Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Imagine over 18,000 open water swimmers gathering in one location to compete in a variety of amateur, charity, disabled and elite competitions, in a country where there are only 6,000 registered competitive swimmers.

This is the environment and event that Wayne Riddin and his team have created in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The aQuellé Midmar Mile is among the world’s most exciting open water swimming series of events.

Riddin has always had a vision to expand the sport of swimming. From timing systems to buoy placement, from online social media interaction to celebrities, from Special Olympics to professional athletes, the aQuellé Midmar Mile grew from a modest race of 153 swimmers to 12 seeding events, its innovative hot spots, its Facebook strategy, its aerial coverage, its family teams, its car give-away: there is so much Riddin dreamed of and implemented to create the most extravagant, innovative, comprehensive open water swimming event in the world.

And he has always unselfishly shared his vision and details with race directors around the world.

But all good things come to an end. Riddin officially retired as the race director of the aQuellé Midmar Mile and is currently helping prepare South African athletes for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

For his innovation, aquapreneurial drive, and commitment to give back to the sport, he was nominated for the World Open Water Swimming Association’s Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

The aQuellé Midmar Mile‘s growth over the years is demonstrated by its participant numbers:

1974 – 153 swimmers
1975 – 220 swimmers
1976 – 634 swimmers
1977 – 1,021 swimmers
1978 – 1,426 swimmers
1979 – 1,892 swimmers
1980 – 2,500 swimmers
1981 – 3,000 swimmers
1982 – 3,000 swimmers
1983 – unknown
1984 – 2,555 swimmers
1985 – 2,454 swimmers
1986 – 3,200 swimmers
1987 – 3,500 swimmers
1988 – 3,916 swimmers
1989 – 3,700 swimmers
1990 – 4,000 swimmers
1991 – 4,890 swimmers
1992 – 4,400 swimmers
1993 – 4,724 swimmers
1994 – 5,027 swimmers
1995 – 6,140 swimmers
1996 – 6,925 swimmers
1997 – 7,774 swimmers
1998 – 9,600 swimmers
1999 – 10,045 swimmers
2000 – 10,045 swimmers
2001 – 12,214 swimmers
2002 – 13,218 swimmers
2003 – 16,050 swimmers
2004 – 17,332 swimmers
2005 – 17,087 swimmers
2006 – 16,696 swimmers
2007 – 16,853 swimmers
2008 – 19,013 swimmers
2009 – 17,575 swimmers

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association