Posted on Tuesday 14th November, 2023

2024 Big Swim


It is generally agreed that the popularity of ocean swim events started on the Pittwater Peninsula and it was not just a swim along a beach, but close to a 3 km swim from one beach to another, a journey swim.

Back in 1973, a Police Sergeant, Bob Lynch, who was then Captain of Whale Beach SLSC, came up the idea of the challenge of a swim from Palm Beach to Whale Beach.

It had not been done before to anyone’s knowledge. The idea stirred the good swimmers in the Club and a number of beach regulars. A somewhat nervous group of 48 lined up for the inaugural start at Palm Beach hoping there were no sharks out there!

42 minutes and 20 seconds later the first elated swimmer, Paul Hughes, came over the finish line at Whale Beach. Fastest time of recent years is close to just 30 minutes.

The news got around that this open water swim had been done. and the numbers rapidly grew with many keen swimmers wanting to swim it.  Organised by Whale Beach SLSC, an entry fee was introduced to cover costs. Initially the event was known as the “Bob Lynch Memorial Marathon Swim” as sadly, Bob had died following an accident on his police motor cycle.

The challenge of a beach-to-beach marathon swim in deep water quickly had the number of swimmers growing to nearly 2000. The event was trademarked as ‘THE BIG SWIM’ and attracted swimmers from all over Australia and some from overseas.

The Sunday of the 2024 Australia Day weekend will see the 50th BIG SWIM underway.

Seasons later, other Northern Beaches Life Saving Clubs followed Whale Beach and organised swims at their beaches – Mona Vale, then Avalon, Bilgola and Newport.

These are  ‘warm ups’ from 800 metres swims to 2 km , ready for the big one.

People going in the ocean swims on the Northern Beaches, come from the Eastern Suburbs ( 35%), Northshore (22%), Northern Beaches 28%, and Inner & Western Sydney (15%). While attracting elite swimmers, most are recreational swimmers wanting to do a personal best in the journey swim challenge of The Big Swim.