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Digital Subscriptions > Outdoor Swimmer > November 2017 > LEGENDS OF COOK STRAIT


This antipodean waterway offers a windy stage upon which epic sagas play out.


Credits: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

Barrie Devenport 1962

First person to cross the Cook Strait

Every culture has its own origin tales and a constellation of legends to explain the world, its people, and how it all works. The Maori culture, centred in New Zealand, has a particularly rich history of storytelling that continues to influence today’s inhabitants of the small island nation.

When New Zealand-born marathon swimmer Tracy Clark moved to Holland in the early 2000s (she now lives in Norwich), she brought a bit of home with her in the form of these Maori legends that she would read to her then two- and three year- old sons, Connor and Alexander. “I read all the myths to them many times through the years to keep their Kiwiness,” she recalls. One of her favourite tales to share was the story of Hinepoupou, who may actually have been the first person to swim across Cook Strait.

According to this legend, the Maori woman Hinepoupou had man trouble. Although different versions of the tale vary on whether the problem started with one husband, two husbands, her father, or a brother, the end result is the same: Hinepoupou started swimming. She swam for three days until she reached her ancestral homeland, stopping at a few small islands along the way. In some versions, she carried a child on her back as she swam. In others, she was accompanied by two dogs that later turned to stone. In all versions, once she reached her destination, she had her revenge in the form of a great storm that punished the man or men who did her wrong.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Autumn is a pretty special time for outdoor swimmers. Summer’s warmth still lingers and, whether you swim in a wetsuit or skins, a decent swim is possible. Our November issue is packed full of awesome features to inspire your swimming adventures. Tune up your stroke in preparation for winter training; eight of the top winter swimming events to enter now; winter pre- and post-swim gear review; plus, nutrition, technique, events, destinations, interviews and more of your stunning photography and swim stories.