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Ocean swim entries down 21% as s***k anxiety builds

There has been a worrying 21% drop in entries to ocean swim events so far this season; what is keeping swimmers away?

I got the feeling during winter that ocean swimming might be in for a shock this summer.

It started with a flurry of incidents on the north coast, then we saw the close call of one of our favourite surfers, and then once the media circus had it tagged, it was destined to be tracked and unfairly reported on forevermore.

Twelve ocean swims into the season and my gut feel was right – there’s been a huge bite out of entries. On average, numbers have been down year-on-year to the tune of 21% across the board. Some swims have been down as much as 41%! (see table below)

This season follows a big season for ocean swimming in 2014/15, that had seen an approx 80% increase in entries on the previous season (for the same swims, minus the new Bondi Splash n Dash) or in pure numbers terms, an increase in entries of 2,500 in the same period as opposed to the drop of 1,300 this season.

A quick comparison of weather and surf conditions versus last year shows we’re pretty evenly matched, bar a few wetter days during November this time around – but we’re definitely a hardier bunch than that.

So have you thought about them? It turns out a lot of you have been. When I ran a poll on Twitter targeted at swimmers, up to 25% said that they’d been put off getting into ocean swimming this season for that very reason. Regular straw polls at the beach and amongst ocean swimmers reveal this could be on the low side.

But, wait! If you wear this new magic band on your foot you’ll be saved! We’ve now got the perfect solution to a problem – that doesn’t exist! – just don’t read the fine print.

So, what are you so worried about? When did you become so irrational and what will it take to entice you back in?

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have a problem at our beaches, we’re no worse off than we ever have been and we’re not on the menu.

We’re spoilt for choice in the Sydney when it comes to beaches, but don’t be confined to building sandcastles and dipping your toes in.

There’s an ocean out there to be enjoyed, there’s the freedom to be had and there are ocean swim events run as fundraisers for our surf clubs that need your support.

If you want to learn about what you really should be worrying about in the ocean this summer, sign up for an OceanFit training clinic.

Ocean swim event entries comparison – 2014 vs 2015

This table is an approximation of entries from 2014 and 2015, based on finishers. There may be some discrepancy between the actual event numbers, so it is used just as an indication.

Event2015 2014
Coogee (Nov)1071-41.38%1827
Toowoon Bay249-31.40%363
Cockatoo Island279-27.15%383
Burleigh Heads298-9.97%331
Forresters Beach102-8.11%111
Mona Vale (June)148-6.92%159
Heron Island179-28.97%252
Bondi Splash n Dash32335.71%238
Bondi To Bronte1662-11.31%1874

Source: and event timing companies.

First published on

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 12 December 2015
  • (Updated on 11 August 2023)



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