THE Nelson Mandela Bay Aquatics (NMBA) open water swimming season kicked off on Sunday morning with the first round of the provincial Swim Series taking place at the pristine Marina Martinique, home of the SA Open Water Swimming National Championships, in 2019.More than 100 swimmers from around the Eastern Cape took full advantage to secure early qualification times for the season with great swimming conditions on the morning with water temperatures permitting wetsuit legal races.This season there is a strong drive by NMBA to encourage swimmers into the longer distance races, with an incentive of a top of the range, locally produced Blusmooth wetsuit as a lucky draw at the end of the series in January. The 16-year-old Flippie van der Spuy from the BEST swimming club won the 10km race on Sunday in a time of 2 hours 16 minutes, ahead of Infinity swimmer Josh Tucker (2:18:41) and Team Watersmart’s Heinrich Vorster (2:22:25). Infinity swimmer Jessica Booth won the ladies’ 10km division in a time of 2:34:43. All four swimmers were inside the Swim SA 10km qualifying time of 2h30min for men and 2h40min for ladies.Three swimmers contested the Youth Olympics distance of 7.5km with young up and coming SA swimmer Tasneen Ebrahim finishing in 1hr47min, ahead of Grahamstown swimmer Shaelyn Walker (1:56:07) and Luke Norris. In an increasingly popular 5km swim, former national surf lifesaver and local swim coach, Haydn Holmes, pipped former SA swimmer and surf lifesaver Kevin Richards with Deacon Kingman being placed third. Amica de Jager won the ladies’ race ahead of Hannah Murray and Tayla-Paige Lacey. The top three men and top two ladies qualified within the SSA 5km qualification time of 1 hour 15 for men and 1 hour 25 for ladies.In the 3km swim it was PJ Duffy who won in a time of 42 minutes and 31 seconds from MC Strydom and Martin Wolmarans with Liza Muller (43:28) taking the ladies’ race ahead of Denise Bosman and Tiara Finnis. The first nine in both the men’s and women’s races beat the qualifying time.Swimming SA coordinator of open water swimming, Neville Smith, congratulated the athletes. The next Swim Series event takes place at Marina Martinique in two weeks time. For more info go to www.zsports.co.za/ecswim. Registration closes on the Friday afternoon before race weekend and late entry fees do apply.