News Archive

June 2018

Our first IPP Camp for 2018

Over the Queens Birthday weekend break, rather than taking time away from the pool, 21 of our IPP Squad swimmers took part in a three day camp in Cambridge.  The pool sessions were held at the St Peter's School facility and the swimmers stayed at the Podium Lodge, Cambridge's newest sport focussed accommodation.

Hub Head Coach Darren Ward put together a busy three day programme which included anthropometric testing, race simulation and presentations from Sports Psych David Galbraith, PJ Williams from the NZ Rugby 7's team and Waikato Chiefs and Alice Sharples who works with the Waikato Chiefs on their nutrition requirements.

It was a fantastic three days and awesome to get the following feedback from Darren on his first session with many of these swimmers ...

One of the real positives from the IPP Camp was the approach of our more senior swimmers; I felt they led by example over the three days.
My concern was that they would bring an "I know everything already" approach to the camp but this was far from the case.

A special mention of Claudia Ashby, Andrew Jeffcoat, Luke Mitchell and Paige Flynn - I felt these four swimmers were a hugely positive influence on the squad as they took on each and every challenge set before them. They encouraged the swimmers and helped prepare them for the race-simulation, these are exactly the types of role models we need in the sport.

A huge thank you also to Ken Nixon, Graham Smith, Helen Barr, Alison Fitch and Matt Teokotai White who helped support the swimmers throughout the Race Simulation, it allowed us to provide more constructive race feedback to the swimmers. In future I would like to see more of our coaches supporting these camps, they provide a huge learning opportunity for everyone involved.

Overall, I was very pleased with the standard of swimming during the simulation; we had a huge number of personal best times over the weekend.  It was interesting to see how certain swimmers really stepped up for this Camp, even though some had been at the Pathway camp which was hosted just a few weeks earlier.  A few examples (not an exhaustive list) of these are below:

Tyler Tapper (400 Free)
Entered on a 4:19.77, Pathway Camp = 4:23.56, IPP Camp =4:16.21

Laura Littlejohn (200 Free)
Entered on a 2:21.45, Pathway Camp = 2:18.83, IPP Camp = 2:15.78

Amelia Glover (200 Free)
Entered on a 2:13.99, Pathway Camp 2,15:87, IPP Camp = 2,12.69

The Race-Sim was not so much about the times but how the swimmers approached the race and the race itself.   I feel that there was a big step-up in attitude and performance from the 2nd evening of swims from the Pathway Squad and as a result the pre-swim dynamic warm up and pool warm ups were much better conducted.

I'm really looking forward to continuing to work with these swimmers throughout 2018.  

In 2019, our current squad structure will be superceded by our Swimmer Development Pathway which gives all our swimmers the opportunity to qualify for our three squads - Pathway / Potential / TAPs.  You can read about the Pathway here.



Congratulations to our 2018 SNZ Awards Evening Finalists

It's great news that we have three swimmers who have been named as Finalists for the 2018 Swimming New Zealand Awards - Bradlee Ashby, Andrew Jeffcoat and Jesse Reynolds.  A huge congratulations to these three.

Here's the full list of all finalists -

New Zealand Swimming Alumni – Harlequins Zonal Emerging Swimmer of the year (eligible for the overall Emerging Swimmer of the Year).
Callum Prime (North Shore Swimming Club)
Finn Kennard-Campbell (North Shore Swimming Club)
Michael Pickett (North Shore Swimming Club)

New Zealand Swimming Alumni – Aqua Knights Zonal Emerging Swimmer of the year (eligible for the overall Emerging Swimmer of the Year).
Andrew Jeffcoat (Fairfield Swimming Club)
Tyler Finau (Enterprise Swim Club)
Zac Reid (Aquabladz New Plymouth Swimming Club)

New Zealand Swimming Alumni – All Stars Zonal Emerging Swimmer of the year (eligible for the overall Emerging Swimmer of the Year).
Atakura Julian (Capital Swim Club)
Chelsey Edwards (SwimZone Racing)
Thomas Watkins (Capital Swim Club)

New Zealand Swimming Alumni – Makos Zonal Emerging Swimmer of the year (eligible for the overall Emerging Swimmer of the Year).
Celyn Edwards (Selwyn Swim Club)
Hannah Bates (Aquagym Swimming Club)
Quinton Hurley (Jasi Swim Club)

Bill Matson Technical Official of the Year
Carlrine Gillespie (Northland)
Helen Tait (Canterbury West Coast)
Noel Stevens (Wellington)

Volunteer of the Year
Helene Helms (North Shore Swimming Club)
Jacqui Forsythe (Wellington)
Wayne Rollinson (Canterbury West Coast)

New Zealand Masters Swimmer of the Year
*winner announced at awards.

