So we've been interested to see the numbers at swims this season. Mostly, they've been down. A couple of swims have pulled slightly more than last season, but generally the numbers have waned.
Why? Perhaps the novelty has worn off. Ocean swimming has been "The Next Big Thing", but it's been "The Next Big Thing" for a couple of years now, and nothing stays "The Next Big Thing" these days for more than a minute or two, these days.
Is it sharks that are putting people off? There's been concern on the NSW North Coast, particularly, and it will be interesting to see the numbers at Byron Bay in May, which follows not only a spate of incidents involving sharks but also two years of the last three when the Byron swim has been cancelled on race day. With no policy to acknowledge the punters who'd paid their $65 to enter. We've heard no word of the new Ballina swim, which ran inaugurally last season but so far nothing this season. Although, having done a quick Google just now, we see it's scheduled for April 10. Ballina has felt the shark issue, especially, as has Byron.
But sharks have not been a particular concern farther south, around Sydney. The fever has subsided in Newcastle, after Bruce's raids last season and random sightings in Lake Macquarie -- although, sadly, there's been no sign this season of Stra'a's second longest running open water swim, Across Lake Macquarie, which cancelled last year well ahead of swim day as a result. What a tragedy should it be gone forever. As well as running almost 60 years -- second only to Magnetic Island in Townsville by our reckoning -- Across the Lake was remarkable because it still involved one of its founders, Cliff Marsh, a bit of a legend of surf lifesaving. These days, Cliff's role has been warning of razor fish and firing the starting gun. But he's there, over 50 years on. We recall him in the hall at Caves Beach the day we won our Bronze Medallion in 1968.
Whatever the cause, numbers have been depressed.
Until The Big Swim.
We took 1,897 entries to The Big Swim in 2010, when it was just one swim - 2.8km around Little Head from Palm Beach to Whale Beach. Since then, its numbers have dropped, its recent nadir last season when The Big Swim pulled 1,311 punters, albeit over two swims, with the addition of The Little Big Swim in 2014. The results show 1,453 finishers this past weekend, although taking into account the considerably more who entered the numbers were clearly over 1,500.
A good result.
But it made us realise, punters may be more discriminating these days, with so many swims on offer. They can pick and choose and not feel they're missing out. But they'll turn out for a good swim. And it was a good swim, in some of the best conditions in years: a swell over just over a metre, brilliantly clear sky, and -- this is the best bit -- a gentle offshore breeze. And you know what an offshore breeze does, don't you? It smoothes the sea. And, it blows the blueys away. We did hear of one swimmer being stung, but that was it.
Little wonder there was a buoyant mood on the beach afterwards. This is why we do ocean swims.
Glistening Dave was at The Big Swim
Others were there, too
For full results... Click here
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