History of the Shark Island Swim Challenge
posted: 21 August 2009
The first Cronulla Shark Island Swim was held in October 1987 on a drizzly overcast day. There was a medium swell running and the water surface was choppy. Sixty-four competitors swam from Cronulla Beach out to sea and around Shark Island and back to the beach; approximately 2.4 kilometres. There were no buoys and the competitors swam their own course causing many to have concern for their safety. There were no prizes but the race had already attracted some attention with long distance swimmer and Australian Belt Champion, David O'Brien winning the race.
The most recent events have seen some of the best swimmers in Australia compete with over 1,000 entries. Notable past competitors include David O'Brien, the leading marathon swimmer in the world, and Susie Maroney. However, the majority of swimmers are recreational. The reason for the race's popularity is that it can be observed from vantage points along The Esplanade. This is the only ocean race where this is possible. Prizes have increased to $1,000 for the first male and $1,000 for the first female while the second and third prizes are $400 and $200 respectively. There are also 26 age category prizes for male and female winners.
Daniel McClellan, Australian and World Surf Champion, won the race seven years in succession until beaten in 1998 by then up and coming iron man Ky Hurst. That year some 60 people were stung by blue bottles. Stacy Gartrell, the Commonwealth Games Champion won female category five times. Other winners of the event include Brad Turner and 1999 winner Nathan Smith in the male section while in the women's Jacqui Robinson, Natasha Bowron and Simone Cotter and 1999 winner Kristie Ogilvie have been winners.
In 1999 the race could not be held around Shark Island due to the weather conditions and a triangular course was set straight out to sea from the beach. That race saw the first amputee swimmer Chris Jamieson compete in the swim, not a bad effort for a man who had never been in a swim marathon and with only one leg.
Competitors claim the Shark Island Swim is among the best ocean contests due to its organisation and safety aspects. Over 60 race officials are on hand manning offshore rescue boats, jet skis, rubber duckies, surfboats, skis and rescue boards. There are also first aid people and a doctor on standby.
Susie Maroney was the official starter in the year 2000, which was won by Craig Stevens. The following year almost 690 swimmers competed with Mark Saliba from Campbelltown winning the men's and North Cronulla's Kate Krywulycz winning the women's.
In 2002 conditions were perfect and Mark Saliba was expected to back up and repeat his performance but it was Wanda Junior Chris Allum who swam away from the pack halfway through the race finishing in a fast time of 28 minutes. North Cronulla's Junior Champion Kate Krywulycz won the women's division for the second year running while Federal Member for Cook Bruce Baird was amongst the age divisional winners.
Heavy rain and an early storm greeted us for the 2003 events, but the sun was shining for the commencement of the swims. The highlight of the 1km Ocean Fun Swim was the effort of 83 year old Anna Vogt who finished the swim in 43 minutes. In the 2.3km Shark Island Swim Challenge Matthew Hiesley was the first male swimmer across the line while local swimmer Lauren Bartlett took the female honours.
The 2004 weather was cloudy, but warm with flat seas. The 1km Ocean Fun Swim was fiercely contested by 180 swimmers. The young swimmers dominated the results with Hayden Allum being the first male swimmer and Cassie Davenport the first female swimmer across the line.
The 2.3km Shark Island Swim Challenge had 753 competitors with Josh Santacaterina being the first male swimmer and Chloe Abbott the first female swimmer across the line.
In 2005 the weather conditions were almost perfect and we had a record number of 1,098 entries in both of the swims. In the 1km Ocean Fun Swim Chad Hancock (12.14) was the first male swimmer and Lauren Davenport (12.26) the first female swimmer across the line. In the 2.3km Shark Island Swim Challenge Josh Santacaterina (26.20) won the event, with the first female swimmer being Shelley Clark (29.02).
In 2006 the weather was very kind but we received some unexpected guest (bluebottles) at the last moment. We had a total of 1,023 entrants entered for both swims. The 1km Ocean Fun Swim was officially started by long time swim Convenor, John Hollingdale. This event was strongly contested by the 258 competitors who entered the swim with ages ranging from 10 to 74. Stuart Braine and Zak Abdallaoui (11.44) were the joint male winners and Lauren Davenport (11.53) the first female swimmer across the line.
The shortened Shark Island Swim Challenge was officially started by Cronulla Sharks Captain Brett Kimorley. We had 747 competitors entered in this event and the swim was completed in short time. Brendan Capell (8.51) won the event, with Andrew Beato (8.58) in second place and Tom O’Keefe in third place (9.45). The first three female swimmers to cross the line were Luane Rowe (10.02), Amanda Plescan (10.03) and Alicia Burgess (10.04).