Liz Walden didn’t want to celebrate her 70th birthday with any plain old party, she wanted to commemorate it in ocean swimming style!

What started as idle chit chat amongst swimming friends about her upcoming birthday milestone, quickly escalated into an elaborate plan to complete a ‘Festival of 70 Swims’. 

“I was on a swimming weekend and I was just chatting away with my friend Marilyn and a couple of other ladies about turning 70,” said Ms Walden. 

“We were chatting about it being a milestone for both Marilyn and me and how we needed some sort of challenge to commemorate it.” 

Fast forward a couple of months and the ‘Festival of 70 Swims’ was underway.

There were three rules to follow throughout the course of the festival. 

“We had three rules for a swim to count towards being a festival swim,” said Ms Walden.

“One, Marilyn and I had to swim together. Two, the swim must be no shorter than one kilometre, and three, every swim has to be different. 

“We could swim at the same beach but it had to be a different course. 

“The great thing about the ‘every swim must be different’ rule is that it has forced us to look outside of our normal swimming locations and go to other places.” 

While following the rule of ‘every swim must be different’ Ms Walden completed one of her favourite swims at Manly Dam, a place she wouldn’t usually have chosen to swim at. 

“I swam at Manly Dam and it was just so stunning,” said Ms Walden. 

“And it was great because if it wasn’t for the festival, I would not in a month of Sundays have gone for a swim there, so, it was very special.” 

The festival hasn’t been all smooth sailing, with Ms Walden having to increase the frequency of swims due to the COVID-19 lockdown in order to stay on track. 

“There were a few speed bumps along the way, with the lockdown and all the rest of it,” said Ms Walden. 

“Marilyn and I ended up completing three swims a day at one point just so we could fit all the swims in by the end of November.” 

Ms Walden said meeting new swim buddies was the greatest part of her festival.

“I have enjoyed every single swim of mine,” said Ms Walden. 

“But, it has been so great meeting so many different people who have come out to swim with us.” 

“I’ve made new friends and it has been really heartwarming to have people who don’t normally swim with us come and join us for a swim.” 

Ms Walden has completed 66 of her 70 swims and is planning to include a day of swimming in ocean pools down south before her grand finale at the end of November. 

“We have a couple of swims planned to complete the festival, including doing the ocean pools down south,” said Ms Walden. 

“Then we will have our grand finale swim at Bondi Icebergs to conclude the ‘Festival of 70 Swims’.”

‘Festival of 70 Swims’ Quick Quiz

Favourite swim? 

There have been many favourites but swimming in Manly Dam was just so stunning and very special. The Murray Rose Malabar Magic ocean swim event was also just magnificent. 

Longest swim?

My longest swim has been around 4km and it was when I swam from Bronte to Coogee.

Shortest swim?

The shortest swim has been 1km because one of the rules was it had to be more than 1km to count as a festival swim.

Largest group swim?

My actual birthday swim was on 22nd November. We had about 30 people join me and we swam from Shelly Beach to Manly and back. It was truly beautiful.

Furthest swim from home?

We went down to Callala Bay on the South Coast and it was lovely down there.

Wildest swim? 

We did a swim in the Mahon ocean pool and we picked the worst possible conditions on the day. The Mahon pool is a tiny pool and we went at high tide and it was literally like a washing machine. 

But in saying that, we had so much fun in there, we would just jump in and bob about and wave our arms around. We called that swim a kilometre because it was so crazy in there.

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  • hey Marchant
    3 Nov 2021 at 8:58am

    You girls inspire me

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