Para swimmer of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Swimmer of the Year Award)
Chris Arbuthnott (Ice Breaker Aquatics)
Jesse Reynolds (Fairfield Swimming Club)
Sophie Pascoe (QEII Swim Club)

Open Water Swimmer of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Swimmer of the Year Award)
Charlotte Webby (Aquabladz New Plymouth Swimming Club)
Matthew Scott (Enterprise Swim Club)
Stefannie Gillespie (Zenith ASC)

Domestic Swimmer of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Swimmer of the Year Award)
Bradlee Ashby (Fairfield Swimming Club)
Emma Robinson (Capital Swim Club)
Lewis Clareburt (Capital Swim Club)

Swimming New Zealand Coach of the Year
Andy McMillan (North Shore Swimming Club)
Gary Hollywood (Capital Swim Club)
Roly Crichton (QEII Swim Club)

International Swimmer of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Swimmer of the Year Award)
Bradlee Ashby (Fairfield Swimming Club)
Corey Main (Howick Pakuranga)
Emma Robinson (Capital Swim Club)
Lewis Clareburt (Capital Swim Club)


May 2018

Check out these international selections

We're very proud to see the Waikato Swimmers & Coaches selected for upcoming NZ Swimming Squads!
We know you guys will rock these meets Waikato style!

Oceania Championship Team
Georgina McCarthy (Hillcrest)
Thomas Raymond (St Peter’s)
Paige Flynn (St Peter’s)
Daniel Caldwell (St Peter’s)
Andrew Jeffcoat (Fairfield)
Head Coach – Graeme Laing (Matamata)
Coach - Matt Teokotai White (Hillcrest)

Japan Open, Tokyo
Bradlee Ashby (Fairfield)
Vanessa Ouwehand (St Peter’s)
Cultural Support – Kazuko Tapper (St Peter’s)

Marathon Open Water World Series
Hannah Blackwood (St Peter’s)
Head Coach Carl Gordon (St Peter’s

2018 Australian State Team Championships Team
Peyton Tofaeono (Hillcrest)
Sarah Miller (St Pauls)
Danyon Hardie (ACE)

Food for Thought

You'll be aware that a number of the regions in New Zealand are banning the use of Technical Race Suits for junior swimmers and this is a topic that we'll be discussing later in the year.

Click here to read an article on Tech Suits that was published in the New York Times just a few days ago.   It's an interesting and timely international take on this topic.


If you are competing at Open level events this year (both Long Course and Short Course National Championships), you are classed as a national level athlete by Drug Free Sport NZ (DFSNZ). This means that you could be subject to drug testing, and there are a few things you need to be aware of.

If you’re currently taking prescribed medication which is on the Prohibited List, you will need to have a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) in place BEFORE you compete in these events. The TUE will need to be applied for well in advance and will need to cover the duration of the event in which you are competing.

If you are drug tested and found to have a prohibited substance in your blood or urine sample and you do not have a TUE, then you are putting your swimming career at risk and could face a ban from all sport.

This year, some common medications which are permitted in sport have had their thresholds lowered. For example, Ventolin/Salbutamol which is used to treat asthma. The intake is now limited to a maximum of 1600 micrograms over 24 hours (for this brand, the threshold would be reached after 16 puffs over 24 hours). If you need to use your inhaler more often around competitions, then you will need a TUE.

If you are not sure what a TUE is, or if you are unsure about which medications are on the Prohibited List or the threshold limits, we strongly encourage you to visit the DFSNZ website, which has all the information you need to ensure you compete clean.

