Joe Clayton grew up in Wollongong with his dad waking him up every morning, rain, hail and shine all year round, even through winter to go for a run and body surf at the beach.
Since then Mr Clayton has always been drawn to the ocean. But spending most of his life living inland, Mr Clayton had to settle for pools, until recently when he made his way back to Newcastle and found his love for the ocean again.
“When I decided to semi-retire in Newcastle, I started swimming every morning just on my own,” said Mr Clayton.
“I eventually joined Newcastle Surf Life Saving Club and a couple of guys in the club invited me to come down and swim with them at Newcastle Pool.
“I joined them and I said “guys this is shit, it’s much more fun in the ocean, let’s head out there.
“So, I dragged them out of the pool and into the ocean and they were all like yeah this is amazing, much better than swimming in the pool.”
Towards the end of winter in 2020, Mr Clayton and his three mates started to get more and more people wanting to join them, this is where the Newy Sandrays (originally, ‘K & Coffee’) was born.
“We started getting more and more people to join us and so we thought we needed a name to go with it,” said Mr Clayton.
“So, we called ourselves ‘K & Coffee’ because we swim a kilometre and then get coffee afterwards. We’ve since changed the name to the Newy Sandrays, but other than that, it’s all the same.
“Our group started with three of us and now it has grown to about thirty of us, which is incredible.”
The Newy Sandrays is much more than a social ocean swimming group, Mr Clayton endeavours to teach swimmers in the groups about ocean safety.
“We have bought a lot of people into the group that are really good swimmers but don’t understand the ocean and surf,” said Mr Clayton.
“We teach them about rips, waves zones, safety tips and really just educate them on the surf. We teach them how to lift their head at the top of the wave to sight and how to look out for whitewater because then you know you are in the wave and impact zone.
“Since teaching the swimmers this we have had a lot of feedback in our group who have said they were extremely scared the first time they joined but feel much more confident in the ocean now because they understand it.”
The Newy Sandrays have three official mornings a week, swimming out from Newcastle Beach and meeting each other out the back behind the break.
“We start by talking about how we are going to get out the back, whether that be using a rip or however, we then swim out the back and stop and wait for all the stragglers and count heads, we then swim down to Divider Rock, stop there and wait for the back markers to catch up and then we swim back down to the finish.”
“It’s good because we get our swim in but we are also educating people about the surf and how to be safe.
“Counting heads has become easier recently because we got a sponsor, Robinson Sewell and they bought us all pink caps, so it’s easy to see each other.”
When asked why Mr Clayon loves the Nobbys2Newcastle Ocean Swim he replied “because it’s a truly beautiful swim”.
“The Nobbys2Newcastle swim is one of the most picturesque ocean swims you will ever do especially when you get to the headland and the south end of Nobby’s beach,” said Mr Clayton.
“You’re swimming over reef and kelp and there is heaps of marine life, you can see fish, sand rays, dolphins, turtles and you might even see Raymond, that is the big black smooth ray that we see on our group swims.”
“It truly is a really really pretty swim and one everyone should try and do at least once.”
To join Mr Clayton and the Newy Sandrays group in the Nobbys2Newcastle Ocean Swim on Saturday 28 January 2022, head to the Nobbys2Newcastle Ocean Swim listing to enter.
Entries close at 3 pm, Friday 27 January. Please note there will be no on-the-day entries this year.