Jared Vilsoni (Mana College) takes on ocean swim

Kent Pollard and Jared Vilsoni on Titahi Bay Beach in Porirua where they have been training.


Ask Jared Vilsoni what he wants to do before he goes blind and he has to think hard.

“Skydiving, but everybody has that on their bucket list.”

The 16-year-old moved to New Zealand from Fiji a year ago, but with a shrug of his shoulders shows he already has the relaxed Kiwi attitude down pat.

“I don’t really worry about going blind because I don’t feel like I’m losing anything.”

It’s an attitude the softly-spoken teenager hopes will help when he wades into the waters of Wellington Harbour on Sunday to swim the 3.3km Capital Classic race.

Diagnosed with the degenerative Stargardts condition in primary school and told he would eventually lose all his sight, he took to swimming because he felt the other sports he was interested in, like basketball, were out of reach.

“Because of my eyesight I didn’t want to do any of that stuff because I might drag the whole team down.”

While he can still see things close up, anything even a short distance away is impossible, which makes navigating the water difficult.

Despite that, he feels pretty relaxed about Sunday’s challenge.

“I’m hoping I can just follow the crowd if I get lost. If the waves aren’t so bad then I’m fine but I do hate jellyfish.”

Keeping Jared on course will be Mana College teacher Kent Pollard who has been beside him for months of training leading up to the race.

Beginning late last year, the pair started in the pool before taking to the open water of Titahi Bay in Porirua. Over the summer holidays they have continued to train, battling the bigger waves of Wellington Harbour.

Pollard said he always wanted to do the event and thought it would be something that would appeal to his student.

“It was never about Jared’s eyes, it was about that he could swim. We’re just out here doing it and having fun.”

Once the school year begins, the pair will continue their swimming. Both are keen to compete in other ocean swims.

“I’ve got a lot out of this and I’ve got to know Jared really well. He’s never once complained, except about the jellyfish.”

 – Stuff