For information on the TUE process, please click here

To access the free online medication check, please click here

For overall anti-doping information, please contact Drug Free Sport NZ:

Phone: 0800 DRUGFREE
Medication Text service 4365 (cost 20c)

Jan Cameron a driving force behind Swimming New Zealand's high performance development has died suddenly.

Former New Zealand swimming coach Jan Cameron has died suddenly in Queensland, aged 70.

Cameron, who Swimming Australia confirmed on Monday night passed in the early hours of Monday morning, was widely seen as the driving force behind the setting up of New Zealand swimming's first high performance programme.

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 8.26.39 AM

Read more

April 2018

Everyone's timing is different.

I thought I’d share this video with you all…
I believe it is extremely relevant, especially for our swimmers currently in High School.

I was 23 when I began University, roughly the same time when many of my friends were graduating and starting careers. Until this time, I had shown very little interest in Academics, it just didn’t inspire me. I felt like I was being left behind, that I had stepped off the path that was intended for me; This is of course a lot of nonsense.

The idea of 13 or 14 year old me dictating the rest of my life is a bizarre concept, this is a lot of responsibility for a young teenager with little life experience.

We all move at our own pace and there is no need to follow someone else’s timeline.

Do what you love and love what you do.

Darren Ward

Swimming Waikato - Hub Head Coach

Finally - it starts today !

Today marks the start of  what is a pinnacle meet for many swimmers in the Waikato and throughout New Zealand.

And we're wishing our Waikato Team of 69 swimmers all the very best as they take to the water this morning at the 2018 National Age Group Champs.  You can follow all the action on Meet Mobile or if you're lucky enough to be near your computer, SNZ are live streaming all heats and finals.

You can check out our Waikato team here.

Update on the sale of NAGs tickets from Swimming New Zealand

Over the weekend, there has been a large amount of email traffic relating to the sale of NAGs tickets that included some inaccuracies particularly the number of seats available to spectators for purchase.  So, notwithstanding that fact that many of you do not agree with how the tickets have been allocated and/or sold and have made many suggestions about how this could be improved moving forward, I would like to take this opportunity to provide some facts around the number of tickets available for sale at each session as follows:

  1. There are 1,274 seats available within the pool hall (706 permanent seats upstairs and 568 temporary seats on poolside) for swimmers, coaches/managers and spectators.
  2. With entries closing tonight, we are forecasting at least 700 swimmers and approximately 200 coaches and managers to be registered/attending.
  3. Therefore, 71% of all seats available are allocated to swimmers and coaches/managers.
  4. Of the 369 spectator seats available per session for purchase (there were only 70 spectator seats per session available last year in Wellington) 130 (or 35%) have been pre-allocated to regions and 180 (49%) were sold online last week.
  5. The (min) of 59 seats per session still available will go on sale next Monday at 12 noon  - max 2 tickets per purchase.
  6. There will be door sales available to re-sell tickets from ticket holders who leave part way through the sessions (as has been the case in previous years).
  7. There will be live streaming of all heats and finals sessions free of charge to all (significantly improved production quality from previous years).

There is no question that as the numbers of swimmers qualifying for these events increases, it is putting increased pressure on our ability to accommodate all spectators.  We simply don’t have facilities big enough to cater for all swimmers and all spectators wanting to attend (maybe the new pool in Christchurch will change this?).  The solutions being suggested eg increasing qualifying times, splitting the event (boys/girls or by age groups), North and South with a ‘finals meet’ etc all have their own pros and cons and will therefore be liked by some and criticised by others but we are looking at all options and will be discussing these with regions soon.

Further details re the final allocation of tickets will be circulated later this week once entries have closed and we can then confirm the actual numbers of tickets available.

Kind regards



Steve Johns
Chief Executive Officer

Swimming New Zealand
14 Antares Place, Mairangi Bay, Auckland 0632
P O Box 30 2145, Auckland 0751
P +64 9 478 2916  M +64 21 773 173

March 2018

Waikato Academy for Young Achievers

It is coming to that time of year again where Wilss are going through the final stages of planning for their Waikato Academy for Young Achievers.

