July 10, 2017
It’s 6:00 am on a chilly Sunday morning in Melbourne and the team at the Brighton Baths Health Club are setting up in anticipation for their biggest swim event of the year – the Winter Swimming Carnival. The famed “Swim Kid,” Dan Canta is in the water securing the course buoys, Zane Chapman, “The Grill Master” is setting up his signature sausage sizzles, and General Manager, Ms. Rachael Campbell is buzzing around with a radio in one hand, a clipboard in the other, and a heart full of uncontained excitement.
In just under two hours over 120 men, women and even children will plunge into the icy waters (11.9 C) at the historic Brighton Sea Baths for the opportunity to test their limits and swim amongst some of the best channel swimmers in the world, including the famed “Icebergers!”
The Icebergers are a resilient and diverse group that swim year-round and regularly subject themselves to water temperatures between 8 – 12 C. Keith Forbes, joined the Icebergers when he was just 18. Fifty-five years later, at the age of 73, swimming is still a part of his daily routine. “It’s a great feeling. It’s extremely invigorating and it sets you up for the rest of the day. It becomes a bit of an addiction.”
Although not everyone is as keen as Keith to commit to a daily dip in the icy waters; during the Winter Swimming Carnival, everyone has the opportunity to be ordained an honorary “Iceberger.”
Each year the Winter Swimming Carnival plays host to three iconic swimming events – the 150m Ice Cube Dash, 800m John Dineen Half Mile, and the 1600m Harry Raisbeck Winter Mile. The event is a time-honoured tradition at the baths and has witnessed a beautiful evolution over the years.
What really makes the Winter Swimming Carnival so unique is its inclusive nature. Very few swim events offer the opportunity for people of all ages, genders, sizes, shapes and walks of life to test their limitations in the cold water. Matthew Paynter, the Director of Brighton Baths, reflects, “The event is less about competition and more about community, participation, and challenging yourself personally in cold water. It was very empowering to hear people’s journey’s and reasons for participating – many for the first time.”
Long-time member Gerard Robb has been participating in the Winter Swimming Carnival since the 1990’s and has participated in quite a few swims. “This year the conditions were great and I was happy to see record numbers. There is a real sense of community and comradery built on the shared experience of subjecting yourself to extreme conditions. As human beings, we build the greatest bonds when exposed to the most difficult circumstances. It’s really hard. It’s not easy.”
The oldest swimmer to complete the race, Ms. Jane Bradley, will be celebrating her 80th birthday this coming July. Jane was absolutely wrapped that she completed the half mile in just 18 minutes and 23 seconds and is already planning for next year’s event.
At just 13 years old, David Canta successfully completed the 1600m swim. David Canta, is younger brother to Dan Canta, the youngest Australian to successfully swim the English Channel.
Ultra-marathoner world champion John Van Wisse participated in his 23rd Winter Mile and was the first out of the water in just 18:31. John has been training at the Brighton Baths since he was a teenager and even used to work here. “It’s just been such a big part of my life.” John is currently training to reclaim his world title in the ultra-marathon Arch to Arc.
Australia’s sweetheart of marathon swimming, Ms. Chloe McCardel, was the first female in the Winter Mile, coming in at just 18:35. Chloe is currently the Australian Record holder for completing 21 English Channel swims!
For those who have a competitive streak, below are the results of all three swims.
HARRY RAISBECK MILE
1st Place: John Van Wisse – 18:31
2nd Place: Chloe McCardel – 18:35
3rd Place: Kate Murphy – 19:55
1st Place Women’s: Chloe McCardel
JOHN DINEEN HALF MILE
1st Place: Warren Gould – 10:14
2nd Place: Daniel Odonohue – 10:27
3rd Place: Shane Giese – 10:32
1st Place Women’s: Shana Besanko – 10:33
ICE CUBE DASH
1st Place: James Hillenaar – 1.46
2nd Place: John McSweeney – 2:18
3rd Place: Kevin Cassidy – 2:21
Next year’s swimming carnival will take place on Sunday the 3rd of June 2018. Because of the record turnout, next year there will be a few changes, including limiting the number of participants in each event to 50, so first in, best dressed, and early pre-registration is the only way to guarantee yourself a spot!
Thank to everyone who made this event a success – the participants, volunteers, and Brighton Bath’s team! Keep challenging yourself. It is in life’s challenges that we find the most growth.
Article also published on Sportzhub