… and boy are my arms tired!

Because the open water swimming community is relatively small and very friendly, a regular guy like me can start this story with “my swim buddy Jono…” without stretching the truth too much. So here goes…

My swim buddy Jono Ridler just swam over 60 miles… continuously, without a wetsuit, in really tough conditions. It’s the longest swim ever recorded in New Zealand waters. Besides the physical feat, he teamed up with the Live Ocean Foundation founded by Americas Cup and Olympic sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. They all used the swim to raise money and awareness of the terrible damage our Hauraki Gulf has suffered due to overfishing and pollution.

As you can see in the picture above, he finished slightly off the dotted line that shows the planned course. The wind and waves and rain were making the whole thing unsafe for him and for the support boats. He’d hoped to go another hour or so.

As a result of this course change, by the time I got to the finish line to welcome Jono ashore he’d already been bundled into an ambulance and taken to the hospital for observation. He’s fine. Those two little points of light on the right of the picture above are the support crew heading away to the marina. I was really sorry not to be there, although from the videos I saw of him getting out, he wouldn’t have known if I was there or not. He’d been in the water a looong time.

I’m so impressed with this swim. Jono has taken the physical gifts he won in the genetic lottery and combined them with a discipline and training focus that I can only observe from afar. But every Olympian does that, and every All-Black. The difference there is that many of those athletes are chasing the big money, or at least they have a framework for their efforts… there’s a highly evolved infrastructure of school sports, government sponsored training camps, and competitions they can slot into. Jono ain’t gonna get rich off this, that’s certain. He also had to invent the event, and recruit the support team, and find his sponsors. He had to build his own ice bath! That combination of athlete, impresario, manager, and team leader is astonishing to me.

What an achievement and what an inspiration.

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