This year, they're excited to present their programme to the 2018 Athletes with confirmed presentations by;

  •  Dr Matt Kritz from Athlete Nation
  • Matt Gordon – NZ Representative in Power lifting
  • Kristie Baillie – NZ Representative in Athletics Track

With more to be confirmed in the weeks coming…

This year, they're delivering in 3 Districts -

  • Hamilton – Friday 11th May – Friday 29th June 5.30 – 7pm
  • South Waikato – Saturday 5th May & 19th May 1pm – 5pm
  • Thames/Hauraki – Sunday 12th and 19th August 10am – 3pm

Attached is a programme brochure and if you'd like to nominate your athletes, please follow this link:

Or return a completed nomination form to the Wilss offices.

And if you have any queries, please contact Katie Horne -

Our Swimmer Development Pathway

Our Regional Swimming Hub programme includes a Swimmer Development Pathway which is designed to support our club programmes through the provision of additional support for identified swimmers.   The Pathway provides a great opportunity to bring together the top swimmers and coaches in our region, providing combined training and education programmes and the opportunity to have some fun as our swimmers are challenged with new concepts and activities.

With the arrival in January of our new Hub Head Coach, Darren Ward, we’ve been looking at all the programmes that form part of our Regional Swimming Hub programme to ensure they are supporting swimmers at the right stages of their development.  And as a result, we’ve finalised a Swimmer Development Pathway which we believe will support identified swimmers to achieve their competitive goals.  In doing this, we have amended the qualification standards for the previous squads that operated within the Waikato.  Our new Swimmer Development Pathway includes the following squads –

  • TAPs
  • Potential
  • Pathway
  • XLR8

Attached is the selection criteria for the three top squads (Pathway / Potential / TAPs) which includes an overview of the Squad programmes.

Please note that the Swimmer Development Pathway starts with our XLR8 Achievers Club and attached is a brochure providing more information about this programme.

A few things to note –

  • Swimmers have the 2018 calendar year to qualify for a place on one of these squads for the 2019 year so now is a great time to get a clear understanding of what is required to qualify.  Swimmers should be encouraged to work with their club coaches to identify goals and set target.
  • The selection criteria for Pathway, Potential and TAPs squads is based around FINA points – there are a number of ways to calculate FINA points – here’s the link to one option –
  • The criteria document includes an application form.  It is the individual swimmers’ responsibility to apply for a position in a squad.

Hopefully the attached is self-explanatory but if you have any questions, please just ask !

2018 Division II

Eighty-one of our Waikato swimmers are competing at Division II in 2018.  And it's awesome to see swimmers from some of our smaller clubs, like Mercury Bay, Te Aroha, Te Kuiti and Whangamata,  taking part this year.  With just over a week until they head to the meet, we wish them all the very best of luck.  You can see the full team list below.

February 2018

Blether from our resident Weegie (Chat from our resident Glaswegian)

I am writing this exactly one month from the date which I stepped into the role as Hub Head Coach of Swimming Waikato. In that month, I have had the fortune to have met numerous swimmers, coaches, volunteers, parents and board members, all of whom make up the key elements of the sport of swimming in this region. You have all made me feel very welcome and at home here in the Waikato, I thank you all for this.

It is easy to step into a new position and identify key areas that need improvement, this always comes with a set of fresh eyes. The hard part is to convince those around you that change is required and that your vision for change is the correct path. Where I am fortunate is that my predecessor had identified similar key areas and began the process of improvements, all with the buy-in from the vast majority of key players within our region.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thanks Clive for his efforts in building a working swimmer pathway in the region and for inspiring and energising so many swimmers and coaches. On behalf of Swimming Waikato, I’d like to wish Clive the very best for his retirement.

I am very much looking forward to our first Pathway Squad meeting and to having the opportunity to speak to many of our young and emerging talent. More information on the run-down of the day will be emailed to that group closer to the date.

As mentioned in previous correspondence, there will be alterations to the 2019 qualifying procedure for Swimming Waikato Squads. This will be made available on our website in March, there will be set reminders sent out by social media and by email, so you can all stay updated.

That’s it for me, all that is left to say is that I hope all our swimmers are working hard and having fun!

Best wishes
Darren Ward

Emerging Secondary School Technical Official of the Year

It's a new trophy, and one that we hope will encourage our swimmers to give back to the sport.  After all, our swimmers have attended many, many meets that have taken place because we have people within our community who love the sport and are happy to give up their time to volunteer for the cause.

