The Interislander Big Tahuna


By Peter Gibbs
Nelson swimmers crammed the podium when the overall winners were announced in The Interislander Big Tahuna in Nelson on the first Saturday in March.

With some of the top swimmers in the country taking part. it was hard to know whether the results were just the result of the event being close to home or an illustration of the depth of talent in the Nelson region.

Luke Kelly repeated last year's win in The Interislander Big Tahuna. Photo: Sandra McGregor

From left, Stefannie Gillespie (Otago), Sierra Thomas, Abbey Smale, Luke Kelly, Fergus Drummond and Alec Swan (all from Nelson). took the top three men's and women's places. Photo Sandra McGregor

Luke Kelly is always near the front nationally and it was no surprise when he led the field home in the 3km swim for the second consecutive year. It was a mark of Kelly's determination over the last few hundred metres and his ability to stand up and run hard at the end that he won from a strong group of about a dozen swimmers.

Stopping the clock at 34 minutes 12 seconds, Kelly was five seconds ahead of fellow Nelsonians Fergus Drummond, Alec Swan and Oxford Bayley.

Out-of-town swimmers Carl O'Donnell and Colin Coombs took fourth and fifth ahead of three more Nelson competitors, Hayden Squance and the first two women overall, Abbey Smale and series leader Sierra Thomas.

It was a relief to Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series organisers to have a calm day for race five in the series, after rough conditions in the first four swims of the series in Bay of Islands, Omaha Beach, Mt Maunganui and Wellington.

The Nelson event was swum in perfect conditions - flat calm water and a beautiful sunny day, with 350 swimmers taking on the 3km race.

As well as the overall honours, Nelson swimmers took 28 of the age group medals on offer, with eight gold, 15 silver and five bronze medals, making it a successful day for the locals, who have benefitted from a weekly diet of top competition in the Port Nelson series.

Total swimmer numbers were boosted to more than 600, with competition over 1km, 500m, 300m, 200m and 100m. 

 Race six in the series is at the Blue Lakes in Rotorua on March 16, 17, with additional races over 5km and an amphibian event combining swim and run sections.
Full details and results at