Saturday, 19 February 2022 saw the inaugural running of the U24 swim from Safety Beach to Sorrento Beach, Melbourne.
We caught up with Charlie Evans from Swimwell, who, along with Peter Hendricks, helped organise the event, to chat about all things U24.
Mr Evans and Mr Hendricks came up with the idea to hold the U24 (short for Ultra 24km) marathon swim after coming out the other side of Covid-19 lockdowns.
“We originally initiated the U24 because we have all suffered from lockdowns, Melbourne more than anywhere else,” said Mr Evans.
“Most of us marathon swimmers have been locked out of Rottnest this year and there is a big group of us who normally do that swim, year after year after year.
“This year would have been my 5th Rottnest and there were others who it would have been their 10th Rottnest swim.
“So we thought instead of wasting all this training we have been doing, it was about time that Melbourne had an ultra-marathon event and so that is how the U24 came to be.”
Port Phillip Bay is known for its large body of water, via a narrow entrance with large tidal flows and strong currents.
“The currents in Port Phillip Bay can become quite strong at times so we choose to do the event on the southern side of the bay between Safety Beach and Sorrento Beach,” said Mr Evans.
“We had to be careful in choosing a time for the event so it gave us some outgoing tidal flow to make sure that swimmers of all different standards could complete the U24.
“We decided to start at 5.15 am to really maximise the tide and while it was pitch black at the start time, we timed the tide just perfectly and all 37 swimmers managed to finish which was fantastic.”
Swimmers in the U24 couldn’t have asked for better conditions.
“The day was absolutely beautiful which made the swim just beautiful,” said Mr Evans.
“The sun was shining, the wind was very light, which gave us a silky smooth start and it was fairly warm.
“Because we started when it was pitch black we saw bioluminescence in the water. You would put your hand in and there would just be blue light flickering around you, it was just amazing.
“We also saw quite a few rays, banjo sharks, snapper, dolphins and a huge aggregation of spider crabs. The spider crabs come in from quite deep in the southern ocean to mate and there were thousands of them just climbing on each other at the bottom, so that was quite a sight to see.
“When we were a couple of kilometres from finishing at Sorrento, we had a couple of shark sirens blasting, so we all had to clear out into the safety boats, but that made for an extra level of excitement within the swimmers.”
The U24 marathon swim is focused on bringing swimmers together to support each other.
“We don’t want to swim to be a race rather a community swim where we can take endurance swimmers on a journey,” said Mr Evans.
“The swim allows swimmers to reach huge PBs (personal bests).
“We had some swimmers who had only ever swam a maximum of 10km and they are all of a sudden doing 24km, and that is really great to see them push themselves and achieve something amazing.
“The swim is almost like an adventure swim because we really try to encourage people to go on a journey of self-discovery and see what their limits are while being in a fully supportive environment.
With the U24 having been hailed a great success this year there are already plans on holding the event again next year, with a few changes.
“Next year we have the event planned for Saturday 18th February,” said Mr Evans.
“We will have the U24 as well as a U12 which will be a 12km swim for those wanting to do a shorter distance.
“Swimmers can do it solo, in a tandem team or as a relay.
“Our main goal is to just create an inclusive community adventure swim so people can reach new goals.”
To find out more information about the 2023 U24 & U12 events visit their event Facebook Page.