The Swim Rats originated where all great ideas come from – after a few drinks – but what started as a bit of fun between mates turned into a community ready to welcome swimmers of all abilities.
The Swim Rats was started by Darrell Beveridge, a larger-than-life, joyful, swimming fanatic who sadly passed away last year from a sudden heart attack. We recently caught up with two of Darrell’s best mates; Julian Brezniak and Greg Clennar to hear the story of the Swim Rats ocean swimming group and how they continue to honour Darrell’s legacy.
“Greg and I have been mates since after high school and we were living in a house in Stanmore in 2014 when Darrell moved in with us,” said Mr Brezniak.
“Darrell was someone I didn’t know but I knew of course Greg was mates with him.
“He moved in and he was a total character and we all got on amazingly.
“Now a bit of background to the story, Greg and I have always done a bit of swimming but nothing serious, more just for fitness but Darrell on the other hand had never done any swimming.
“Fast forward to around 2016 and I was about to move over to America to live and work and Greg, Darrell and I were in the backyard having a few drinks one night. Our plan was to get Darrell to come swimming with us in the morning. Surprisingly he agreed and came along with that and that’s really where the start of Swim Rats started.”
What happened next Mr Brezniak and Mr Clennar could never have predicted, it fuelled a fire in Mr Beveridge and his passion for swimming was born.
“Darrell wasn’t one for fitness and really hadn’t swum before but he came along and got in the pool with us,” said Mr Brezniak.
What happened next I didn’t see, but what transpired was Darrell swam four laps, got out of the pool, threw up and that was the end of his session.
“Shortly after, I moved overseas but unbeknownst to me Darrell kept going back to the pool and really got into swimming, even starting squad swimming with Spot Anderson.
“This was great to see when I returned from America because I joined in with both Darrell and Greg and Darrell really helped me get more focused on my swimming.”
Mr Clennar described Mr Beveridge as someone who was determined to conquer things he wasn’t great at and that’s exactly what he did with swimming.
“Darrell was a very determined person to conquer something and in a sense, he did just that with his first swim of four laps,” said Mr Clennar.
“From that moment he took it upon himself to get good at swimming and make it a thing for himself.
“That’s exactly what he did and very quickly too. Within six months he was swimming nearly every second day and even every day at one point.
“Darrell, just jumped right into it, even joining a squad on his own, which I personally would never do because I would need a friend to join with me, which is why I joined the squad with Darrell and it just sort of grew from there.”
The Swim Rats came from Mr Beveridge’s lust for swimming and wanting to get as many people involved in it as he could.
“Darrell would inadvertently push everyone around him to do more and be more and that’s what he did with swimming,” said Mr Clennar.
“He got people in the water who had never been swimmers before. He would say don’t be scared, just come for a swim with us and have some fun.
“It was quite funny we would just be out and about and he would start talking to friends who’d never swum a lap in their lives, and somehow convince them to come for a swim with the Swim Rats.
“So, the Swim Rats continued to grow from just a group of close mates who were keen swimmers to a broader group of friends who all developed a love for swimming, inspired by Darrell’s unbridled enthusiasm for the ‘big salty blue’ as he’d put it.”
Within six months to a year of the Swim Rats starting they were participating in ocean swim events and signed up for Laps for Life.
“Not long into Swim Rats, Darrell managed to convince a lot of us to do a few ocean swims,” said Mr Clennar.
“We did the Shark Island Swim, Bondi to Bronte, Coogee Island Challenge and a few other annual ocean swims around Sydney that were around the 2/2.5km.
“Darrell convinced us to do Laps for Life because he was super passionate about mental health and really wanted to help increase access to mental health services for young people.
“The first year we did Lap for Life, Darrell swam 68 km because he worked out that was how far the English Channel was there and back and he was always wanting to push himself to insane lengths.
“He then managed to encourage me to swim 50km, which was far more than I was going to but he was that influence and light that everyone including myself needed to push ourselves.”
Soon all of the motley crew of Swim Rats fell in love with ocean swimming and made their own special swim course the ‘Rat Route’.
“We swam at the Prince Alfred Pool and at Wylie’s Baths but Coogee was the real home of the Swim Rats,” said Mr Clennar.
“Because we all had different abilities, we would come down to Coogee and Darrell would say ‘let’s just go for a swim out and see how far we get’ and that’s what we would do.
“We would swim out and try to stay together and go from North Coogee to South Coogee and around the headland to Wylie’s and then back again.
“We started swimming that route regularly and we named it the ‘Rat Route’ and we still do it quite often, especially throughout the last month with Laps for Life.”
Since Mr Beveridge’s passing, the Mr Brezniak, Mr Clennar and Swim Rats have continued his legacy through regular swims and Laps for Life.
“Darrell really loved swimming and the camaraderie and sense of community that came with it,” said Mr Cleannar.
“But more than anything he loved seeing the people around them pushing themselves and took a lot of joy in seeing other people’s achievements, which is a true testament to the great bloke that he is and that is why we have really tried to carry on his legacy.
“We are actually doing the first inaugural ‘Rat Route Swim’ on April 22nd to celebrate Darrell’s birthday. So we are trying to get as many people down to swim for Darrell and celebrate the Swim Rats and what a great guy he was.
“We have also continued to do Laps for Life and will keep doing it in the future to continue his legacy. This year was actually the first year I managed to talk Julian into doing it with us which was great.
“I had never done Laps for Life before this year, but as Greg said he managed to talk me into it this year,” said Mr Brezniak.
“I was already swimming the laps anyway and it was a Darrell initiative so I thought I’d jump on board and help continue his legacy and now I don’t think I would miss it because it is a way to remember Darrell and the great times we had swimming together.”
You can donate to the Swim Rats Laps For Life Page here.