The trophy also provides the opportunity for any student, with a passion for volunteering, to support the delivery of swimming and become a member of our swimming community.

We'll be awarding our Emerging Secondary School Technical Official of the Year Trophy for the first time at our 2018 Swimming Waikato Awards Evening so if you are one of our current swimmers, or a student with a passion for philanthrophy, email and she'll let you know how to get on the Technical Officials Pathway.

You've Heard It All Before

We need more officials - it's that simple.  We need to give our current team of officials the opportunity to develop their officiating knowledge, and have a break during some of our swim meets.  And we need to ensure some sustainability in this area going forward.

In an endevour to grow our team of officials, we have implemented a minimum ratio of one official for every four competitive swimmers at each club.

We’re sure you can work out if your club has the minimum number of officials required based on this ratio and if not, please consider giving it a go at one of our upcoming meets.  You'll be making a huge difference to the hundreds of young people in the Waikato who have chosen swimming as their sport.

And here's a fun fact - at one of our recent swim meets, one of our Judges of Stroke walked 9.6kms, so it's a great form of exercise too !

Our next meet - Waikato Juniors

It's that time of the year again, when hundreds of our junior swimmers come together to showcase all that they've learned and practised over the previous 12 months.  Our 2018 Waikato Junior Champs are being hosted at St Peter's School on the 10th and 11th of March and we're looking forward to a great couple of days of racing.

Yes, it's about medals, finalist ribbons and trophies, but it's also about swimming your best, never giving up, and maybe even achieving some personal best times.  It's about cheering for the other swimmers from your club and making friends with swimmers from neighbouring clubs.  It's about two days of celebrating swimming and this year, it's about dressing up in your best disco threads and maybe even busting out some disco moves as we introduce a fancy dress session.

Looking forward to seeing heaps of  you there !


Trainer of the Week

The Trainer of the Week is another new Swimming Waikato initiative.  It's about acknowledging a swimmer at each Club who has put in an awesome week of training.  They've turned up on time, carried out their dryland warm up and have had plenty of food to fuel their training.  They're focused and they've given 110% at each session.

The weekly recipient of the Award is chosen by the Club Coach and is presented with a "Trainer of the Week" kick board which he/she gets to train with until the next award ceremony.  But first, the deserved swimmer gets to write their name, in permanent marker, on the kick board - so it's like a floating honours board. By the end of the year, it'll carry the names of all the swimmers who have received this Award.

We've sent information about this initiative to our Coaches and we're hoping to see our "Trainer of the Week" initiative being used extensively throughout our Clubs during 2018.

Our Coach Development Pathway

Our updated Strategic Plan has a big focus on delivering swim teacher and coach development opportunities so that we can support our coaches and swim teachers to deliver fantastic programmes to the swimmers within their clubs.

Over the past month, we've looked closely at the coach education programmes available through Swimming New Zealand and the New Zealand Swim Coaches and Teachers Association (NZSCTA); we've undertaken an honest review of what we have delivered over the past two years; and we've identified a number of gaps in the information that is readily available for our coaches and swim teachers.

As a result, we've developed a Swimming Waikato Coach Development Pathway that offers opportunities for our coaches and swim teachers to develop skills and knowledge in the areas of real relevance for them.

The Pathway includes the delivery of SNZ Qualifications, access to online education modules, clinics, mentoring and scholarships.  The starting point in our Pathway is the Teacher of Competitive Strokes Course (TOCs).   Once that qualification is achieved, it opens the door for a wide variety of development opportunities and support.

Click here to read more about our Coaches Pathway is attached – if you’re interested in jumping aboard, please contact Darren –


Is your Club doing something pretty innovative?

Growing a successful and sustainable swimming club can, at times, be challenging, especially when committees are wrestling with problems that may seem unique to their club.  In reality, many of our clubs have very similar challenges and many are solving their challenges in new and creative ways.

At Swimming Waikato, we love sharing and celebrating all the tiny steps and wins along the way,  so we are giving all our clubs the opportunity to share their ‘best practice stories’ with us.  These case studies will be a great way to showcase the fun and creative ways that our clubs are overcoming everyday challenges and share the new initiatives being implemented around our region.

