A magical day at the Rottnest Channel Swim

Yesterday my husband and son (Child No 1) did the Rottnest Swim as a duo. The Rottnest Channel Swim is an annual 19.7 kilometre swim from Cottesloe Beach near Perth to Rottnest Island. It can be swum solo, as a duo or a team of four. Each team or solo swimmer has to have a support boat and paddler which assists them on the day providing sustenance, making sure they follow the course and they don’t get hypothermia. Team swimmers are only allowed on the boat once they’ve tagged the next swimmer in the water, whose been waiting on the boat in the meantime. Solo swimmers aren’t allowed on their support boats at all. No swimmers are allowed to touch the kayak.

The conditions were absolutely perfect for the swim yesterday. There was hardly any wind for the most part and the sea looked like a dam, which made for an easy crossing. (I say easy with the utmost respect and admiration to all the swimmers who were out there yesterday, knowing full well I will never be able to do it.) Last year when my husband did it as a solo swimmer the conditions were very tough and it was his first solo swim. It was nail biting, waiting for him on the island and watching him slow down on the tracker, worried about whether he’d make it, get hypothermia or simply run out of time. It would have been gut wrenching after all the hours of dedicated training for something to go wrong. (I wrote about last year’s swim here.)

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View towards the mainland from the ferry. Perth city is visible towards the right

This year Ironman wasn’t going to do the swim. My son and a friend were going to do it in a duo but our friend was offered a great opportunity in a gap year program which meant she wasn’t able to do the swim anymore. They deliberated for a little while who they could ask to take her place. It took my (relatively swimming unfit at that stage but always ready for a challenge) husband only about half an hour to decide that he’d step up and be our son’s teammate. With about 5 weeks to go before the swim he started swim training again rigorously and had to admit that he was actually quite excited about doing this duo swim with his son.

We left home at 4:30am to drop Child No 1 at the start while my husband made his way to where the support boat was being launched. The support boats have to wait for their swimmer about 1 kilometre from the start and the paddlers about 500 metres. After he’d registered and we’d lathered him with zinc against sunburn and sheep fat against stingers (stinging jellyfish) their wave started at 6:35am. The girls and I then made our way to the ferry to go across to the island and wait for them there.

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Early morning at the start at Cottesloe beach

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Paddlers and support boats waiting for their swimmers with Rottnest Island in the background

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Taken at Cottesloe beach just after sunrise. The visibility was amazing with the island and one of the lighthouses clearly visible

Rottnest was at its best. It was hot and wind still but that meant the water was even clearer than we’re used to seeing it. It was packed with people waiting for their swimmers to arrive, as well as the usual tourists. We cycled to The Basin (a beach close to The Settlement where the finish line was and all the ferries arrive and depart from), and had a lovely refreshing swim before Child No 3 and I cycled to the little airport where we took a scenic flight over the island and the swimmers. It was breathtakingly beautiful. My amateur photos with reflections from the windows can’t do it justice but my memories of yesterday will always stand out. Even the pilot (who does that sort of flight daily and sometimes a few times per day) said: “It’s insane(ly beautiful).” I’m immensely grateful to call a place with such exquisite natural beauty home and for the opportunity to experience it the way we did.

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Rottnest Island taken from the west. The mainland can be seen in the background.

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Thomsons Bay and the eastern tip of the island.

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View of the swimmers and support boats and kayaks. The mainland is in the background.

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The swimmers, support boats and kayaks. Taken towards the island.

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One of the last photos taken from the air. My camera was playing up at this stage and the trusty iphone did the trick.

Afterwards we made our way to the popular bakery and Child No 2 joined us for some lunch and all the while the poor swimmers were slogging it out. When we stood at the finish line waiting for our boys we watched all the different emotions of the finishers. Joy, elation, relief and pure exhaustion for some. I was once again in absolute awe of especially the solo swimmers whose feet had last felt anything solid underneath them 19.7 kilometres away on the mainland and who’d got themselves across the channel through hours of sheer hard work and determination to set foot proudly on the island after a gutsy effort. I take my hat off to all of them and I’m very proud of our boys.

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The finishing channel

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Lots of support kayaks at the finish line.

None of it would of course have been possible without the support crews who very generously gave up their time and helped the swimmers. Thanks guys, it’s much appreciated. And then there’s the volunteers as well, who help make the event happen and the day a success. At the end of a long day in the sun there was “debriefing” (ie sharing funny tales about the day) over a beer with the support team and a day like this wouldn’t be complete without the scene being set for the next challenge. Ironman and his triathlon and Rottnest swim mate are already challenging each other for the next event.

16 thoughts on “A magical day at the Rottnest Channel Swim

  1. I actually held my breath reading it. How can people be in the water for hours with the knowledge that you can’t just stand on your feet when you had enough? Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  2. Dis wonderlik dat die 2 manne die amper 20 km swem gedoen het. Baie geluk ! En die fotos uit die lug is asemrowend mooi. In werlikheid was dit seker nog mooier. Lekker naweek, Helena xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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