Since the ’80s: Experience to lead the way in The Big Swim

Peter Thiel first participated in ‘The Big Swim’ on Sydney’s northern beaches back when fluro was a hit on the beach and Baywatch was a hit on TV.

Since then he has swum nearly all of the journey swims from Palm Beach to Whale Beach, only missing a handful. 

“I first did the Big Swim in the mid-80s, I was quite young when I got into ocean swimming and did the Big Swim, I was actually still in school,” said Mr Thiel. 

“I actually followed my brother into ocean swims because he was doing them and I followed in as most younger siblings do.

“Back then it was very hard to find out about ocean swims, we would literally get a flyer on our car windscreen saying there is a swim on Sunday, so my brother would go down and do it and I eventually followed.”

While Mr Thiel started ocean swimming quite young it wasn’t until later in life that he really started to find the competitive and more side to it. 

“It wasn’t until my thirties that I probably really started to be drawn to ocean swimming and that competitive side of it more and more,” said Mr Thiel. 

“I love the fact that even though I am older, I can still step up onto the line against the young guys and be in and amongst it.

“While I might not be as fast as them, depending on the conditions and waves and currents, I can still be up there with those top guys.

“I sometimes even jagg a wave all the way from out the back and pass the front runners, but that is just luck and being in the ocean.” 

L-R: Chris Fydler, Peter Thiel, Oli Spanton and Ollie Signorini 

After the countless ocean swims Mr Thiel has done over the years, he now knows that all that time ocean swimming has given him an advantage. 

“I definitely think experience plays in my favour against the young ones,” said Mr Thiel. 

“Before I start a swim, I always spend a lot of time on the shore, just mapping out the course. 

“I like to find sighting marks on the land, say a Norfolk Pine or a house a certain colour because then I know where I am going when I’m in the water because half the time you can’t see the buoys.

“So, I always take the time to look at the ocean and the conditions before I swim, so I know where I am going.” 

“Actually, on the weekend I swam in the Warriewood to Mona Vale swim and I lined up all the buoys with landmarks and I ended up having a dead straight course, whereas a lot of other people kept getting swept in and had to do the big banana swim between cans, going in and back out again.” 

When asked why Mr Thiel liked The Big Swim he replied “I get to swim into my all-time favourite beach in Sydney”. 

“I love The Big Swim for the fact that it is a journey swim and for the finish, you come into Whale Beach, which is my all-time favourite beach in Sydney,” said Mr Thiel. 

“I also think that is a great fun race even though it is challenging and if you are new to ocean swimming you can give it a go because there are plenty of water safety and the waves are spread out so you can have a relaxing swim without being in and amongst thousands of people.” 

Mr Thiel (Left) on the start line of The Big Swim: Palm to Whale

When talking with Mr Thiel he reminisced about the good old days of The Big Swim. 

“Back in the real old days, we would start at Palm Beach and then we would run all the way down to the pool and all the way up the headland and then jump off the point,” said Mr Thiel. 

“This was all legal back then, but obviously now it’s not because they caught on and got wise to it!

“But it was all great fun and we would always have a good time.”

To join Mr Thiel in The Big Swim: Palm to Whale on Sunday, 30 January 2022, head to The Big Swim: Palm to Whale listing to enter.

Entries close at 3 pm, Saturday 29 January. 

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