I have always loved to swim, but have never be “a swimmer”. I learned to swim as a young child, did OK in school swim carnivals, but never trained in a swim squad or anything serious like that.
I just like to swim. I find it calming and of course good for my fitness.
I started ocean swimming over 12 years ago now – that makes me feel old – before I had children. I was living in Sydney and saw a program called CanToo being promoted at work. The program gave you an opportunity to be trained for an ocean swim event in return for fundraising for cancer research. As someone always keen for a new challenge I decided to give it a go.
CanToo now operates in several Australian cities and offers lots of other physical challenges (running, swimming, treks) so if you live in Australia I can highly recommend getting involved.
Over several months I attended 2 pool training sessions + 1 ocean swimming session a week and gained the skills and confidence needed to participate in an ocean swim event.
I made some great friends in the program and we kept up our ocean swim training together. When my eldest daughter was about 7 months old I entered my ‘bucket list’ event – the 2.5km Palm Beach to Whale Beach swim – to this day one of the most exhilarating (and slightly terrifying) things I have done. The swell was ENORMOUS that day and I will never forget turning towards the beach to finish the race and seeing these walls of water moving in front of me. How I made it back on to the beach in one piece still defies me … I think going out through big swell is easier than coming back in!
When we moved to New Zealand I wanted to keep ocean swimming for pleasure, after all I live on an island and the fear of bumping into a shark on my own significantly lower than when I lived in Australia. About 18 months after moving to Waiheke Island we went to a local beach playground for my daughters 5th birthday party. It was August (cold) and when we arrived there was a small group of women, in their wetsuits, having just finished a swim. I decided I needed to introduce myself – anyone nuts enough to swim in NZ waters in the middle of winter was going to be my kind of person! 3 years later I swim with this awesome bunch most Sunday mornings all year round.
One of the things I love about this group is their love of exploration. In summer when the water is warmer we enjoy swims that take us from one beach to another, with the intent of exploring the coastline as we go … think of this as bush walking for the swimmer.
It took me a little while to find my ocean swim event groove here in New Zealand. A couple of years ago I came across the Banana Boat Ocean Swim New Zealand events and decided to try a few. These events are really well organised and lots of fun. I was then lucky enough to win a spot in the inaugural Ocean Swim Fiji event in 2018 thanks to New Zealand Herald – had to pinch myself about that one! A trip to Fiji, 3 ocean swim events, and all without kids in tow! I wrote about my very imperfect preparation for this experience and how I overcame my fear of swimming 3km.
You don’t have to be an amazing swimmer to take part in ocean swim events – I can assure you I am a very average and slow swimmer in the world of ocean swimming. It doesn’t matter – I am not there to compete against any one else, I am there to challenge myself. The ocean is different every time you get in the water. You could enter the same event every year for 3 years and never have the same experience … the ocean can be calm, rough, choppy, cold, warm, windy …
I love just showing up and having to deal with whatever the conditions bring on the day.
This summer I have signed up for 4 different events – three ocean swim events and a river swim. I feel a little daunted by the fact that most of them are over 3km! I really need to do more swimming to be able to cope with that distance … after all I had never swum 3km in my life until I went to Fiji.
If you live in New Zealand and have ever thought about trying an ocean swim I can highly recommend the events run by Banana Boat Ocean Swim – all events have swims of different distances so you don’t have to swim 3km like me!
If you are new to their events and you want to have a go enter the promo code LINDASWIMS when you register and they will send you an event beach towel so you will look like a pro!
Email me, or post a comment below if you have any questions about ocean swimming. I promise you it is a lot of fun!