Inspiration is often found in the most unlikely places.
However, in George Glover’s case, it came in an entirely appropriate setting.
After hearing champion free diver William Trubridge speak at the Inspire Foundation Marlborough grants evening in April, the 16-year-old Marlborough Boys’ College year 12 student decided it was time he did something about the issues he felt strongly about.
So, the seeds of what George has termed “The Black Dog Swim” were sown.
From December 30 until January 8, George plans to swim the length of Queen Charlotte Sound and back again, his mission being to highlight youth mental health and raise funds for I AM HOPE.
This youth and community-focused support group, run by The Key to Life Charity Trust, promotes positive attitudinal societal change in schools and communities, while funding private care and counselling for young people stuck-in-the-mud on waiting lists.
Last year alone, 137 New Zealand young people died by suicide and it is estimated 3500 tried to take their own lives.
“There are two degrees of separation in New Zealand,” George says. “But there is only one degree of separation between mental health and suicide.
“Unfortunately, youth suffering from mental health issues can’t always get the help when they need it, with some having to wait up to six months to receive counselling.”
George hopes to raise at least $50,000 from his marathon swim, providing all-important resources for I AM HOPE and enabling those that are suffering to get help quickly.
“The I AM HOPE fund, which provides mental health counselling for all New Zealanders between the ages of 13 and 25, has run dry over the last nine months, so more funds are urgently needed,” said George.
The Inspire evening, coupled with William’s words and his “dive” across Cook Strait to raise awareness of the plight of Hector and Maui dolphins, triggered a positive response in the young man who will be Marlborough Boys’ College head boy in 2020.
“I went home and I through, ‘I want to do something’ … William had another take with his Cook Strait effort, so I thought ‘I like swimming … what can I do?’ And it just evolved from there.”
The Queen Charlotte swim has never been done before, one of the primary reasons George chose to do it, pushing himself well outside his personal comfort zone.
Although George is a competitive pool swimmer, one of the best in the Nelson Marlborough region for the past four years and an age-group silver medallist in the 1500m freestyle at the latest NZ short course champs, he has limited experience of long-distance ocean swimming.
He has competed in the annual 2.3km White’s Bay to Rarangi swim, setting the quickest time earlier this year, and has been training regularly with an ocean swim group in Picton. However, he reckons his longest previous ocean swim was around 12km, a far cry from what lies ahead.
The Black Dog Swim is estimated to cover 123km (66 nautical miles). George will hop into the water at Anakiwa, swim around to Picton then up the south side of the Sound to East Bay before crossing over the northern side for the trip back to Anakiwa. He expects to spend around six hours per day in the water for 10 days, with the longest leg covering about 18km.
George is well aware it is a bold step into the unknown.
“I feel I’ll never be fully prepared for it. It is going to be 10 days in the sea and I don’t feel that I can simulate that … but I reckon it is doable and I have a great support crew to help me get there.”
He has enlisted the help of local identities Ross Anderson and Norm Wilson, who have vast experience of the area, plus talked mental preparation with local endurance cyclist Craig Harper whose 10-day Ride Across America has certain parallels, and Dave Edgar, a vastly-experienced river, lake and ocean swimmer.
Although sharing his time with a string of school and environmental organisations, George is training around 10km each day in the pool, plus grabbing ocean swims whenever possible. His preparation is well-planned but the teenager admits he has some nerves as the start time approaches.
“Physically yes, but more so mentally. It’s just being in the water for six hours a day, especially on days four, five and six when it really starts to hurt … but I will push through it and it will all go well in the end.
“Completing the swim is possible, but I know I am going to have to put in a lot of hard work to make it happen.”
George’s Give A Little link is: https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/black-dog-swim-for-nz-youth-mental-health
Here is also the link to the Instagram account: https://instagram.com/blackdogswim
He will have regular updates on both Instagram and Facebook pages.