The best practice success stories will provide insights and inspiration, together with detailed actions that clubs have taken to overcome challenges so everyone can learn and benefit from experience.  It’s also a great way to promote your club and share your success stories with stakeholders.

Our aim is to share as many stories as possible so if you have a best practice story to share, please complete the Swimming Waikato ‘Sharing your best practise’ questionnaire which is attached and sent it to

These case studies will be published on our website and a copy will be given to the club to post on their website and to share with their stakeholders.


SNZ Meet Updates - Div II and NZSS

A couple of important meet updates from Swimming New Zealand -

2018 Division 2 Championships –
Rotorua Aquatic Centre
18th March - 21st March 2018

The “IM Rule” –  “Swimmers must have achieved a qualifying time in the 100m, 200m or 400m IM to be eligible to enter this meet (They do not need to enter an IM, they only need to meet the qualifying time). Any swimmers that haven’t met this criteria once entries have closed will be removed from the meet.”

After consultation with the Events Advisory Committee and coaches we have decided to suspend this rule immediately pending a review into its intended purpose.

Qualifying times will not change and all swimmers shall only enter qualified events.

2018 New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships.

The venue for this meet has been confirmed as the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre, Kilbirnie.

The meet will be Short Course (25m)

Dates: September 13th – 16th 2018 (we will be adding a Thursday night session)

More information will be released in March. (Events schedule, qualify times etc)

We're purchasing Backstroke Ledges

We've identified a fantastic Backstroke Ledge product - check out the website here -

Our Hub Coach, Darren Ward, has used this product extensively overseas and has said it's a fantastic option for backstrokers.  Plus it's built to FINA regulations so we can use them at all our swim meets.

Our plan is to purchase ten of these and seeing they are able to be used with any block, we'll be able to loan them to our Clubs to use at their Club hosted swim meets also.

We'd like to offer our Clubs an opportunity to purchase a backstroke ledge.  Purchasing a ledge for your club would provide your swimmers with an opportunity to train using these ledges and at a cost of NZ$ 510 each, it's a cost effective option.  If you would like to purchase a ledge (or two), please email

Meet Entry Fees for 2018/19

The Board of Swimming Waikato annually reviews its meet entry fees, taking into account both the cost of hosting, and the focus on keeping meets as affordable as possible for our swimmers and their families.

The meet entry fees for the 2018 / 2019 season have been set at -

Meets without prize money / medals:   $8.25 per event

Meets with prize money / medals:  $$9.25


Our new approach to Waikato Championship Meets

As you’ll be aware, we have always applied one ‘age as at’ date for our annual Championship meets.  These meets are –

  • Distance Champs
  • Reverse Distance Champs
  • Junior Champs
  • Senior Champs

The 'age as at date' changes each year to align with the date of our first championship meet of the season and as a result, we have a different group of swimmers who are affected (both positively and negatively) by the changes in the ‘age as at’ date each year.

After much discussion, we have decided that going forward, we will follow the lead from other sports and adopt one date annually as our  ‘age as at’ date for all our championship meets, regardless of when the meets are held.

This will take effect from the start of the 2018/19 swimming season and the date will 31 December.

Apologies to those swimmers who feel they have been unfairly impacted in the past, however, we are confident that having a standardised  ‘age as at’ date will clarify this issue for our swimmers going forward.

Any questions, please just ask.

A tribute to Dawn Davidson

Last week, we lost a very special member of our swimming community.  Dawn Davidson was a long time supporter of swimming in the region, and a Life Member of Swimming Waikato.

We asked another of our life members, Merle Jonson, to share her memories of Dawn ...

"I cannot actually remember when I first crossed paths with Dawn but it would have been at least forty five years ago when we were both young mums with kids in swimming.

Dawn for many years was the learn to swim teacher at Otorohanga where she also coached the various squad levels as well as holding down a full time teaching position at Otorohanga College.  She always had an eye out for someone to assist in the learn to swim area and has tutored many people to join her during the years.

