OUT of their depth, navigating their destination with difficulty – the challenges of the 21st annual Beachside Radiology two kilometre Coffs Ocean Swim on Sunday won’t be a walk in the park. But a record team of competitors from The Armidale School are preparing to brave the waters for the iconic event.
Seventy students and six staff will rise well before dawn to travel down the hill for the big swim, which has grown in popularity since two boys and a teacher first took part in 2003.
The TAS group is again expected to be the largest team to register, and among the group there’s a mix of nerves and excitement.
“I’ve swum two km in a pool before and also did a seven hundred metre ocean swim at Yamba in January, but I’m still a bit nervous about such a long distance in the open water alongside so many adults,” said 12-year-old Louis Ross.
Heading back for her fourth event is the school’s swimming captain Lucy Fenwicke, who last year was the third female and 12th to finish overall.
Lucy is normally in the water following a black line at high altitude a couple of hundred kilometres inland, and will contest two breaststroke events at the Australian age championships in Sydney in late April.
“This is my favourite swimming event of the year. And I much prefer it to the pool,” said Lucy, who is this year aiming to finish in the top 10. “And if I’m the first girl out, well that would be a bonus.
““I really like the distance and its much more interesting and fun, from the start running in, having to navigate your way and negotiate the waves. It’s just great.”
Vying alongside her for the Pacific Plate for the first TAS swimmer out of the water is likely to be Australian age championships teammate Jesse Streeting in Year 11.
Some will undertake the swim because it is part of the school’s Triple Crown award [for those who achieve the swim, the 14km City to Surf and the 111km Hawkesbury Canoe Classic during their time at the school]. Others will do it as part of triathlon training.
The swim is also a requisite component of the school’s surf life saving program, in which Year 11 students can achieve their surf bronze medallions in conjunction with Sawtell Surf Life Saving Cub.
Jim Pennington, in charge of swimming at the school, said the event is gaining in appeal every year.
“While the stronger swimmers will be chasing personal best times, the reward of overcoming a fear of the unknown will be just as gratifying for those who are facing the fear of the unknown and doing it for the first time,” he said.