Hard to imagine anything holding “Team Vandy” back

12 Oct 2021

Hard to imagine anything holding “Team Vandy” back

PE teacher and swim coach, Candice van de Ven, is well on her way to having her own little squad of water babies competing in swimming events around the country.

So far three of Candice’s daughters - Libby (9), Laurie (6) and Gracey (5) - have taken to the water like fish, while there are high hopes for the fourth, Demi (1), to follow in their footsteps when she gets a little older.

Clearly, the girls have swimming in their DNA, as Candice was a New Zealand age group champion in the 100m and 200m breaststroke in her teenage years.

After years of barely going near the water, last year Candice (aged 33) entered a few swims as part of the Banana Boat NZ Ocean Swim Series, while eldest daughter, Libby, swam in the Ocean Kids section, which varies between 100m and 500m.

Laurie has put her name forward for next season when she will reach the eligible age and according to the organisers she will be the youngest competitor, so far at least. Meanwhile Gracey can’t wait until she is old enough to take part.

“My girls are all little water babies, and if we let Demi near the water, she would want to get in and swim as well,” said Candice. “We are slowly building up the team and, hopefully, I will have my own little swim squad one day soon. I think it is in the genes.”

Husband, Jamie, prefers to stay on dry land or in his boat, being on the water rather than in it. He likes to cheer on the girls from the side. “He can float, so that’s alright,” Candice joked.

Recently, Candice and her four daughters were featured on the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series website for their swimming prowess. 

“We all want to be able to swim like mum,” said Libby. In her first outing at Mt Maunganui she said the water was cold, but it was really fun and she got to meet lots of other youngsters from around the country.

Candice, who relief teaches PE at Mercury Bay Area School and who now lives in Matarangi, said she got hooked on ocean swimming after joining the Mad KOWS (Kuaotunu Open Water Swimmers) who meet for a swim every Sunday throughout the year. “I don’t think I would be doing the ocean swims if I did not have this amazing group to join,” she said. “It has been difficult, post kids, to get back [into swimming].

“I would not say I am as fit as I want to be, not yet anyway, but with four kids and a business [Jamie is a builder], time is pretty thin. I’m just really enjoying it at the moment, though not too competitive yet. But watch this space… that may change.”

The Banana Boat Ocean Swim series takes place at eight iconic landmarks around the country, such as, across the Waitamata Harbour under the Auckland Harbour Bridge, across Rotorua’s Blue Lake and around Rabbit Island at Mt Maunganui.

Candice said that ocean swimming was nothing like swimming in a pool. “I have had to retrain my brain,” she said. “With ocean swimming, every swim is different, because you have so many things to consider like tides, swell, and wind. It is very weather-condition influenced, but we still swim in all types of water, hence the name ‘Mad’ - KOWS.”

Candice’s preference is mid-distance, between 1km and 3km, although longer courses are also on offer. “You don’t have to be a fast swimmer, but you have to be a competent swimmer and have the confidence to get in and swim that distance,” she said. “It is a sport that anyone could do, you just have to get in and give it a go.”

With Candice as their mother, and swimming coach, her daughters are well on the way to becoming Team Vandy, the family nickname. And now that Candice has bought them all proper swimming wet suits, it is hard to imagine anything holding them back.

Pictured - PE teacher and swim coach, Candice van de Ven, with her daughters, Libby, Laurie, Gracey and Demi.