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New book documents the history of Victoria's open water swims

We talk to avid ocean swimmer and amateur historian Don Warner about his decision to write the Victorian Open Water Swims book.

Back in 2019, before anyone had heard of COVID-19, Don Warner, an avid ocean swimmer and amateur historian from Melbourne, thought it’d be a great idea to immortalise all the great Victorian open water swims into a book.

And nearly three years later that idea has become reality, with his book of Victorian Open Water Swims now published and available for purchase.

Thinking back to that moment he conceptualised the book, Mr Warner says it made a lot of sense to him and he had the experience, given he had been attending swims since the eighties after having started with the now iconic Lorne Pier To Pub.

“I have swum in many organised swims since starting open water swimming in 1987,” said Mr Warner.

“As more and more swims were introduced over the years, I started to participate in most of the different events.

“I have strong and fond memories from some of the events over the years especially when I did The Rip Swim between Point Nepean-Point Lonsdale in 2007.

“That swim was a truly exciting experience to complete such an iconic swim, especially with eight of my friends.

“I realised that nobody has ever documented the history and evolution of the numerous events that we have in Victoria, so I started researching the details of events and found out the history of how or why the event came to be in the first place.”

Since then Mr Warner has fallen in love with the effortlessness of open water swimming.

“I just love the ease with which I can do open water swimming – living near the beach it is easy for me to walk down to my closest beach at Parkdale and have a swim at any time of the day.

“Ocean swimming is also great because you’re not restricted to the confines of a rectangular pool and following the black line up and down, you get to test yourself against the elements in the open sea.

“Plus with the arrival of the pandemic, there was an increase in the number of people swimming in Port Phillip Bay, which has made it much easier to find others to swim with.”

Writing a book can be exciting and also hard at the same time but Mr Warner loved taking a look back into the history of the swims the most.

“I found doing the research very rewarding,” said Mr Warner.

“While writing the book I had lots of fun connecting with people I didn’t know and being able to learn some of the history behind the 33 events that are featured in the book.”

“I hope anyone who has swum in a Victorian open water swim event will find something interesting in the book.”


In this excerpt from the book, Mr Warner chats with Ray Flanagan of the Mount Martha LSC about how their event was established in 1997 and continues to thrive today:

None of us really had any idea on how to run an ocean swim but we were keen to see it work. Our main sponsor generously committed to funding our expenses and we set about determining what we needed by observing other club swims. We borrowed buoys and anchors, advertised by placing pamphlets in local shop windows and enlisted a team of parents to support us on the day. No GPS in those days; we set and measured the 1.2 km course with rope lines measured and rolled out on a belt and reel. We borrowed power craft from other clubs and used a loud hailer for announcements… Almost 25 years later we are still going strong. Our swim is now called the MMAD Swim (Mount Martha Australia Day) and is a major fixture on the Victorian Open Water Swim calendar attracting over one thousand swimmers. These days we have our own buoys, 5 power craft, numerous board paddling patrollers and most importantly the course is marked out with GPS. A solid group of sponsors not only cover our costs but provide a significant slice of the club’s fundraising revenue each year. Hundreds of volunteers are involved in the MMAD swim organization including most of the club members who were there at the first swim in 1997. Despite its growth in numbers the swim still maintains a fun and friendly atmosphere – this is something that is constantly fed back to us by the swimmers.

Get your copy

To find out more and purchase your copy of the Victorian Open Water Swims book, visit the accompanying website.

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 12 March 2022
  • (Updated on 6 August 2023)



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