Kaipara swimmer Deborah Hambly is exhilarated about completing the first-ever swim of the Northern Wairoa River.
Ms Hambly, 38, hit the red tape at the Northern Wairoa Boating Club around 2.30pm on Saturday after having to wait about an hour up-river to finish ahead of her scheduled arrival.
The 45km swim was one of a number of drawcard events for the inaugural Kaipara Kai Festival held at Dargaville.
Ms Hambly, a local teacher, had plenty of sideline support as she made her epic three-day swim, with young and old alike cheering her on from vantage points along the way.
The swim was originally intended from Pouto Point, an additional 15km, but was shortened and started at Kellys Bay instead.
After completing the 17km swim to Tikinui Ms Hambly said despite of a "tumultuous" first day where she had been tossed around as if "on a rollercoaster" she could easily have managed the full 60km in two days.
"It had always been anticipated the first day would be the toughest and longest ... the potential danger of marine life, the exposed harbour and the distance. The extreme weather had also added to the challenge," she said.
Cold temperatures, fierce winds, strong currents and large waves caused her problems, including losing direction (and sight of the escort boat), and difficulty in getting breaths without swallowing too much water.
She said: "The second day was, in comparison, calm and peaceful. Now swimming with two guide boats, one in front and one behind the shorter 14km swim was made well ahead of expectations taking only 2 hours and 20 minutes.
"Wave surges pushed gently along as if I was a puppet," she said
"An over-friendly black shag introduced itself ... After passing Toka Toka (mount) Maungarahu (mount) started peeking out ... Te Kopuru was then visible in the distance ...
"I positively shot around the bend floating faster than I could ever swim."
Te Kopuru school children met her on arrival. Day three was an "absolute dream", she said.
Seagulls investigated the splashing, the weather was perfect and while the water didn't surge, the current carried her along at a good pace making the halfway mark of the 11km in 45 minutes.
"Even floating I would arrive too soon. Coming around Mt Wesley I could see the big white Commercial Hotel building ahead and realised I was almost there. What had taken more than two hours in a test swim had been lessened considerably by the favourable conditions and mid-tide."
When even swimming backwards failed to stall the swim so Ms Hambly eventually took a lunch break on one of the boats before making the final few kilometre to the boating club ramp.
"As soon as I reached the shoreline I saw groups of people watching, first ones, two and threes and then lines of kids, I would wave and they would wave back and then try to keep up, but couldn't," she said.
The swift current meant a few close shaves with wooden piles of piers along the water front as she approached to ramp to applause.
"It was a wonderful challenge- something that no one had attempted before. Conditions ranged from the toughest conditions I've ever swum, to the easiest ... it was great."