The Big Swim History

Hi there

Yep, this is a background briefing of The Big Swim, but, if you like swimming in the ocean, take a look at these videos, otherwise pick a year and remember your swim. 

This is what The Big Swim is all about, challenging yourself, your mates, the elements –


It is The Big Swim

Jump to these videos now before you enter at:


The Big Swim - ocean swim course preview -  Aerial of the Big Swim course – no swimmers -

THE BIG SWIM 2011 –SurfwatchAustralia – Big Swim Show reel – This is The Big Swim -

The Big Swim 2009 – Surfwatch Australia - lots of aerials in this one – It is a Big Swim -

The Big Swim – 2017 Adrian Lyons – A day in the Life -

Susan Jimenez - 2016– a Day in the Life of the Big Swim -

The Big Swim 2016 - TheDuke008– how our water safety team see the race – great vid -

THE BIG SWIM 2014 – Caprice Silk – full aerial coverage -

The Big Swim 2014 – Phillipe Wilmotte – A swimmers Journey -

The Big Swim 2013 – Sally Dominguez - Six swimmers from Marin County, California, Down Under -

The Big Swim – 2012 –Macintypedesign – -

 The Big Swim 2012 - Every year just after Australia day 1700 nutters swim from Palm Beach around the headland to Whale beach. Water safety is at a premium in the Big Swim, have a look at how we do it – Good vid this one. -

The Big Swim 2011 – MoveMeImages -

The Ocean Runner - 2011, go pro attached to swimmer -

The Big Swim 2009 – SurfwatchAustralia – Full coverage -

Big Swim 2008 – LeeWilkinson -


And following on from our last newsletter more comments from past Big Swimmers:

The Big Swim is a journey from A to B and what a journey from one beautiful beach to another. Along the way you are challenged by a long cliff line which plays with your mind. You can see schools of fish, rock platforms and you even get to see real estate from an unusual angle! And then there is the camaraderie: you have a yarn to other long term ocean swimmers whom you’ve known over the years or start up a conversation with others who may seem a little nervous on their first attempt. Along the way you have peace of mind due to all the safety craft nearby. And at the finish, while exhausted, you have the satisfaction of having completed one of the most satisfying longer ocean swims while munching on some welcome fruit.

In the swims of the 1980s & 1990s, an era before IT in the popular or mass sense, you’d line up at the end of the race and an official would sign a certificate detailing your time and sometimes your category place and overall place.

I started swimming ocean races in about 1990, I grew up on Bondi and started swimming laps of the beach in the 70s, but didn't enter or even know about the Palm to Whale until I did a Maui Channel swim and Rough Water in 1989. Discovered the Big Swim through that. Ocean swimming and surfing has been a huge part of my life. Love your swim it is one of the best. Thanks for running it and giving so many the chance to experience a big open water swim.
Cheers, Rhett

The Big Swim is the Rolls Royce of ocean swimming.

I did my first Big Swim in 1983. Generally I have been selective in the years I enter the Big Swim because you definitely need some fitness to tackle such a challenge.

The Big Swim has always been excellent in overall organization. The officials and organiser’s of Whale Beach Surf Lifesaving Club need to be congratulated on their consistent ability to host such a massive event for the past 44 years. Palm Beach Surf Lifesaving Club also needs mention for their support and active role.

May the Big Swim continue to flourish in the years to come.


This is interesting, same swimmer different times, the conditions can have a huge impact on how well a swimmer travels on the day!

Here is a list of the Big Swims, I know I have done and my times:

25/01/2015         56:05

26/01/2014         01:08:37

27/01/2013         54:40

29/01/2012         54:51

30/01/2011         50:47

31/01/2010         52:57

25/01/2009         55:24

27/01/2008         58:55

28/01/2007         49:51

29/01/2006         46:25

30/01/2005         Swim Cancelled

25/01/2004         01:02:15

26/01/2003         53:39

27/01/2002         52:02

28/01/2001         01:02:22

23/01/2000         56:55

24/01/1999         01:03:36

25/01/1998         47:28

21/01/1996         01:01:35

1994                       48:10

1993                       45:40


I was at the first race but did not swim it. I did a few in the 70,s and 80’s and 90’s. I was in the freezing race years ago and finished up putting a competitor in our bath tub post-race to warm him up. I am still in contact with him. He was blue. The ambulance service ran out of silver blankets.

I was in the blue bottle race too and made it. My wife did not. And a really rough race where I spent most of the race underwater.

One year I started with 6 mates and only 2 got through the break at Palmy!

In another it was huge at Whaley but I was too tired to care. I don’t know how I got it in.

I have never not finished! Christopher


For years, there was a one gun start and the earlier races I did had about 200 total swimmers. Mike


I have done every swim since 1979 when I was 15.  Looking forward to number 37 this year.  Unfortunately in 2005 the swim was called off and so my mates and I had to create our own swim that year, hence not 38 this year. Chris


Hi, My name is Hermann ,  After I emigrated from Austria, I was unfamiliar with the local conditions, and styles, but I had been a rescue swimmer in the Austrian Water Rescue Team, I believed, I was a strong swimmer. However ocean swimming was not on top of the list of priorities in Austria!

 My first Big Swim in 1997, without goggles and in ‘breast stroke style’, the only stroke I knew then. Having been one of the last competitors to finally arrive at Whale Beach (with very sore eyes), I realised that this was not the way to go. The following year I tried ‘freestyle’, what an improvement! I realized there was more to it than putting one arm in front of the other; I had to do something about my style, especially my breathing technique.  Yes, coughing and swallowing sea water wastes a lot of energy, besides I was almost always pretty seasick.

From my first and following Big Swims I was surprised about how well the event was organized and presented, and about the safety precautions. Now 75, I still enjoy my morning swim at Whale Beach (Pool) every day, summer and winter. Hermann


From all of us at Whale Beach Surf Life Saving, have a great swim and see you on the beach!