With more than 100 beaches, Sydney is the ultimate base for those who like getting their toes wet. And as it turns out, you don’t have to swim alone. From Manly to Maroubra, the city’s swim squads not only promise to improve your stroke technique and lap times, but also offer a way to socialise with like-minded locals.
Manly: Bold and Beautiful Swim Squad
Every day at 7am – regardless of the weather, the season or the ocean temperature – hundreds of people gather religiously at Manly Beach, pulling on pink caps as they prepare to dive into the sea. Established 10 years ago, the “B and B” squad’s swim course covers 1.5 kilometres, from the front of Manly Life Saving Club to Shelly Beach and back. Although some members are faster than others, there’s a great deal of camaraderie between swimmers – there’s no turning around at the halfway mark until everyone has completed the first 750 metres safely. Post swim, B and B fanatics make the most of the suburb’s bountiful cafes, refuelling on coffee and pastries and recounting highlights of the morning’s exercise.
When: Daily from 7am.
Cost: None. Everyone’s welcome.
Balmoral: Balmoral Swimmers
This squad, established in 1922, calls itself “a small group of friends, swimming”. Every Sunday, the pals meet at 8.45am to steel themselves for a series of races that takes place from 9am – some are fast and furious across a 30-, 50- or 100-metre course, while others require more stamina across 200 metres or a kilometre. “We all like to get a good start to Sunday,” the group says. “You can read the Sunday papers later with a good feeling that you had a nice swim to start the day.”
When: Sundays from 8.45am.
Cost: $100 for a six-month membership; $200 for the year.
Bondi: 4SEAsons Swim
Bondi is home to the oldest winter swim club in Australia (Bondi Icebergs, which meets daily to do laps across the suburb’s beautiful ocean pool), so it probably comes as no surprise it is also the base for one of the country’s most active ocean swim squads. Regardless of swimming ability, 4SEAsons members are in the water by 8am every Saturday, year round – when there are waves, there’s time for body surfing; when it’s flat, the long course ranges from two to three kilometres. In summer, there are also training sessions six times a week, helping you reach your swim goals and prepare you for major ocean swims.
When: Saturdays from 8am.
Cost: First swim is free; $20 per swim for casual members. Monthly and yearly packages are also available.
Clovelly: Eskimos Winter Swimming Club
Clovelly’s Eskimos squad is so cool it only swims in winter. The 64-year-old group, part of the eastern suburb’s Surf Life Saving Club and affiliated with the Winter Swimming Association of Australia, invites members to dive in from May through September. Swimmers meet at 10am on Sundays and participate in races that explore the beautiful Clovelly Bay: there’s the 33-yards race (across the bay) and 66-yards (across the bay and back), with starts staggered according to your handicap. As invigorating as the swims are, most people come here to socialise, with plenty of coffee and banter on shore after your event.
When: Sundays from 10am (winter only).
Cost: $70 per year for non-surf club members.