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Tankers are for Wimps! Crossing the Cook Strait New Zealand

By SwimTrek Team , 25 March, 2013

On Friday 22nd March, the SwimTrek Coach from Tooting Bec Lido became the fourth fastest person to swim across the 26km of the Cook Strait in an amazing time of 6 hours 15 minutes.  This swim is rated as one of the world's toughest marathon swims and by completing this challenge Dan has joined an elite group of only eighty swimmers to ever complete this crossing.  To discover what motivated Dan and how he felt before, we asked him a few questions about his adventure. 

1) What made you want to swim the Cook Strait?

There are a few reasons; I was looking to do one of the recognised challenging marathon swims in the world. I am a New Zealander and very few people have swum Cook Strait (including mine only 80 people have ever successfully swum it). Last year 12 people attempted it and only 3 were successful.   I also know and respect the Cook Strait swim guide, Philip Rush (he has completed a triple English channel and a double Cook Strait swim) it was a great opportunity to complete a swim under his tutelage. 

2) What were the waters like?

Water temperature was mid 15C, very clear and very calm in the first 2/3 of the swim. That's not to say there weren't tides and currents to deal with. When I started the last 1/3 of the swim the tide/current met an opposing wind and it was like swimming in a washing machine.

3) Did you struggle at any point physically or mentally?

I wouldn't say I struggled, I have a huge swim experience behind me, I prepared well mentally and physically. That's not to say it was easy, standing on the shore looking at the other Island at the start is hard enough. I had an amazing crew of 6 providing encouragement and support on the day out of two boats.

Conditions were ideal for the crossing. Philip Rush initially encouraged me to swim slightly faster than I had planned in order to beat the current. I achieved half way by 2.5 hours and my crew were quite excited. I explained that I was 37 years old not 27 and wasn't sure what was left in the tank. We decided I should push hard and see what kind of time I could achieve. At the 5 hour mark I was very fatigued and that's when I hit the tide and wind. That was physically the hardest part of the swim. I am a good swimmer so was able to work through the rough water in around 45 minutes and focused on keeping my stroke together for the last 30 minutes to the North Island.

4) Did you see any marine wildlife of interest?

A pod of dolphins came for a look and many sea birds. Thankfully no sharks. Philip Rush advises that 1 in 6 swimmers in Cook Strait can expect a visit from a shark. He explains that they are well fed and are only coming for a look - I am not sure how reassuring that is.

5) What did you feel like when you got in and realised your time?

Very very chuffed.

6) How do you feel now?

3 days on and I am still pretty sore although everything seems to be in working order. I am just off for a massage soon to help with the recovery. I have the final round of the State NZ Ocean Swim Series in Auckland in two weeks, I have a chance to win my age category so I won't be spending too much time out of the water.

7) What's next? Any more challenges on the horizon?

I am going to savor this swim for a while. There are plenty of great marathon swim opportunities in the world these days and I would be lying if I said I was not tempted. For now I will be finishing the Open water swimming / coaching season in New Zealand and preparing to return to London and the Tooting Bec Lido in time for the glorious rays of sunshine that will be appearing in May and June. I will be based at the Tooting Lido sharing my swim knowledge with open water swimmers and triathletes throughout the summer and look forward to enjoying some more social open water swim opportunities throughout the UK summer. 

Learn to swim in the open water with Dan

SwimTrek offers private 1-2-1 open water swim lessons with Dan for beginners, intermediate and advanced swimmers and triathletes, who wish to improve their technique, efficiency or swim speed. 1-2-1 private lessons will give you the full benefit and attention of your Coach. Find out more about our London Open Water Swimming training sessions.

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