February 1 - 7, 2015: Issue 200

 The Big Swim 2015 – A Brilliant 41st Year of The Challenge

 The Big Swim 2015 – A Brilliant 41st Year of The Challenge

Whale Beach SLSC hosted their 41st The Big Swim on Sunday 25th of January in perfect conditions. Called by many 'The Challenge' due to the originator Bob Lynch, when Club Captain at Whale Beach SLSC deciding the members needed a 'Challenge', this has become a must for many Ocean Swimmers with people travelling from all over the state to be part of it each year. Mates, teams, brothers and fathers, sons and mothers, mothers and daughters do The Big Swim together each year and benefit in more ways than increased fitness as a result.

A gentleman we spoke to on the shuttle bus to Palm Beach, David, a mere 61 years young, was about to embark on his 10th Big Swim, explaining his parents have a home movie of him aged a year and a half trying to dive off a boat into the waters of Palm Beach..."seems I've always been anxious to get into the ocean waters off Palmy." he explained, grinning.

One very special 2015 swimmer, Megan Healey, who is raising funds for Kiss Goodbye to MS, had 37 Umina SLSC members with ages ranging from 12 to 67 swimming alongside her. The Big Swim forms part of what Megan calls her "Bucket List" and she, and her great team, did the swim from Palm Beach to Whale Beach in fine style.

Megan was clearly ecstatic at completing the swim, stating this week:

‘…you brought tears to my eyes. We are just an ordinary family trying to deal with an extraordinary situation. I sometimes feel a little selfish when I dream up these adventures as I can't complete these events let alone organise them without help. It absolutely blows me away that so many people are willing to put their hand up to help make something happen. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people that are so happy to help me not just survive life but live life. I am so grateful to the people that helped make The Big Swim happen. Not only the swimmers but everyone else who was involved in the planning and execution. The kids at Umina Surf Life Saving Club are incredible in their enthusiasm and willingness to join in supporting me. I live in a cloud of optimism/denial as was evident just as the first wave hit on Sunday. The level of skill, strength and determination exhibited by everyone in the water amazed me. Being able to bring me safely through that surf, just a body strapped to a mat, was mind blowing. Massive thank you to everybody, I am very humbled.’

From Megan’s Kiss Goodbye to MS page:

I am one of the 23,000 living with MS and although I am wheelchair bound I am not going to let that stop me. I’ve always been very active, whether it was playing tennis, riding horses, or the occasional bungee jump and skydive. MS has brought with it a different existence with new challenges. I have recently found out that I am one of the very few people who have been diagnosed with a very progressive form of MS. This means that I am getting progressively worse and there will be no recovery and there is no treatment as yet. Although research is starting to be geared towards progressive MS a cure could be at least five years away and my decline is so rapid that my young family and I may not have the time to wait. Eighteen months ago I rode a mower from Melbourne to Sydney (see Megan's Great MS Mowdown) but in the last 12 months I haven't been on my mower or even driven my car and I probably never will. At the moment I can't brush my hair or put on my makeup and within 6 months I probably won’t be able to feed myself.

Although this sounds like doom and gloom I need to your support for myself and my family so that I can continue to support MS research and also show my kids that I am still their fun, active mum. Hence the idea of the bucket list – I want to challenge myself to do some fun things before it is too late and also promote MS to make it better for others. The way I will achieve my bucket list is through your support – contacts you may have with companies who provide activities that are on my bucket list, hands on help, and donates to MS Research to help find a cure. You can see my Bucket List on Facebook at Megan's Big Bucket List 

You can read more about Megan’s story here: www.kissgoodbyetoms.org/about/ms-stories/megan-healey

The Big Swim is a combined effort between Whale Beach SLSC and Palm Beach SLSC members. On the water there were safety people right along the swim course and two helicopters aloft to keep an eye on all participants. At the Palm Beach end Richard Stewart was ably supported by a big team on the sand and in the water, while Rob Berry, also celebrating his 41st year of Big Swims, was out in an IRB off Whale Beach ensuring every straggler made it back to shore. 

On the sand at Whale Beach Ian Sheppard and John Ayliffe were there to greet victorious finishers as they came into Whale Beach and interviewed a number of participants including Pittwater’s MP Rob Stokes, who completed yet another Big Swim this year, and the Member for Mackellar, Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, who also sounded the starter for every group this year. 

Pittwater's Mayor, Her Worship Jacqueline Townsend, as well as Councillor Bob Grace were also on hand at the start and at the finish to cheer on all particpants.

There were 1311 who joined in the Little Big Swim and The Big Swim in 2015, including Can Too Founder and Chair Anne Crawford, who looked pretty happy when she landed on Whale Beach after her Big Swim.

Can Too, a Foundation that raises funds for cancer research, has a Vision stated as: ‘Transforming lives - through improving health and wellbeing in the community and supporting the research, prevention, care and control of cancer. ‘

Can Too is a Health Promotion Foundation that transforms lives through fun, fitness, friends and fundraising.  Beginners and experienced people are given professional coaching as part of a team to run or swim and bike in events. In return, participants raise valuable funds that go directly towards funding cancer researchers. 

The Big Little Swim and The Big Swim always has a lot of Can Too participants and a lot of the fun and big smiles each year stem from these people – there’s definitely something good going on for all those who Can Too!

Any way you look at it this year’s Big Swim, The Original Challenge for Northern Beaches Ocean Swims, has come of age wonderfully. The sea was kind, glassy at dawn, the skies brilliant and Messrs. Stewart, Berry, Morgan and all their support volunteers from Palm Beach SLSC’s President Kate McDonald to each and every lifesaver on an IRB, Jetski, board or float and all those on the sand signing everyone in, then out again, and including the wonderful RFS volunteers on duty at Whaley and Careel Bay with all that traffic, put on a great 41st adventure.

Tom Rowntree - outstanding on ensuring tracker bracelets were returned by finishers

First back to the sand for the Little Big Swim was 17 year old Kye Duke from Warriewood, who completed his swim in 14 minutes and one second, while David Buchan (59) from Newport came second and Paul Hughes (54) Palm Beach came third.

Kye with his proud mum, dad and brother

Kasmir Boskovic triumphed again in the Big Swim, finishing in 32 minutes, 55 seconds, with Chris Fydler hot on his heels, completing his Big Swim in 33 minutes, 43 seconds and Liam Thomson ten seconds after that.  

All results are at: www.oceanswims.com.au/swims/results/results-2014-15.html

Many people have already visited this year's pictures – but if you haven’t or want another look, or to keep some copies of yourself for your own albums, Pittwater Online News photo albums are HERE - relive those great moments and triumphs from this year's Challenge!

The Big Swim 2015 - Some of the Fun 

Report and Pictures by A J Guesdon, 2015.