February 2 - 8, 2014: Issue 148


The BIG SWIM 2014 – the 40th Bob Lynch Memorial Palm Beach to Whale Beach Ocean Swim

L-R: Peter Taylor, Paul Hughes and Paul Young. Picture by A.J.G., 2014. 

Report and Pictures by A J Guesdon

The 2014 celebration of the 40th BIG SWIM brought thousands of people to Pittwater either as entrants or as support crews and family members. Swim Clubs from all over Sydney and even people we spoke to on the sand from Orange annually make the trek to Palm Beach to swim to Whale Beach.

" Love it, wouldn't miss it." they stated. 

Rob Berry, indefatigable organiser of this iconic event, reports ‘Atrocious conditions to start but the swell settled and we had 1120 brave the seas and finish.’

The fastest time was Kasmir Boskovic (19 yrs) from Rockdale in 34.16, and the first lady to finish was Alicia Caldwell, (18 yrs), Seaforth in 38.57. 

Kasmir Boskovic

Alicia Caldwell with Ian Sheppard, Whale Beach SLSC.

In the lead into the BIG SWIM 2014 we brought you a small item regarding two of the original Big Swimmers Paul Young and Brian Lamrock. Paul kindly allowed us to have a chat with him after the festivities (below) but we can report that the friendly competition between these blokes from first swim was won by Brian this year. Their times: Brian Lamrock; 1.06.55 and Paul Young; 1.16.25 . Both are in the 55-59 age group. 

Annie Crawford of Can Too tells us they had about 200 swimmers in the Little Swim and Big Swim this year. Many of these swimmers were doing their first ocean swim ever (in the Little Swim) and a lot of the remainder were stepping up to the Big Swim for the first time!

Annie said during the week, “It was incredibly exciting for us all as our Can Tooers moved beyond their comfort zone and into the world of exercise and ocean swimming . In addition to moving beyond their comfort zones, mentally and physically, our Can Tooers are motivated by the fact that they are swimming for more than just themselves. They are swimming to make a difference!! They are swimming to raise money for our  most brilliant Australian Cancers in the hope that they will find that elusive cure !!!. Many are swimming for those that can’t- for family, friends and colleagues who have cancer. 

The group have already raised almost $300k and by the time they finish their fundraising journey, will raise close to $500k. This is enough funding for another 5 researchers . We are very proud of our wonderful team!!!!

We are starting our run programs at Narrabeen / Mona Vale as well as many other places around Sydney - in the first week of February. If anyone is interested in achieving goals through fun, fitness, friends and fundraising – they could check out our website – www.cantoo.org.au


a chat with Paul Young, Peter Taylor and Paul Hughes – Whale Beach Surf Life Saving Club members

Paul (Young), how did the first swim eventuate?

Paul Young: It was a vision of Bob Lynch’s. He was the Captain of Whale Beach Surf Life Saving Club, and a Sergeant with Police at North Sydney. Bob was a country boy, he came down to Sydney and was befriended by people up here at Whale Beach. He married a Mosman girl. Bob was eventually living up here and paddling his ski along the beaches. He was a wary of sharks, didn’t swim alone a great deal. Initially the Lynch’s lived in the green house up there on the point (overlooking the Wedge – Whale Beach) and they moved around the corner into a brown coloured house there where he was looking east to the horizon. Bob had a vision of people swimming past him in front of the house and that was really how it was created. Because he frequented Palm Beach with his three sons, he used to swim out from Kiddies Corner and thought why not keep going and swim into a beach he was familiar with, which was here at Whale Beach, and that created the momentum.

What was the first 1974 swim like?

Peter Taylor: There weren’t a lot of swimmers in it, people thought there was a risk of a shark attack. A lot of swimmers in those days, as we’re going back a number of years, weren’t used to swimming long distances. Pool swimmers trained long distances but there weren’t any long-distance ocean swims. 

Paul Young: Rough water swimming came from America really, in California there were swims where they swam straight along the beaches but to swim around a headland was unheard of in Australian terms. People who live on islands had done it – when I worked on Jersey there were all these plaques on the boatsheds ramps where boys and girls had swum around the island depending on the Summer and the conditions and currents, which I thought was quite remarkable(Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club). In Australia it was a very novel event to promote. 

Peter Taylor: In the first swim most of the swimmers were Surf Club people from either Palm Beach or Whale Beach. It was initiated obviously by Whale Beach so the majority of the swimmers were Whale Beach Surf Club swimmers and there were a few locals that joined in. 

