'Flying' down the Upper Waiau River

Swimmers entering the water in the Upper Waiau River at the Control Gates in Te Anau for the...
Swimmers entering the water in the Upper Waiau River at the Control Gates in Te Anau for the start of the “fast” Swim from Control Gates to Queens Reach Swing Bridge. Photos: Julie Walls
Swimmers navigating the Upper Waiau River during the “fast” swim, with all swimmers having...
Swimmers navigating the Upper Waiau River during the “fast” swim, with all swimmers having support crew.
Swimmers navigating the Upper Waiau River during the “fast” swim, with support crews alongside.
Swimmers navigating the Upper Waiau River during the “fast” swim, with support crews alongside.

A special race challenge to members of the Fiordland Endurance and Adventure Racing Society (FEAR) to test swimmers' abilities to take on the Upper Waiau River.

14 swimmers took up the challenge to a 12 km Fast swim on (Saturday 9 February) starting at 3.00pm from Control Gates and finishing at Queens Reach Swing bridge. Swimmer Ron Hutchinson was the fastest clocking up 1 hour 8minutes.

The followed day 8 intrepid swimmers swam the 35km Long Swim (Sunday 10 February) starting at 9.00am from the shore of Lake Te Anau, swim 3km and walk around the weir, then swim the length of the Upper Waiau River to Lake Manapouri and continuing on to Frasers Beach. Richard Jongens making it home in 5.27.

This is the second year the Fiordland Endurance & Adventure Racing Society (FEAR) has run the event and times have been faster second time round, with 21 swimmers in the ‘fast” swim and 6 in the “long” swim in 2108. The idea is for each individual to challenge themselves and because it’s an awesome thing to do, as there are no trophies or prizes for top times.

Swimming down the river, which could flow as fast as 12km/hr an amazing experience and the closest to flying. Organisers had initially thought of calling the event the “Superhero” swim.

FEAR Society started in 2017 by Andy Magness of Te Anau, and its first event was a 1-day run of the Milford Track via Dore Pass. During that first year (summer 17/18) it also hosted a 1-day circumnavigation of the Hollyford route via packcraft and foot, an adventure race inspired event in Southern Fiordland and the also Fast and Long Swim on Upper Waiau river.

In 2018/19 the society hosted an attempted 1- day run of the Dusky Track (fastest time just over 30 hours), the Hollyford Pyke event (dubbed the Big Hollyday), and an adventure race inspired event in the Greenstone and Eglinton Valleys.

These events have been for members only and the society plans to continue hosting 4-5 ambitious events per year, with two events already planned for next year. The society is an official incorporated society and operates on a not-for-profit basis

The society is a diverse range of people which brings together likeminded enthusiasts of the outdoors who like to push themselves much harder than the average individual, now boasting a membership of 136 members from all over New Zealand.

There are tentative plans for next year to potentially include opening up the shorter “fast” event and roll out several more community focused events to the general public to keep it affordable for those who didn’t want to pay for the society’s annual membership fee.

For more information visit www.fearsociety.co.nz or https://www.facebook.com/fearsocietynz/

 - Julie Walls

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