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Live Ocean attracts strong mainstream media following for "Save The Gulf" swim record

by Jodie Bakewell-White/Live Ocean & Sail-World/nz 5 May 2023 17:55 PDT 6 May 2023
Jono Ridler enters the final stretch on his 100km ultra-marathon swim © Joshua McCormack and Gareth Cooke

In the days leading up to the Final of the SailGP Grand Prix, Jono Ridler (33) completed a non-stop unassisted open water swim from Aotea Great Barrier Island to Campbells Bay, on Auckland's North Shore. The swim attracted considerable mainstream media attention to the parlous environmental state of the Hauraki Gulf, which is one of the projects of Live Ocean.

The three day record attempt achieved strong media cut-through, with it being covered on both NZ mainstream primetime News channels, crossing live for an update on the final day of the finish.

Swimming for more than 33 hours, Jono’s Swim4TheGulf pushed him to the absolute edge of his physical and mental limits, emerging from the breakers at Campbells Bay on Auckland’s North Shore on Wednesday evening. This Gulf swim, supported by Live Ocean, was more than double the distance of his previous longest, and well surpassed the standing New Zealand record which stands at 80.8km.

With light winds on day one, Tuesday 2 May, Jono tracked west initially rounding Hauturu Little Barrier Island in the evening before turning left and swimming through the night and coming ashore at Campbells Bay at 7:13pm on Wednesday 3 May.

For the final stretch he showed remarkable determination to push through deteriorating conditions with northerly winds increasing to 25knots and a very choppy sea state.

Public support for Jono’s monumental effort has been overwhelming as people only came to grips with the harrowing physical and mental challenge he took on, as it unfolded. Messages of support and encouragement flooded across Live Ocean and Jono’s social media channels, particularly as he entered day two of the swim and conditions deteriorated.

After reaching Campbells Bay Jono walked ashore unassisted flanked by members of his swim support crew. Swimming for this long non-stop was unchartered territory for Jono. As planned immediately after coming ashore he transferred to a waiting ambulance to warm up while being monitored. Having gone to his limits Jono spent last night under medical observation and refuelling in hospital.

He’s tired and sore, but in good spirits.

“The swim was everything I had hoped for, it was an amazing adventure, and I was pushed to my mental and physical limits. Most importantly, we got people engaged and talking about the state of the Hauraki Gulf. But the work doesn’t stop here - it’s time to see action,” said Jono after a night ashore.

Live Ocean founders Blair Tuke and Peter Burling join his call for government to action the plan they announced in 2021 to restore and protect the Hauraki Gulf, Tikapa Moana Te Moananui-a-Toi.

Blair Tuke, who went on the water in support on Day 2, says, “The Live Ocean whanau is incredibly proud of what Jono has achieved, and New Zealanders can be too. Swimming for 33 hours across the Gulf, non-stop, no wetsuit - it’s a massive, unprecedented achievement. Let’s make it count.”

Pete Burling adds, “Jono showed huge courage taking on something most of us find hard to even get our heads around. Now it’s time for government to show a level of ambition that matches Jono’s effort and prioritise protection and restoration of the Hauraki Gulf to ensure its here and thriving into the future.”

Chief Executive of the Hauraki Gulf Forum Alex Rogers says Jono’s monumental effort should be more than enough to make decision-makers deliver on commitments; “We all want to see a beautiful, biodiverse, abundant Hauraki Gulf that is full marine life and a source of joy and sustenance for future generations.”

“It’s possible if we stop pointing fingers and get on with protecting and restoring the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. We need to leave more of it alone and reduce our impacts on it from activities both at sea and on land.”

A team of observers followed the process required for a submission to the Marathon Swimmers Federation and its anticipated Jono’s Swim4TheGulf will surpass New Zealand’s current record (which stands at the 80.8km) and be marked as the longest continuous solo-unassisted open-water swim recorded in Aotearoa New Zealand. A remarkable achievement in challenging conditions.

To achieve the record Jono’s course is measured straight line distance between waypoints – which may differ from the distance log on the tracker. Just what distance record he has achieved may take some time to verify and Jono’s swim will now be put forward for record ratification; the process may take a month or more.

Before Swim4TheGulf Jono had previously conquered New Zealand’s ‘Triple Crown’ of marathon swimming – the west Aucklander swum 23km crossing Cook Strait in 2019, 40.4km up Lake Taupo in 2020, and 28.6km crossing Foveaux Strait in 2021.

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