By Ben Triandafillou
THE gap between the Port Phillip Heads is one of the most dangerous stretches of open water in Australia but keen swimmers have been crossing the opening since 1971.
The swimmers must take into account the giant container ships, the vast variety of marine life and the detrimental tides when navigating their way from Point Lonsdale to Point Nepean.
The ‘Rip Swim’ is now in its fourth season of organising group swims across the bay with a recent crossing on Sunday 26 February.
Swimmers of all age groups have attempted and successfully completed the daring venture across the 3.2km stretch of water where the Port Phillip Bay meets the Bass Strait but safety is paramount says ‘Rip Swim’ organiser, Grant Siedle.
“We have had a fair bit of talk around the start of this project and some people said it was reckless and foolhardy but we have kept a perfect record and safety is our number one concern,” Siedle said.
Grant Siedle began organising the Rip Swim after completing the crossing several times himself, including a crossing on June 13, 2016 in the freezing winter waters to remember Doug Mew, the first recorded swimmer to complete the crossing on June 13, 1971.
“I do love a challenge and attempting difficult swims but safety definitely is the main priority whenever attempting something like the rip swim,” Siedle said.
“Tides are a major factor when crossing and we have to make sure we are doing our best to maximise our slack tide and we must consider shipping movements.”
The ‘Rip Swim’ organisers work closely with Victorian Ports, Melbourne and Parks Victoria to provide the swimmers with a safe passage.
“There certainly are risks with the unpredictable nature of the water but we take the swim very seriously and have a doctor or paramedic on board as well as canoes following the swimmers,” Siedle said.
The swim normally involves around 30 or 40 swimmers and although the event is swum by the individual, it is a shared experience.
The groups are usually training for several months before the event and need to acclimatise before undertaking the swim.
This year clinics and information sessions will be run at various pool and sporting centres between August and December to support keen swimmers.
The ‘Rip Swim’ dates for the 2017/18 season are set to be announced in early July with bookings to open mid-October.