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Swimmer Diary - Lifelong Love of the Water

Iris Stockwell Shares Her Inspiring Story of Why She Loves Swimming

As part of our Unlock Your Greatness campaign, we will be sharing some awesome stories of Kiwis who are reaping the benefits of a living a lifetime of being active in the water. As we know, there are endless health and wellbeing benefits that come from swimming regularly and we are excited to share some of these personal stories across the summer.

We kick start this by sharing the story of Iris Stockwell, a 91-year-old in Tauranga who has been unlocking her greatness in the water for her whole lifetime. Iris started out with a passion for being active around the water growing up in Tauranga, but it wasn’t until she had children involved in learn to swim lessons that her love of the water blossomed. She received proper lessons from her coach Alan Guthrie who encouraged her to pass on her love of the water to others as a volunteer swimming instructor.

As an instructor, Iris knew the importance of everyone learning to swim given we are a country surrounded by stunning waterholes.

“I think all children should learn to swim even if is just to save themselves should they get into difficulties.”

She also loved seeing kids grow their confidence as their skills developed in the water.

“When children said ‘I can’t,’ I would say there is ‘no such word, only try’. To see the joy on their faces when they found they could was extremely rewarding. I was never concerned as to whether they went on to swim competitively, I just wanted them to lose the fear and gain the confidence and love it as I did. I wanted them to have fun.”

Tucked away in her personal scrapbook, lies handwritten tokens of appreciation from young swimmers. One particular message stands out.

“I think you are neat swimming teacher. You teach so good. You need a medal and some roses” accompanied by an endearing drawing of Iris and the little girl on the pools edge.

It’s an outstanding reminder of the impact a passionate teacher has on creating positive experiences in the water and what that can have on little one’s hearts.

Alongside her years of helping kids learn to love the water, Iris has experienced the health benefits of regularly swimming first-hand. Iris has stated she swims for “the sheer joy of it” and it is a great way to remain active with low impact on the joints. Being a tall person, she has suffered from lower back pain in the past, but this has been managed by a routine of regular swimming.

“I am sure the reaching out when doing both freestyle and backstroke strengthened the muscles in my back. I recommend it.”

Swimming has provided her motivation to recover from hip replacements. Iris even managed to swim 1km on the morning of her first hip replacement, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to swim for a little while during her recovery.

Iris has also enjoyed the wellbeing benefits that swimming has provided. She swims three-times per week with the swim lasting for an hour and fifteen minutes alongside her band of friends as part of her weekly routine.

“We each have a preferred lane. Mine is lane 7, with Chris and his wife Bev in the lane next to me. Lane 4 is reserved for Janet, who swims nearly non-stop for 5km. Colin is often in the next lane and twice a week Trudy is in lane 1. I have made wonderful friends, not just with these swimmers but also with the lifeguards. I even used to take one of them to the pool when she was little.”

To highlight how much her involvement in swimming means to the community and her friends at the local pool, everyone joined in celebrating her 90th birthday last year.

“I had a special fuss made on my 90th birthday last year. First, all the kids stopped training to sing happy birthday and when my swim was over I was presented with a certificate and birthday cake by the lifeguards and my fellow swimmers.”

When asked what she loves about swimming, she noted that she loves the sensation that comes from being in the water.

“Diving in and feeling the water wrap itself around you. That’s the easy bit. When the pools were closed due to Covid I felt completely lost and I was the first to dive back in the day they reopened. I can’t get into the pool slowly. It has to be diving in.”

Iris loves to swim in the pool and ocean across the year, and has a favourite location to take a dip.

“Swimming in the sea is my preference but I like to do distances the pool. Sea in the summer, the pool in the winter. My favourite spot in the sea is at Otumoetai, between the rail and road bridges.”

Reflecting on why swimming has made such a difference to her mental and physical health, Iris said that “everything seems fine once I have had a swim.”

Thanks for sharing your amazing story of a lifetime of being active in the water Iris. It is people like Iris that demonstrate why there is no time like the present to Unlock Your Greatness and experience the health and wellbeing benefits of swimming for yourself this summer.

If you would like to share your story about why you love swimming, please email Kayla at

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