She was a very competent and efficient technical official and spent many hours encouraging others to take part in this very worthwhile experience as well as officiating at Waikato, National and International meets both in our area and around New Zealand.

For many years she was the backbone of the Otorohonga Swimming Club and represented that club well at all Swim Waikato meetings.  Dawn has held many positions on Swim Waikato and has represented Waikato Learn to Swim at a National Level.  She was a Waikato Delegate to New Zealand Swimming meetings on several occasions and was always upfront and forthright in her views.

“Aunty Dawn” as she was affectionately known will be remembered as a very loyal Swim Waikato advocate and participant in all the many aspects of our wonderful sport.

Go well Dawn may you Rest in Peace!"
Merle Jonson
Life Member
Swimming New Zealand


You don't need all the bells and whistles to make a difference.

Rochelle Fineanganofo, Team Manager for the Hukula Swim Club brought a team of six swimmers from Tonga to attend meets in NZ including our Hamilton Summer Meet.  We caught up with her to find out more about this club which is based in Nuku'alofa.

Rochelle is a founding member of the Hukula Swim Club, we asked her what had inspired her to start a swim club in Tonga.

“I was born in Australia and my children learnt to swim there.  Whilst holidaying in Tonga my children rescued people from the water, even though they were very young themselves.  I was pleased that they had the skills to do that.”  She decided that if they ever moved to Tonga she would have to do something to raise the level of water awareness to save more lives.

It all fell into place when she made the move to Nukalofa in 2010.  Rochelle and her husband founded the Hakula Swim Club to actively promote water safety skills and provide a place where children could learn to swim.

Even though Tonga is surrounded by water, Rochelle explained that people just don’t swim.  “There isn’t a word for swimming in the Tongan language.  When you get your feet wet or are sitting with your feet in the water it’s classed as swimming.  ‘Kakau’ is the word that is used but it is also the same word used for ‘shower’.  Swimming is tabu, it’s an attitude that is slowly changing with time but Aunties will still say “you’ll get sick if you go in the water”,  so swimming is not encouraged and as a result there are a lot of drownings.  Many get washed out from the reefs or get caught in rips.  There are places in town where children might get in the water but often get out of their depth.  The problem is a lack of water awareness” said Rochelle.

The club runs a busy Learn to Swim school and currently has 15 competitive swimmers.  Many of the children that come to the swim school have had ‘near drownings’ and their parents have brought them along to learn to swim.  They all become confident swimmers, and many are now ‘passing it forward’ and teaching at the swim school.

The club swims in a Naval Base boat harbour/lagoon in the mornings and in a 15m hotel pool in the afternoons.  They usually swim twice a week but leading into an overseas competition they will train 4 times a week.

The harbour is tidal, at low tide it’s about waist deep but at high tide it’s too deep for the younger swimmers.  The club built a pod for the little ones, so they can teach regularly no matter what the tide was doing.  Each morning they have to swim the lane ropes out and the harbour accommodates 5 lanes.  They can only practice diving at high tide and the pontoon does rock around quite a bit says Rochelle.  They are not able to practice backstroke starts and there are no flags to help judge turns.  When the swimmers do attend a meet with good facilities and dive blocks they usually get good times.  At the Summer Meet Mosese Fineaganofo got a 21 second PB in the 200m backstroke.  “All the swimmers did really well in their backstroke events this year”, said Rochelle.

Hukula Pod


Some of the competitive swimmers travel overseas twice a year, visiting NZ and Fiji to attend meets.  The club is constantly fundraising to make this happen and every little bit helps.  They put on a BBQ every Saturday outside the local shopping centre.  “We don’t sell soft drinks, we have coconuts to help promote healthy alternatives.”

“Once the children are old enough we have various challenge days to raise money. We do swims out to an island, it’s about 1.2km, 1.3m at low tide and 1.6m at high tide.  Sometimes we give them a 2-hour block and we see how many laps they can swim.

“Maybe we have made a little bit of a difference promoting water safety and have given children opportunities.”

Iki Tuitavake from the Hukula Swim Club qualified and went to the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas last year.

Rochelle and the Hakula Swim Club certainly prove that you don’t need all the bells and whistles, but with consistent effort and committment small swim clubs can making a difference.


Rochelle with her two children.

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