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Victorian Open Water Swims Book

By Don Warner

Open-water swimming events have been important community occasions in Victoria for over 100 years. The inaugural Yarra River 3-mile swim was held in 1913 and was conducted every year until 1963 (and later between 1987-1992). For a period of time in the 1920s & 1930s the Yarra swim was recognized as the most important open water distance swim in Australia – hundreds of swimmers took part and thousands more lined the river banks & bridges to watch. In regional Victoria, the Hopkins River One Mile swim at Warrnambool was a significant fixture on that town’s sporting calendar between 1960-2005 and was well-supported by the locals.

Starting in the 1980s, a number of surf clubs decided to introduce an annual swimming race open to the general public which was additional to their usual surf club activities. The Pier to Pub swim at Lorne started in 1981 and later in the decade the clubs at Warrnambool, Portsea, Half Moon Bay and Point Lonsdale also introduced a swim at their respective locations. Since 1990 many more surf clubs have introduced annual swims and currently, there are also annual open water swims in inland country Victoria at Echuca, Nagambie and Daylesford. As with the earlier Yarra River and Hopkins River swims, today’s swims are all wonderful community events that numerous volunteers and businesses support. In most cases, the swims are the major fund-raising activity each year for the different organizing groups.


Having participated in many of the open water swims conducted in various parts of Victoria over the last 35 years, I thought it would be fun to compile a book about these events. I have always had a keen interest in history, so in compiling the stories about the various swims, I sought assistance from people who had some recollection of the early years of his/her event. There are some very interesting personal insights from relevant club officials about certain swims and where I couldn’t track down the right individual, I have relied on material found on club websites to provide a small amount of background information. Lots of photographs are included which will help people get a good feel for each event.

Readers will also find some results for the various age categories (top 3 placings) in the most recent swim that each club has held (due to Covid this could be in either 2019, 2020 or 2021 depending on the event). I am also very grateful to the Lorne SLSC for the opportunity to include in this book a full listing of their Shark Bait Medallists. Over 3000 swimmers have swum the 1.2 km Pier to Pub course at Lorne a minimum of 10 times since the event first started – a remarkable total.

At the end of the book a special profile on Con Duyvestyn is included – Con has competed in an astounding 473 swimming events (most of them in Victoria) since 1988 through the 2021 season. I have also included information on both the discontinued Yarra River and Hopkins River swims which I thought might be of interest to readers.

A guide to the more than 30 organized events

  • Historical overviews of 33 Victorian Open Water swims.
  • Category results for all age groups from the most recent swims (first 3 placings).
  • 83 photos showing swim locations, swimmers and support personnel (including a number of drone photos that show off our beautiful Victorian coastline).
  • Special interviews with selected swimmers
  • A full listing of the more than 3100 ‘Shark Bait Medal’ swimmers from Lorne’s Pier to Pub event through the 2021 season.
  • Limited production of books are available to purchase now through the secure Square Checkout.

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