1974 - the first BIG SWIM entrants.

Paul Young: Brain Oxenham, a doctor at Palm Beach came in and was first on to the sand because he cut the corner. He walked down to the southern corner and someone said, ‘come in and have a swim’ and he actually beat Paul Hughes who was the first one to go around the buoy; we only had one buoy in those days. We would take off from Kiddies Corner at Palm Beach, chicane into the rip into a small bunch as we only had a small amount of Water Safety people on patrol those first few swims. Bob then got the frog divers in, they all looked like sharks swimming beneath us! (laughs), and all had spear fishing gear to boot! (laughs again).

So who won the first swim?

Paul Young and Peter Taylor: Paul Hughes was the official winner.

Peter Taylor: The smart people decided, on the second swim, that you could actually swim out around the point, get on to the rocks, run along the rocks (Paul Young (right) laughing in background) and dive in at the north end of Whale Beach to complete your swim. There were a few of them doing that.

So there was a fair amount of….

Paul Young: Skulduggery! 

I’ve heard that you had to assist a few swimmers during that original swim Paul?

Paul Young: Yes, I did. We had this novel idea that we should handicap it and I went out 35 minutes after the start and by the time I got back here to Whale Beach one of my mates, Steven Vidgen, had been pitched over a wave and was almost delirious. The other was Peter Gardiner from memory. I held them up for a while and then we all got in together.

So that slowed you down a bit?

Paul Young: Yes, I was in contention I thought, but then again, your head’s always bigger then your ability! (laughs)

How did you do Peter?

Peter Taylor: You have to understand that I didn’t believe in the swim at all, so there was no way that I was….

Paul Young: (laughing)… going to get enthusiastic and train!

Peter Taylor: I was not going to risk my life and my family’s future by swimming around that headland. I thought that was a silly idea and I told Bob Lynch that it was a silly idea. So I didn’t go in the first swim. But then….Bev (Peter’s wife) used to swim with flippers and I used to swim with her and she swam beside me with flippers. 

One of the interesting sidelights to this, of which there are many, is that one of our Life Saving people here for a long time on the beach at Whale Beach was Noel Greenfield (more on Noel in Extras). Noel knew that he was dying of cancer, he insisted on swimming. Bev said that she would swim with him and together they swam from Palm Beach all the way round to Whale Beach. He wanted to die out there but he made it home and passed away a few months later. 

Right: Peter Taylor

I trained my daughter to swim in the race and told her where to swim in one of the races. Five year League swimmer, she was a good swimmer and about 19 at the time. I trained with her at Palm Beach pool, which is an Olympic sized pool, and she would ask how many laps I’d done – I would say, I’ve run along the beach and done 12 laps. After she’d swum three laps she said ‘I’ll have to go faster, this is too slow’, so I said ‘ok, off you go’. After I’d done my 12 laps I got out and she kept going and did 20 or 25 and got out. I said ‘what are you going to do tomorrow?’, she said ‘Nothing, 25 laps should be enough for an Ocean Swim.’

The next day she swam from Palm Beach behind the elite swimmers in the 1982 swim and by the time I got back to the beach she was dry; ‘What’s been keeping you?’

Paul Hughes you were the winner of the first BIG SWIM, how did that feel?

Paul Hughes: It was good, it felt good.

How long did it take?

Paul Hughes:  42 minutes. I was 36 or 37 then. I’d done a lot of swimming. I came form the Central Coast originally and moved here in the 1960’s. I kept swimming down here. The second year they handicapped me and I got down to 37 minutes that year. 

What stands out about that first few year for you?

Paul Hughes: The conditions were really rough. The first one we swam into a sou’-easter and it was really rough, but it was all an unknown, that was the problem, everything was an unknown. Everything you saw was a shark (laughs). But it was good. I’ve swum in about 10 or 12 since then.

Colleen (who used to live in Ocean Beach, Central Coast – where Paul is from): In our time Paul Hughes was the equivalent of Trevor Hendy. He was the Champion of Champions and there has been no one like him since. 

Was there a fan club?

Colleen: There was a big fan club. He was a Champion on the beach and in the water, no one could beat him on the whole of the coast. I now live in Yamba and I only have to mention the name ‘Paul Hughes’ up there to people from here and they all remember Paul Hughes. My cousin who lives at Wauchope remembers him too, there was just no one like him. He was an absolute legend. 

We also spoke to Pittwater Councillor Alex McTaggart who went in the second swim of 1975 when a member of North Palm Beach SLSC (club member 274). 

