15 Feb 2019

Free diver swimming Cook Strait for endangered dolphins

From Checkpoint, 5:28 pm on 15 February 2019

New Zealand's freediving champion William Trubridge is expected to complete his dolphin-like 22km swim across the Cook Strait largely in under 10 hours this evening.

He was due to finish up between 6pm and 7pm this evening, after embarking on his swim from Wellington this morning in a personal effort to highlight the plight of endangered hectors dolphins.

Surfacing for just seconds every 25 metres or so to catch his breath in the same way a dolphin would, the swimmer is being supported by a team in a boat and two kayaks, which are guiding him in the direction of shore.

His father David Trubridge told Checkpoint a bland, carb-rich diet of potato soup, cooked by his wife Linda, was sustaining Mr Trubridge in his efforts, which included battling a strong northerly tide, pushing him southwards this morning.

"He's swimming across under water," Mr Trubridge said.

"He dives down, swims under water for about 25m and comes under for 10 seconds, taking a few deep breathes and he dives back down and carries on, and he does this all day continuously across Cook Strait.

"He makes the occasional, brief pauses to get some liquid food down him. We made a whole pot of potato soup to keep him fed and hot during the trip."

Mr Trubridge is fitted with a monofin so he can replicate the moments of a dolphin while swimming.

"I'd say he'd probably rate this as one of the hardest things he's done," Mr Trubridge said.

Hector's dolphins are among the world's smallest marine dolphins, growing to around 1.5m in length. They are found only in the inshore waters of New Zealand.

Two sub-species of Hector's dolphins exist -  the South Island Hector's dolphin, found around the South Island of New Zealand, and the Māui dolphin, which is found off the west coast of the North Island.