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Are Manly's Drinks Express a bunch of suspect characters?

In an article written from deep inside the cult of the Drinks Express comes a story of camaraderie, mateship and an overriding drive to good in the community.

‘The Drinks Express? Sounds like a suspect bunch of characters.’

… and it’s not entirely untrue.

For the last ten years, The Drinks Express, part of Manly’s Bold & Beautiful swim group, has swum every morning, 365 days a year, rain, hail, snow (‘we’re still waiting for the snow’) from Manly Life Saving Club to Shelly Beach and back at 6:30 am.

Like most swim groups, it’s grown from a few to a few hundred, and on increasingly warm days, to quite a few hundred. Like most ocean swim groups, it’s a collection of swimmers who didn’t know each other prior to the swim yet, in time, have become good friends looking forward to seeing each other every morning just after 6 am.

It’s turn up, have a chat, say G’day to someone, bring someone new into the group, and make sure you’re on that ramp ready to go at 6:29 am.

‘So, what’s with the name?’

It’s something that still puzzles the group’s go-to leader, Andrew Drinkwater (aka ‘Drinks).

“We started swimming earlier because many who needed to get to work early, the tradies, the teachers, quite a few who had to jump on the ferry or the bus to get to work, just couldn’t make it all work swimming at 7 am with the B&B. So an ‘express’ swim seemed to fit the bill.”

Now some ten years later, the Drinks Express has grown from strength to strength.

“We realise how lucky, how fortunate, we are and wanted to give back to our community, so fundraising and giving back has now become a real commitment for many in the express”.

A number of the Drinks Express have gone on to attain their Bronze Medallion at Manly LSC and join the membership of Manly patrolling South Steyne through the summer season. It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Manly LSC.

“The Drinks Express have a great attitude about them and they love being part of the community. It’s great to see and we enjoy working with them,” said John Michael Thompson, Director of Events at Manly LSC.

Ocean swimmers can, at times, not be seen as key members of the community, and that shouldn’t be the case. The more competent and confident swimmers we have in our oceans, the better. You never know when you could be called upon to help a swimmer in need or a beachgoer with support.

In 2022 the Drinks Express pulled together and raised money for the little-known charity ‘CareFlight’. 12 months beforehand none of the swimmers had even heard of CareFlight until one fateful day when one of our swimmers, ‘StickMan’ (we’ll get onto the nicknames), found himself at the bottom of a cliff having come off his motorbike on a blind corner. Within 30mins the CareFlight chopper was on its way and had our swimmer in hospital in a matter of hours.

“For us, we wanted to dig in and help CareFlight in any way we could. We were hoping to raise a few hundred, and then we set the goal of $1,500. By the end of our rallying the troops, calling on friends’ and families’ businesses, we had raised just over $20,000. That was just awesome and we’re thrilled to know where the money went and how it will help others.”

And now Drink’s has his sights set on 2023.

“We underestimated how much Covid took out of our communities Australia-wide. Confidence in the future and comfort in relationships that were being strained more than we knew. One of our swimmers, the great Simmo, let us know a little more about how much Lifeline was being called on, and we thought – that’s it. It’s Lifeline for us in 2023.”

In 2022 Lifeline was pulled from pillar to post, and the Drinks Express have pulled together once again with Manly LSC and the Cole Classic to raise monies for those who could do with a little help and, importantly, our help can be seen in action benefitting others.

But let’s not think the Drinks Express is a little boring. Far from it. You swim with them a few times and before you have it, you’ve got a nickname.

“Yes, well, we have a few characters in our group. Frangi, The Trooper, The Guv; Madame Guillotene, her protégé; Smurf, The Driver – he drives 40+ K’s every morning to the swim – Snoopy, MerMan, Sneaky, Dancing Dan, and of course, The LOL, which stands for little old lady, but we’d never call her that,” says Drinks with a smile.

In fact, ‘The LOL’ is none other than Jeanette Brits, who has set ocean swimming in NSW on fire with her swims. At 60+ years of age, Jeanette (Jen) has shown all and sundry that age is no barrier and that swimming with a good sense of humour, a supportive team and seasonal goals, you can achieve more than just a few wins. You make great friends who share a love of the ocean and support of the community as shared values.

If you’re thinking of doing the 2023 Cole Classic, supporting Manly Life Saving Club and the many charities that are also supported by this great swim, then join the Drinks Express every morning for an early swim. Meeting at Manly LSC around 6:20 am you’ll find like-minded swimmers who enjoy a swim, a laugh and too many coffees after to see in the morning.

“Everyone is welcome to swim with us. We’d love to meet you. Just bring a smile with you and be prepared to have a laugh, swim in all conditions, and shout someone a coffee.”

You can find the Cole Classic Team entry here.

Entries to the 2023 Cole Classic close on Saturday, 4 February. 

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 31 January 2023
  • (Updated on 3 August 2023)

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