Alex McTaggart: I remember all of the early swims started right down the south end in Kiddies Corner as there were only around 100 starters that year. I remember this one as they invited Des Renford* the renowned distance swimmer to participate as part of an advertising broadcast. I recall sitting on the beach and I saw this rotund little gentleman and thought, if I can’t beat him then there’s something wrong. He was a remarkable swimmer, who came in about an hour after everyone else as short speed wasn’t his forte, but he could have kept going to New Zealand. 

Alex McTaggart actually won the 1975 race, which he quietly mentioned after raving about Desmond Renford. In fact, Alex has swum in every BIG SWIM since except the 2005 swim which was cancelled due to dangerous conditions and the 1978 swim where a skiing accident prevented him competing. When Mayor of Pittwater he also participated in the Mona Vale and Avalon Beach SLSC Ocean Swims as well. Mr. McTaggart even went to Turkey in 2010 and swam from Europe to Asia across the Dardanelles in the 200th anniversary of the Lord Byron swim. Lord Byron swam this in 1810. Alex tells us the water temperature was 11 degrees. 

Alex McTaggart: I was 25 in this 1975 race. I’ve swum from the first table and am now in the over 65 males.

The Pittwater Series of Ocean Swims concludes with the BIG SWIM – what is the best thing about these Ocean Swims taking place in Pittwater each Summer?

Alex McTaggart: There are two real benefits, the first being that they raise funds for the clubs, the other is that they raise the profile of the Surf Life Saving movement. If you look at the ratio of people who come, for instance, to participate in the Whale Beach Swim, the majority of them are not Pittwater locals. They’re from the inner city, from the Eastern suburbs, many of whom train in pools. This introduces them to the beach which I think is lovely. 

There were people from Orange participating this year too.

Alex McTaggart: It’s remarkable how popular this swim is. 

The Dash-for-cash post swim fun was held in challenging 2 metre surf with big breaking waves. Pittwater State representative Rob Stokes changed into borrowed budgie smugglers and courageously swam. Also taking on the challenge was Alex McTaggert, Councillor of Pittwater Council. These two gentlemen nominated the Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary as the recipient should they triumph. The winner was Kasmir Boskovic however, a young man who is definitely in the flying fish category of swimmers.

Rob Stokes, Pittwater MP and Cr. Alex McTaggart after the 'Dash-for-cash' fun swim.

Scotland Island lady Alison Trapnell also did very well in the 45-49 years group. Alison has competed in many swims and this was her sixth or seventh BIG SWIM. Alison told us during the week “I love that swim.” and asked us to remind people that these swims are to raise funds for our volunteer Surf Life Saving Clubs who work really hard to make the Ocean Swims a success. 

The Ocean Swims are great for people who aren’t members of sports clubs. These people are supported and encouraged by our Surf Life Saving Clubs to join in and find out more about what these and ocean sports are about.


All results HEREAerial photo by and courtesy of Michael Brown of Surf Watch Australia. Pittwater Online News BIG SWIM 2014 Public Album by A J Guesdon HERE More Pictures in our Pittwater's Australia Day  2014 Celebrations

NB: participants can download mages for their own Family Albums - these are not for commercial use by others.


Noel Greenfield

Whale Beach SLSC’s Noel Greenfield was one of the founding members of the club. The WBSC honours his memory and his contribution with a Point to Point (Noel Greenfield Trophy). 

CREW OF LAUNCH BATTERED ON ROCKS. Two men were battered and cut on the rocks of Whale Beach, when their disabled launch drifted ashore in heavy seas. Noel Greenfield (above, left) of Whale Beach Surf Club, plunged into the boiling surf without a line to bring them in, and Jim Barnes, of Palm Beach Club (below, left) assisted him. The two pictures (right) show the launch drifting, and its  splintered wreckage in the foam in the foreground. CREW OF LAUNCH BATTERED ON ROCKS. (1938, January 27). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17444190

Picture at right of Noel Greenfield courtesy of Whale Beach Surf Life Saving Club

HAZARDOUS RESCUES. MEN STRUGGLE IN SURF SYDNEY. Wednesday. Two men had a desperate struggle for life in heavy seas, and were severely lacerated on the rocks, when their launch broke down off Whale Beach to-day. Two young life-savers, at the risk of their lives, dived off the rocks and swam to their aid. George Pollitt, aged 38 years, of Wind-mill street. Miller's Point, and George Cunningham, aged 40 years, of Botany street, Redfern, were bringing a 28 foot launch down the coast from Church Point. There was a heavy sea running, and about mid-day, when they were off Whale Beach, the engine failed. The two men, using sweeps, made desperate efforts to keep the boat head on to the seas, but it was a hopeless fight. The launch, half swamped, was swept rapidly toward the dangerous rocks at the southern end of Whale Beach 

