Student to swim strait for charity

University of Otago student Hannah Morgan  trains at St Kilda yesterday for her swim across...
University of Otago student Hannah Morgan trains at St Kilda yesterday for her swim across Foveaux Strait in February. Photo: Peter McIntosh
An eight-to-10 hour swim in the notoriously rough waters of Foveaux Strait would deter most people — but not 20-year-old student Hannah Morgan, who plans to cross the stretch of water in February to raise money for charity.

The law and politics student said she had decided to take on the challenge after losing a friend to mental illness last year, and the money she raised would go to the Otago University Students’ Association and the Mental Health Foundation. It was not until she went to university that she realised the extent of mental health issues in New Zealand and how important it was to provide good mental health and wellbeing services, she said. She had been a "support person" for quite a few people while at university, which was hard on both her and them, she said.

"It’s a really difficult time for people who are studying."

She was aiming to swim the strait in 10 hours, but ideally she wanted to break the record set in 2016 by Chloe Harris and complete the challenge in less than eight and a-half hours. The usual course across the strait is about 30km, but how far swimmers end up swimming can depend on conditions.

The first person to cross the strait, back in 1963, was John van Leeuwen. He ended up swimming more than 50km and taking more than 13and a-half hours. To be officially recorded, Ms Morgan is not allowed to wear a wetsuit and would have to swim in togs. She is also not allowed flippers or flotation devices.

A national swimming champion for her age group as a teenager, Ms Morgan said it was rare for a swimmer to do more than 10km at a time. She was swimming between six and eight times a week and also doing cross-training eight or nine times a week to get in shape. After her exams ended at the end of the year, she would be stepping up the swimming component of her training, she said. She thought the strait would be about 13degC

when she traversed it on February 12, the warmest it would be all year. Feedback from students, when she told them what she was doing, had been "overwhelming", she said.

"I didn’t expect to have quite this much support early on." 

Through her Givealittle page she had raised more than $1300, and she was aiming to reach $15,000. 

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