Zac Reid taking to life on top of the water
28 Jul 2016
It's a miserable day when Zac Reid is picked up midway through the school holidays.
The rain is literally coming in sideways, he's fighting a cold and the clouds appear darker the closer we get to the indoor pool at Bell Block.
It's a stretch of road the 16-year-old Francis Douglas Memorial College knows all too well as he travels it most mornings before he's put through intense training sessions under the watchful eye of coach Sue Southgate.
Reid's talent has been spotted early. Before the middle of September he would have represented New Zealand at the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Hawaii before he packs away his googles and heads to Eindhoven in the Netherlands where he will compete for the Junior Black Fins at Rescue 2016 - the world junior surf lifesaving championships.
Recently named champion under-16 male at the New Zealand Surf Lifesaving Championships, Reid has become an integral member of the national junior squad.
While the vast majority of students in Taranaki were resting up during the start of the school holidays, Reid was being put through a gruelling swim camp in Stratford where the early morning starts were kindly described as "fresh".
His husky voice tells of the strain but he remains polite and confident to any question, despite undoubtedly wishing he was recovering under a warm blanket at his New Plymouth home.
"We did 10 swimming sessions and 10 dry land sessions and we have to run to the gym and the pool each time," he said of the Stratford camp.
The arduous nature of a swimmer's training schedule might well be foreign to many but for Reid, it's close to home, with father Byron a New Zealand representative at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland where he competed in the men's 100m freestyle.
It's a discipline the junior Reid has already gained much success having already won bronze in the 1500m race at the Australian age-group champs earlier this year having already won gold at New Zealand's equivalent event while also picking up silver medals in the 200m and 400m races to qualify for the Pan Pacific championships.
But it was at the beach where Reid first took to swimming after he became involved in the junior programme at the New Plymouth Old Boys Surf Club at Oakura.
"I really enjoyed surf lifesaving, so I kept going hard at it and I started to get good at swimming. It was then I got involved in squad [swimming]. But it's only been in the last four years that I've started going really well at it."
Early selection in a junior rep squad was all the motivation he needed to throw himself into the sport that teaches more discipline than other codes, given the lack of interaction across many hours of training.
However, his reward comes from the time he spends with team-mates and the many trips away.
"It motivates you to get selected and be on the next trip and go away with your mates again."
Although it would seem extremely hard to balance out his schedule with the demands of his education, Reid said he always made sure he had plenty of NCEA credits in the bank, while a number of teachers at his college also bent over backwards to help, with some prepared to Skype him with lessons or advice while he was overseas or out of the province.
Near the end of the interview, Reid makes sure he passes over a note his mother has drawn up that thanks numerous trusts, clubs and swimming and life saving organisations who they wanted to thank for their support.
It's reflective of not only his upbringing but his maturity that he remains so grateful to the many people who have helped and encouraged him.
Watching him train it's easy to see a fair amount of natural ability has combined with the refinement taught to top line swimmers as he glides up and down the pool with ease.
As good and as promising as he might be, Reid acknowledges the work still on the horizon, especially if he wants to be competitive with the best across the Tasman.
It's there where he admitted he has probably received the biggest education about his sport.
"The people that get selected to go to the Australian champs are top of their age-group in New Zealand and they get over there and they struggle to make finals. They're so good over there, it's great to race them."
The secret for any athlete is to peak for a specific event. That's easier said than done for Reid given the world junior surf lifesaving champs are so close to the Pan Pacific meet.
However, Reid remains confident he could hold his form over the period of both events providing he remained healthy.
The Fitrzroy Surf Lifesaving Club member naturally specialises in the swimming events which will be held in the pool and in the ocean in the Netherlands.
Having already had one training camp with the squad at the Millennium Institute of Sport in Auckland, he felt confident they would bind together quickly and be more than competitive on the world stage.
Asked to spilt which event he was most looking forward to, Reid could not be swayed one way or the other.
"They're both very exciting. Hawaii is only a week while we're in the Netherlands a lot longer. It's going to be fun, I'm really looking forward to Hawaii because I've been swimming really well at the moment and it will be great to see how fast I can go."
Whatever he does at the Pan Pacific meet, he will know in the back of his mind that he has the potential to have a crack at future championships given his age makes him eligible to compete again.
"Hopefully I do well at this one, learn and get some experience and then go to the next one and do even better."