Tauranga schoolgirl Georgia Bavington has created a little piece of swimming history, becoming the youngest person to conquer the waters between Motiti Island and Papamoa.
Just two days after finishing second in her agegroup at the national 10km championships at Lake Taupo, the 14-year-old went even longer, swimming 11.1km in 3hrs 48mins 11secs yesterday, finishing between the flags at the Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club.
Despite lumpy conditions churned up by a steady north-easterly breeze and having to swim the entire distance with only a chase boat and kayaker for company, Bavington was delighted with how her first big ocean swim had gone.
“It was a bit easier than I thought it was going to be,” the Mount College student said. “I thought it was going to be a bit rougher than it was, that it would rain and the water would be colder than what it was but it was actually quite warm. The worst thing was the little jellies going into my togs and making me itchy but apart from that, it was really good.”
The Motiti swim has been on her radar since her Team Shorebreak coach and former Cook Strait swimmer Sheryl McLay first mooted it in October. There have been several recorded swims between Motiti and Maketu, beginning with Rotorua teenagers Stephen Joseph and John Haycock, who did it in 1969 after covering themselves in a mixture of grease and Vicks to ward off the cold. They enlisted some local swimmers to accompany them in a relay and turned a seven-mile journey into a 10 mile, six-hour epic, raising $1411 which was enough to cover the mortgage on the newly-built Maketu surf lifesaving clubrooms.
Legend also has it two Maori made the swim to Maketu; once when an ancient fleet of Manaia waka washed ashore on Motiti during a terrible storm and other in 1831 when a fleeing Ngapuhi raider took to the waters to escape a cleverly-hatched Motiti Islander ambush.
However, it wasn’t until 2006 that a 10-strong group of local Tauranga swimmers took the slightly-longer route to Papamoa, landing at Taylor Rd Reserve. Bavington’s journey covered yet more distance, taking her further down the coast to the Papamoa Domain, battling the swell and currents in the final third of her swim.
Having recently qualified as a lifeguard – her first day on patrol at the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service was on Sunday, sandwiched between her two epic swims – Bavington admits she’s loved the water ever since learning to swim as a 4-year-old.
And her summer of swimming isn’t over yet; her immediate sights are set on next month’s 3.3km Huka XStream down the Waikato River, followed by the 4.6km Rangitoto to St Heliers swim in March.
Footnote from Pukehina surf lifesaving identity Boyd Harris:
There have been a couple other swims from Motiti, ending at the Maketu Surf Lifesaving Club, a distance of 12.5km.
- Former Maketu lifeguards Donny Reid, Leanne Reid and Bronwyn Hamilton swam it solo in 1997, along with 15 others in relay.
- In 2006 Donny Reid, Boyd Harris and Nathan Harris completed the swim as memory to Peter Harris, another ex-Maketu lifeguard who had sadly passed away.
- In 2015 Todd Rowan, Donny Reid, Boyd Harris and Philip O’Reilly swam it solo, along with two relay teams from the Chiefs Super Rugby team and Te Puke Sports Rugby Club. This was a fundraising effort for James Reid to support some medical procedures he needed. This event was supported by Maketu SLSC, Maketu Coastguard, Maketu Fire Brigade and Maketu Waka Ama, along with many many local identities and people from the surrounding district.
- There was another solo effort timed in with the Kaimona festival but unsure how that went.