Life-saver's Effort: When their plight was seen by the members of the Whale Beach Life-saving Club, Noel Greenfield, aged 20 years, without waiting for the line ran to the rocks and dived into the sea A wave swept him back against the jagged rocks He was battered and cut about the body but he fought his way clear and swam 70 yards through heavy seas to the disabled launch. The two men on board were exhausted, and it was obvious that nothing could save the boat. Greenfield (pictured) clinging to the gunwale, called to Pollitt and Cunningham to jump overboard and swim for their lives. Both strong swimmers, the two men jumped into the sea just as a large breaker swept Greenfield away. Pollitt worn out by his ordeal was in difficulties. Greenfield struggled to his side, and assisted him to a half-submerged ledge near the Cliffs. As they were resting there, another wave swept them apart, and Pollitt was thrown against a rock and knocked unconscious. Greenfield's club mates reinforced by Palm Beach life savers, who had rushed to the scene by motor-car formed a human chain, and managed to pull him and Greenfield on to the rocks.

In Grave Danger: It was dangerous work and seven of the rescuers were swept into the surf at one stage, and had a hard fight to reach safety. Meanwhile Cunningham, caught in a strong undertow, was in grave danger. James Barnes, of the Palm Beach Surf Club, dived in with belt and line to help. The line was cut on the rocks by the heavy seas, but Barnes reached and supported him until a line could be thrown from the rocks. They were then both hauled to the shore. HAZARDOUS RESCUES. (1938, January 27). The Argus(Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11143845

Whale Beach SLSC History Page 1: www.pittwateronlinenews.com/whale-beach-slsc.

Paul Hughes

A member of Ocean Beach before becoming a member at Whale Beach SLSC, Paul was known as Paul (Yabba) Hughes and a report in the History of the Umina SLSC points to the inherent sportsmanship in all Surf Life Saving:

1965/66 – “Due to all available members and associates requirements concerning clubhouse construction work happening on the same day, no Club members were able to compete at a branch carnival. Alan Kable did not get the message and turned up at the carnival with no reel for the belt race or team to feed the line. Some members of Killcare, McMasters and other clubs pitched in to make up his team and he still won by 20 yards. However he was disqualified, but in an act of sportsmanship Paul (Yabba) Hughes (Ocean Beach) who had been awarded first place as a result of the disqualification, willingly offered Alan his trophies.” Retrieved from http://uminaslsc.org.au/about/history/a-brief-history-1959-1969/

*Desmond Robert Renford MBE (25 August 1927 – 30 December 1999) was an Australian long distance swimmer who swam the English Channel 19 times from 19 attempts. This is more successful crossings than any other Australian. From 1975-1979 and for a period in 1980 he held the title of King of the Channel. At the time of his death, only two other people had swum the Channel more often, Alison Streeter (38 times; more since then) and Mike Read (31). Des Renford. (2012, December 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Des_Renford&oldid=527429819

At Palm Beach - great Australia Day fun! 

Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, Federal Member for Mackellar, who started all races at Palm Beach, with Richard Stewart of Whale Beach SLSC - Event Director. 

Warringah/Pittwater RFS Members were part of the team helping out at Whale Beach. 

Dr.Peter Saxon-Williams - on duty! 

 Member of Parliament for Pittwater, Rob Stokes, Mayor of Pittwater, Cr. Jacquiline Townsend, Palm Beach SLSC Masters Captain Gordon Lang.

The sweetest nectarines have tasted all Summer given to entrants by Whale Beach SLSC ladies.

Charlie Young (14 yrs.) of Avalon - 1st in M-Under 15 Group and 8th overall; 40:57. with John Ayliffe, Whale Beach SLSC.

Cyril Baldock (70 yrs.) of Bondi - 1st in M- 70+ Group; 45:50 - Cyril swum the English Channel in 1985 in 10 hours, 44 minutes and  plans to swim it again in August 2014!

John Kelso (84 yrs - around 12 BIG SWIMS) with Judy Playfair  (60 yrs. - 5 BIG SWIMS).

Report and Pictures by A J Guesdon, 2014.