Having swum in the hectic lanes of money markets as a stockbroker for years, semi-retired Dale Long yearned for a change of pace in life.

"I was a little stressed in my life and it was time to move on to different things," Long says with a laugh, revealing he has some share portfolios which are less demanding than dealing with clients.

Exercise beckoned so the 52-year-old from Tasmania, who moved to a 7ha property in Tukituki Valley two years ago with wife Maria Gigney, an architect, went back to the true-and-tried swimming pool.

"It can get boring swimming up and down a pool so one of the great things about ocean swimming is that you can choose your own course," says Long, who is launching the inaugural Hawke's Bay Ocean Swim Series in Napier.

Advertisement

"You don't have a black line and you don't have people in your lane," he says. "You pretty much have it to yourself."

The five-event Saturday series starts on November 24 and ends on March 30 next year although it takes a break on February 16 to avoid a clash with the annual Port of Napier Ocean Swim.

Long anticipates fewer than 100 competitors will enter the series races over 500m, for under-12 novices, 1km and 2km distances.

The Aussie, who prefers to be called a Tasmanian because they tend to be nicer, reckons ocean swimming offers a medicinal quality and that's why many people are drawn to it.

"I noticed that since being in the Hawke's Bay area there was quite a big demand for people using the facility outside Perfume Point there."

Long's preoccupation is with staging something regularly for enthusiasts with a focus on age groups at a course that is already set up.

"It's a reasonably safer environment than a lot of other areas."

He hopes to add other venues, for example at Waimarama Beach, to break the monotony if the success and demand are there in the following series.

Swimming is a code where people tend to fall away at the 30 mark but he believes its something they can return to because it's not taxing on the body.

He joins a "hardcore" group of swimmers at Pandora Pond on Saturday mornings in wetsuits.

"I had a swim with them in 14 degrees on a Saturday and it was a challenge," he says, confident the water temperatures will be significantly warmer this month.

Long has no intentions of treading on the toes of other ocean swim events that focus on a first-past-the-line races.

He hopes to grow the series in the next few years.

"Originally I was looking for a naming rights sponsor for the event and I had one meeting with a real estate firm, that shall remain nameless, so I thought I'm not sure if I want to do this."

Undeterred, Long has decided to fund it himself.

"I'm not going to make any money out of it for a few years but I'm happy to carry that at the moment.

"I'll look at a possibly naming rights sponsor for interested businesses who have their minds on community-based events rather than themselves down the track," he says.

Dale Long, of Napier, says ocean swimming offers a different challenge to enthusiasts than indoor pools. Photo / Paul Taylor
Dale Long, of Napier, says ocean swimming offers a different challenge to enthusiasts than indoor pools. Photo / Paul Taylor

Long started ocean swimming at 10, following in the footsteps of his older brother and 40 years on he's still enjoying the benefits of it.

"I have been a competitive swimmer twice a day since I was 10."

Having graduated with a teaching degree, he has coached at a swimming club in Australia to a national level.

He also has been involved with the annual Trans Derwent Swim, one of the longest-running Royal Hobart Regatta events in Tasmania.

Competitors swim the span of the Derwent River from Montagu Bay on the Eastern Shore to the Regatta Jetties on the Western Shore over a distance of about 1.5km. The adroit, including overseas entrants, tend to break the 15-minute mark.

"I've been doing those type of events for many years," says Long, who also competed in a similar event in Victoria.

While not coming into the Bay series as a complete novice as an organiser, he believes his role will be at a different level to what he's done.

He made it to the schools' age-group finals at the nationals but "wasn't good enough" to win a medal.

"It was quite a big achievement in Australia because it's quite competitive there."

At university, he took up triathlons with a "very good" swim but "ordinary" bike and a "very ordinary" run.

"I did okay," he says.

For those hesitant in making that transition from pools to open water, Long recommends starting with 20m and progressively increasing distances to build confidence.

"You then incorporate group swimming because it's much more intimidating than just swimming your own because it can get quite rough," he says.

"It's quite intimidating when someone is trying to strangle you while you're swimming towards a buoy," says Long, adding the novices should start at the back of the pack and a little wider to avoid a clash of bodies.

If people are interested they can contact him on the website: www.hboceanswim.co.nz