Lawrie McKinna, a former Scottish football player, former Mayor of Gosford and former Central Coast Mariners coach was never too keen on ocean swimming, being from Scotland, but now it plays a big part in his daily routine.
“I have lived on the Central Coast since 2005 and at Terrigal since 2012 and ever since I’ve been in Terrigal, I would walk past the Surf Club and see the Yellow Buoy floating out to sea, not far from the shore,” said Mr McKinna.
“I always wanted to swim out to it but I was always too scared to do it myself.
“Firstly, because I wasn’t a great swimmer and secondly because being Scottish, you are paranoid about sharks and think that sharks eat everyone.
“But, one day Ziggy Gordon, one of the Mariners players, knew I had been wanting to do it for a while and asked if I would like to swim out to the yellow buoy with him. I of course said yes because I had someone to do it with me.
“So, the next day we went down and I did a bit of doggy paddle, some breaststroke and a bit of freestyle and made it out to the yellow buoy, which was a huge accomplishment for me. I felt like I had ticked a box and it left me feeling rejuvenated and ready for the day ahead.
“From there it sort of just became a thing and we were going back nearly every morning to do the same.”
Mr McKinna only started ocean swimming just before covid but has quickly found his community – “Team Scozie”.
“Ziggy and I continued to swim all through winter with no wetsuits and we started to get a few more people down to join us,” said Mr McKinna.
We started to call ourselves ‘Team Scozie’ because Ziggy and I were both Scottish and we started to have more and more Aussies swimming with us.
“It very quickly became a real social circle and we were welcoming all sorts of people from different walks of life and of different swimming abilities. We like to say we take in strays because if we see someone swimming by themselves, we invite them to swim with us and just adopt them in.
“It really is just a big friendship group who like swimming in the morning, having a cup of tea and talking rubbish before we have to get into our daily lives.”
Team Scozie has since added a few different swim routes to their repertoire from their original yellow buoy route.
“We don’t just go to the yellow buoy now, we have a few different routes we like to choose from,” said Mr McKinna.
“Now we go to the yellow buoy, the red buoy, the Haven Buoy or sometimes the North buoy. We like to change it up all the time and just choose on the day which route we’ll take. We also have some swimmers who like to go adventure swimming and look at all the sharks and marine life around.
“There are no rules or regulations to our group. It’s just what you feel like you can do when you get out there.
“I like to say there is no stress on you, to do this or that, you just do what you want to do to get your morning swim in.”
Mr McKinna has also started some fun ‘Team Scozie’ traditions to make ocean swimming extra interesting on special occasions.
“On Anzac Day, I take my big rubber duck out on the swim with me and put a tablecloth on it and have lamingtons in a Tupperware dish to eat mid-swim,” said Mr McKinna.
“I like to hand them out to everyone, even swimmers who aren’t in our group. Then at Christmas, I swap the lamingtons for mince pies, which is just as fun.
“Although the Christmas just gone, I felt a bit stood up because I was swimming back in from the red buoy and saw two guys in a dinghy, with white shirts and bow ties on handing out Champagne and fruit sticks at the yellow buoy.
“I thought I was good doing lamingtons and mince pies, but these blokes really beat me with the Champagne so I’ll have to step up my game this year.”
Mr McKinna has done the 1km ocean swim at the Terrigal Ocean Swim Classic the last couple of years but this year he is just doing the first ever Daffodil Swim, which he is a proud ambassador for.
“I’ve done the 1km swim the last couple of years, but this year I am just doing the Daffodil Swim which supports the Cancer Council,” said Mr McKinna.
“I am the ambassador for the Daffodil Swim this year which is going to be fun. The girls at the Cancer Council asked me if I would help out and be the ambassador and I jumped at it.
“I had previously worked with the Cancer Council when I was the Mariners coach and then the Mayor of Gosford, so I am always happy to help them out and support a good cause.
“The swim isn’t very far at all, it’s just to the yellow buoy and back, which is about 400m, so it’s a great swim for those just starting out. After all, going to the yellow buoy and back was my first ocean swim.
“So, you will see me prancing about with my daffodil cap on making sure people have a laugh and a good time.”
Mr McKinna also had some great advice for those who want to get involved in ocean swimming but are a bit hesitant – “just do it, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t a good swimmer”.
“I really encourage everyone to get involved in ocean swimming even if it isn’t the Terrigal Ocean Swim this weekend,” said Mr McKinna.
“I guarantee you will enjoy it once you get in the water. I was actually surprised when I first did ocean swimming because I thought it was going to be a slog but it was so enjoyable and freeing, and when I was out in the water I felt incredible.
“I am not the best swimmer, I like to say I am more like the little engine that could and I just chug away. I only did my first 1km ocean swim at the Terrigal Ocean Swim Classic a couple of years ago when I was 58 and I felt such an achievement because when you get over 40 you don’t think you can set goals and achieve them but I did and ticking that box felt incredible.
“If you are in the Sydney or Terrigal area I encourage you to come and do the Terrigal Ocean Swim Classic this Sunday even if you just do the Daffodil Swim.
“Just come down, have fun and don’t worry about anybody else because everyone has been where you have before and we have all just slowly improved.
To find out more or enter head to the Terrigal Ocean Swim Classic Listing.