Sunday’s youngest competitor, 11-year-old Taylor Halliday, was doing her first ocean swim, accompanied by her father Trent Taylor.
Sunday’s youngest competitor, 11-year-old Taylor Halliday, was doing her first ocean swim, accompanied by her father Trent Taylor.

This year's Ocean Swim "the toughest" yet, says veteran

THIS year's Byron Bay Property Sales Ocean Swim Classic tested John Gudgeon to the absolutely limit - but he wouldn't have it any other way.

The 69-year-old was among the hundreds of contestants braving harsh conditions at this year's event, which saw swimmers race from Byron's Wategos Beach to Main Beach.

Strong winds and chilly conditions made for what Gudgeon, who has contested the Classic for most of its 27 years, described as "the toughest race" he has been in.

The experienced Byron Bay ocean swimmer, who completed the 2.5km race in a just over 49 minutes, said it had been an "interesting" experience.

"I think a lot of swimmers were glad they did it - and survived it," Gudgeon said.

"You are just trying to get rhythm so that you are moving through the water with the least amount of effort, but when you are constantly bashing into water, it's tough.

Sisters Clare and Amanda Sewell from Byron Bay SLSC catch the sun before Sunday’s big race.
Sisters Clare and Amanda Sewell from Byron Bay SLSC catch the sun before Sunday’s big race. Christian Morrow

"It was difficult to see with the spray and the waves coming at you. You were getting bounced around a lot.

"You have no problem thinking you can handle it - you know it's going to be hard for anyone.

"I guess a lot of us who are used to ocean swimming realise that the ocean is something that you respect and can throw anything at you."

George O'Brien was first past the post this year, completing the race in just under 29 minutes.

Gudgeon said it was rewarding to be part of the popular annual event, which is run by the Byron Bay Winter Whales club.

"There's a great sense of accomplishment," he said. "I think that feeling is palpable for everyone involved as well.

"Everyone congratulates each other and I think the crowd appreciates the challenge.

"There's a lot of people of different skills, sizes and abilities who have put them through a tough test.

"Will I do it next year? Absolutely - it's my way of checking I'm still alive."

More information on the race is available at www.byronbayoceanswimclassic.com.au.

 Jan Terkelsen from Byron Bay and Gina Lynch from Noosa prepare to hit the water for the 27th annual Ocean Swim Classic.
Jan Terkelsen from Byron Bay and Gina Lynch from Noosa prepare to hit the water for the 27th annual Ocean Swim Classic.

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