THE annual Mana Island Ocean Swim Festival ended on Saturday with local teams from Nadi and Suva competing with established international swimmers.
Winners of the race included Wally Eggleton of New South Wales, Australia, who took out the open grade 10 and three kilometres race around the island while 19-year-old Zoe Elkerton won the one-kilometre race.
Suva's Tritons Swimming Club member Paul Elaisa won the 500 metres race.
The two-day festival has become a staple for national local swimmers to prepare for international events since its inception four years ago.
Elkerton said the competition was a good chance for her to compete with local competitors.
"I swim in open water competitions a lot at the national level and it was really good to be out there competing with the local swimmers," she said.
Tritons Swimming Club coach Eugene Panuve said the open water competition provided a good opportunity for their swimmers to improve their stamina in the water.
"We just had our national events recently and this opportunity came up and we just wanted them to have a feel of open water swimming," he said.
"Some of our swimmers have never swam in open waters before, they've always competed in the pool so by bringing them out here and exposing them to the elements that usually is associated with the ocean, we wanted to see how they performed in those sort of situations."
He said the younger swimmers have enjoyed the experience.
"We brought over 12 swimmers and coming out here has been an awareness event for the younger swimmers.
"They tend to think that the water is always calm like in a pool but in the sea things tend to change and we wanted them to also develop a sense of respect for the sea."
Mana Island Resort sales manager Abdul Kalam said organising the two-day event was a challenge.
"It was a challenge this time around because there are other open water swimming events also being held at the same time that this festival is on," he said.
"So some of the swimmers that usually come here have gone to these other events that are being held in other parts of the Asia Pacific.
"But despite that, the event has grown and it has become bigger and better."