Cult of swim
By ADRIAN MILLER
YAMBA'S annual Convent to Main Beach Surf Swim Classic is fast attaining cult status with a record 296 entrants attempting the 1.2-kilometre course yesterday.
The 17th ocean swim also may have ranked as one of the seaside town's biggest sporting events, according to organiser Barrie Cribb.
Mr Cribb said he had been worried about early morning weather conditions, but a southerly wind blew up, providing calm conditions and sunny skies for swimmers.
The Yamba Surf Life Saving Club stalwart could not hide his pleasure at how it had turned out, rating this year's event as one of the best.
"This is the biggest event we've ever had in Yamba, in any sport," he said.
Mr Cribb said the swim was really starting to gain a reputation and support from far away places.
"It is growing into a bit of a cult event. We get a lot of people from swimming clubs and masters clubs from all over Australia."
Yesterday's swim certainly captured the attention of Yamba, with hundreds of spectators lining the beach and rocks between Convent and Main beaches, as well as many people waiting for the swimmers at the finish line in front of the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club.
Swimmers ranged in ages from nine to 76, with regular entrants rubbing shoulders with rookies.
Also competing was former Australian Olympic rower David Cameron, who is originally from Maclean, and Toby Jenkins, a member of the Australian Olympic water polo team.
One of the first-timers, Yamba SLSC secretary Alan Schofield, said he wasn't concerned about not finishing the race, but would have liked a bit more surf.
"It's good to see everyone turn up for it because it's a great event. There's not much help surf-wise when you turn in for the beach, but at least that makes for an easier start," he said.
"I'll just be happy to make it," he laughed.
Someone else who was happy for Mr Schofield to make it was John Beecroft, a longtime friend from Lismore.
"I'll be happy because I'm supposed to be looking after him. He said to me he can make the swim, but he can't see where he's going, so I'm supposed to lead him," he joked.
"He dragged me down from Lismore, saying come down for a bit of a swim. He forgot to mention it was a kilometre long," he joked.
That attitude was repeated all along the beach as a relaxed atmosphere permeated through the swimmers.
None seemed too concerned about what they were about to undertake.
Renee Monaghan, another finisher, said it was a great feeling to get across the line.