If you ever want an excuse to come and visit the wonderful town of Busselton in Western Australia, then the famous Busselton Jetty Swim is it. In its 25th year, the 2020 swim saw a record 3300 swimmers hit the pristine waters of Geographe bay and brought some 10,000 people to the foreshore to watch the spectacle.
In my opinion, you are unlikely to witness an event with more excitement, professionalism, grit and determination anywhere.
As the name would suggest, it is basically a whole bunch of people swimming around a jetty. But……. it is not just any jetty, at 1.8km it is the longest wooden pile jetty in the Southern Hemisphere! That is a big swim, straight into the Indian Ocean. You can swim the distance of 3.6km solo, in a duo or team of 4 or in a recent addition to the event, you can walk out and do the mile swim home.
In my 10th consecutive year, my husband and I (due to a lack of training this year) decided to do the duo together. Having mostly completed solo swims in the past, it was quite a different day for me. Today I was able to actually watch part of the swim from the jetty. What a treat!
It began with 50 elite athletes taking off first. These men and women hitting the water with a hunger and strength you couldn’t help but envy. The way they were able to glide seemingly effortlessly through the water was amazing to see. They vied for their place as they headed out into the depths.
The rest of the field started a minute behind in a new ‘rolling start’. 8 swimmers were sent off every 4 seconds. This made for a continued wave of swimmers for some 40minutes. Swimmers wore coloured caps determined by their estimated finish time, allowing swimmers of similar capabilities to be grouped together.
Meanwhile, things were hotting up at the front of the field. The two leaders were clear of the pack as they rounded the end. I was lucky enough to watch them come past as I arrived at my start post 1.4km out. These two guys literally playing cat and mouse as they curved around trying to stop each other drafting. They were neck and neck the whole way in.
In the end, it was a sprint finish with only 1 second separating them. The winner a 17 year old boy from Bunbury just up the road. I could not have been happier for him. I have watched him rise through the ranks and it was clear last year he was a force when he came in second. Third place going to one of his training mates. It was clear though, that what looked like an effortless swim, was in fact a swim in which they gave everything. The winners were spent at the end, embracing each other before bending over hands on knees to catch their breath.
Of course by this stage, I was in the water (I have only seen replays of the finish). Our swim was so enjoyable! After a rather hectic changeover where we lost a lot of time, my husband and I met in the water, he tagged me and I was off.
The first 400m to end was probably the hardest as I tried to find my rhythm. There were swimmers all around me, some swimming straight, some not. It is pretty crazy, but as I rounded the end I settled down and found my groove.
From there, the years of experience kicked in. I knew which buoys I had to sight, how my line should be and how far from the jetty I should be. I just cruised along, the odd song flitting in and out of my head, I thought about what I would say if I was interviewed at the end (strange I know but it actually happened one year!) but mostly I just let the rhythm take over.
I realise now, that is what I love most about swimming, the rhythm. It is like my body just completely takes over and it all just flows and happens naturally. Considering the number of people out there, there were few times today that the rhythm was broken. By the end I felt great, I could have kept swimming and swimming in my own little world! It truly felt, in the midst of thousands of people, that I had escaped! I almost felt disappointed it was over!
As the competitors met their supporters on the beach there was much smiles and excitement. Everyone super proud of their achievement. Each had their own story, from swimmers who had only just learnt to swim, to those breaking their personal best times to those overcoming illness or injury, their achievement was simply finishing.
As a life long swimmer and a coach of many kids, I still can’t wipe the smile off my face. Today, it wasn’t about the time, it was about being a part of something big. Bigger than you or me, something that teaches people just to get out there and give it a go because you never know what you might achieve.
I know it was on my doorstep, but the stories I saw today made me feel like I traveled a long way ………. perhaps I did in a funny sort of a way. Maybe it was a journey down the lane of perspective.