It’s time to celebrate iconic Ocean Swims

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There are three swimmers who certainly won’t be missing the start of this year’s Beachside Radiology Coffs Ocean Swims. Coffs Harbour locals Michael Tonks and Greg Swan, and Brunswick Heads swimmer Dave Alexander all share something very special.

They are the only swimmers who have taken part in every one of the Coffs Ocean Swims since they began twenty years ago and will be lining up on the Jetty Beach on Sunday, April 2 to dive in for the twentieth time.

All are keen ocean swimmers and love the iconic event. They have raced in everything from big swells and choppy seas to flat, glassy conditions and wouldn’t miss the annual Coffs swims. Each year they take part in both the 600 m swim around the Jetty and the 2 km swim across the harbour.

Considering the facts, it would be fair to label the three swimmers “Ocean Swim Masters”. In fact, the distance they have covered in the last twenty years would be the equivalent of swimming from Coffs Harbour to Woolgoolga and back.

Greg Swan said he has taken part in every swim because he loves the event, it’s well organised, and swimming in the harbour is great. “Having participated in swims all up and down the east coast, I can definitely say the Coffs Ocean swim is my favourite. The water is clear and there is something really nice about swimming past the jetty.”

After breaking his foot one year in a surfing accident five weeks before the event, he even had the plaster cast removed from his foot earlier than recommended, just to take part!

With two boys and a busy work life, training has had to take a small backwards step when compared to the old days. I used to prefer the shorter 600 m swim, but as I’m getting older, a longer, slower effort seems to suit me better!” “Hopefully I can do the swims until I’m 70, so if all goes well, I’ll still be lining up for the Coffs Swims for the next 30 years or so.”

His advice is simple: “Anyone thinking about trying the swims this year, should just come down and give it a go – they will be hooked like me.”

Another 20-year Coffs Ocean Swims veteran, Michael Tonks, said his motivation is the fact that it is an annual charity event and also very community oriented. “It also motivates me to get fit each year, and I always compete in the 600 m swim to warm up for the 2 km swim.”

He recounts a funny story from the event a few years ago. “I only see some people once a year at the swim, and a couple of years ago I was busy talking to a friend and did not realise that the two of us had lined up with the females for the 600 m swim start. We swam the whole course and were not aware of our mistake until we were in the finishing chute and saw all the females around us and no males. What made it more embarrassing was my name over the microphone was stated as ‘Michelle Tonks’. It took me a long time to live that one down!”

Event founder Mick Maley said, “It’s exciting for the event to be celebrating twenty years with these three swimmers. They have received garden gnomes as prizes over the years, and I’m sure they each display them proudly in their homes. There is a lot of anticipation about what prize they might receive this year to mark the 20 year milestone.”

The Coffs Ocean Swim has plenty to celebrate this year. The event is now part of the Global Swim Series – a collection of independent races from all over the world that have joined together to promote open water swimming and a healthy, active and adventurous lifestyle.

The Global Swim Series currently has over 61,000 swimmers competing in 92 races in 29 different countries around the world and is growing fast. According to a Global Swim Series spokesperson, “The aim of the series is to grow the global open water swimming community by bringing races together on a regional and global scale.”

Canadian John Gayford is currently ranked number one in the world in his age group, and he will be in Coffs Harbour to take part in the swims on April 2nd.

Another coup for the event this year is that Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Brooke Hanson OAM will be competing in the swims. This will be Brooke’s third year as the event ambassador, and she will also be starting the kids’ races and handing out prizes.

Entries are now open for the twentieth anniversary swims, and organisers encourage all those who have participated previously as well as those who have never done an ocean swim to enter and be part of the celebrations.

The Beachside Radiology Coffs Ocean Swims cater for ages 8 and over.

Events include the 600 m Jetty swim, the 2 km Harbour swim, and the Coffs Harbour War Memorial Olympic Pool 150 m and 300 m Junior Swims. All events are held at the protected Coffs Jetty Beach on Sunday, April 2. For more information and to enter, go to

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