20km ocean swim for worthy cause

Luke Parker
20km ocean swim for worthy cause

Provided a cyclone doesn’t hit, 12 slightly mad swimmers will brave the cold temperatures and aggressive swells of the Hauraki Gulf in a bid to raise money for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter this month.

On 31 March, the swimmers will launch themselves off the Waiheke Island wharf and battle the ocean for 5-7 hours before arriving at the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust Chopper base in Mechanics Bay.

SEE ALSO: 1 million litres of rubbish collected

What crazy person could devise such a gruelling challenge?

Meet Olaf Adam.

“I raised the idea with a few of my colleagues,” Olaf says, “and because I’d fundraised for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter in the past, I felt the swim could provide a perfect opportunity to raise further donations and awareness of the important service the Chopper provides.”


No Sunday swim


If 20km by sea sounds like a difficult undertaking, that’s because it is, with some saying it’s like the equivalent of running 2 marathons.

Mark Lenaarts is one of the swimmers Olaf recruited, and says he’s been training for the past 20 weeks for this one clocking up around 450kms, including a 20km ocean swim in Perth a few weeks ago.

“I’m training 6 days a week with a weekly distance ranging from 20-35kms. My longest weekend ocean training swims have been 10-12kms.”

“You will see our faces and bodies at the end. We will be totally and utterly broken! It might be really emotional for some swimmers with a mixture of relief, elation and being totally shattered.”

Mark says the comradery of going through something so difficult is hard to describe. 

“Doing this as a small group of swimmers trying to do something special for a great cause makes it so much better. I just couldn't pass this chance up.”


The Hurt Box

Mark says the faster swimmers in the pack will be doing 4.5kms per hour and the others around 3-4kms.

“Most of our swimmers do a kilometre in the pool in 12-15 mins, but over a 20km double marathon distance they would do 15-20 mins per km including the regular food and drink breaks. It seems slow and steady over the first 10kms, but becomes harder and harder.

“They talk about the concept of a Hurt Box and that is a deep dark place that we will all be going at some stage between 10kms and 20kms. It may be like that for an hour, or even 3 hours. It will be different for everyone, but we will all go there.”


Flat Coke, jubes and caffeine pills

The best swimmer in the pack is experienced ocean swimmer Michael Buck, who says he will be taking quick breaks every 15 mins for food and hydration.

“It’ll be a mix of carb/electrolyte drinks, gels, electrolyte tablets, honey sandwiches, and then later in the swim flat Coke, jubes and caffeine pills. There will probably be a few pain killers in there too.”

He says it’s is quite hard to put the swim into context so that the everyday Kiwi understands the pain their bodies will be subjected to.

“Swimming 20kms could maybe be compared to running a double marathon although both present different challenges. Whilst running is harder on the body in terms of impact and strain, swimming in open water requires the ability to swim straight, to adjust your stroke to suit the conditions, to regulate your breathing, and also ensure no salt water is swallowed as this can wreak havoc on your guts and digestion.

“Basically I expect to be quite wrecked at the end of it.”

Waiheke swim map new


Show your support:

The ARHT’s Westpac Helicopter completed over 1,000 missions during 2015 across the greater Auckland region.

Olaf Adam says those who would like to donate and support the Westpac Rescue Helicopter can go to Chopper Swim Challenge.

“Having been part of this journey from the beginning, it has been incredible to watch this venture come to life. We found support from so many people and every day someone pipes up and offers help,” Olaf says.

“It shows how much the Chopper means to people. I particularly appreciate the guys who will support us on the water. Kayaking for 5-7 hours is tough – I don't think my back would cope.”

Chopper Swim Challenge

When: Thursday, March 31, 2016

What: Ocean swim from Waiheke Island to the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (Mechanic’s Bay Auckland)

Start time: 7.30am

Why: To raise money for the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust's Westpac Rescue Chopper

Donate: Chopper Swim Challenge

SEE ALSO: 1 million litres of rubbish collected

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