“…the Australian Marathon Swimming Federation was quite active during the 1980’s. John Koorey was the president [he set the record for a crossing of the Cook Strait in 1981 in 5 hours 37 minutes from the South Island to the North Island]. For a number of years back then, we had a series of relay races against the Kiwis across Cook Strait. Philip Rush was the Kiwi swimmer of the day.
We were involved in providing swimmers to some of the very early open water swims where the organisers wanted some comfort that at least one swimmer would be able to complete the course. We were also supportive of, and took part in, The Cole Classic in 1982.
This swim was the first real public open water swim and continues to this day as the oldest continuous open water swim in Australia.
It is funny to look back, but in those early days the fear of sharks was really strong and the early Magnetic Island swims in Queensland were invitation-only as all the swimmers had to swim in shark cages and there were only 7 or 8 cages available. Plus, apart from the English Channel, which everyone had heard of, the concept of ‘open water’ was really new.
Des Renford and Kevin Murphy got a lot of media exposure here in Sydney in 1979 – 1980 when they had a series of challenge swims when they were both trying to be King of the Channel. From memory Kevin nominated the English Channel, Des nominated the swim from the steps at The Sydney Opera House across the harbour to the Ferry Wharf at Manly, not very far, but the whole thought of swimming across Sydney Harbour freaked most people out, hence the publicity. The third challenge was to be Loch Ness [that both men did not finish].
I had migrated to Australia from the UK in 1977 and had been very active in the British Long Distance Swimming Association for a number of years. I was part of The Paddington Mob who had won the Men’s Amateur division of the Captain Webb Centenary Channel Relay race in 1975. Overall, the swim was won by a mixed professional Egyptian team if my memory serves me right. Ah the good old days.
I had training sessions from Gerald Forsberg [shown above]. I am ex-Royal Navy as was he so I had my swimming values set early and firmly. I fondly remember him taking the temperature at various British Long Distance Swimming Association swims. He would wear a very old Navy raincoat and, to ensure a standard for every swim, he would walk into the lake/water at the starting point until the hem of the raincoat was getting wet. Then he would lean forward with his thermometer, take the temperature, and announce to the assembled swimmers the temp for the swim. He was a wonderful, albeit somewhat eccentric, Englishman.”
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