on us so we thought we could get a few bucks from walkers and cyclists passing by to join us for a swim."

While it's a novel idea, the jury remains out about whether it would ever work as a tourism business.


Hawke's Bay Regional Council were asked what they thought of the sign that was put up but did not wish to comment on the matter.

The pair said they struggled to entice anybody to come down and join them.

After a couple of hours of limited success they called a few mates to join them with the eels, for a price.

"We didn't really have any luck with people passing by so we got a few of our mates to come down and gave them a little eel experience," Ellis-Jones said.

"They kindly donated $20 to get some fuel.

"Even though we ran out of gas it turned out to be a pretty fun day swimming with the eels after all."

The next day they went back to the scene and one of the pair's mates, Braden Arnold, tried to do a bit of fishing, which Ellis-Jones said scared some of the eels away and made a repeat of the business unviable.