January 17, 2022

Charging ahead

As soaring COVID-19 case numbers cause major disruptions across the region, event organisers are having to go virtual, postpone or cancel altogether.

For many events, it’s the second year in a row.

“If you’d told me a month ago, I would’ve found it harder to believe,” said six-time winner of Lorne’s Pier to Pub swim, Naantali Marshall, after organisers announced a last-minute switch to a virtual event last week.

“But I guess we’re all a little used to COVID and are far more flexible with our plans."

“We usually get around 20,000 spectators and 5,000 swimmers. I’m glad that they still did something that keeps us engaged with the iconic event.

“It’s big feat for a lot of people, often their first ocean swim – people really do target it as a bucket list event.”

Instead, Marshall completed the swim at Anglesea last weekend with 25 others, aged 12 and over, with many competing for the first time.

All successfully completed the 1.2 kilometre swim, starting at Point Roadknight and finishing just off the main beach.

“For the kids it was a test… due to an easterly the water was murky, and quite deep a kilometre offshore,” Marshall said.

“We would rather have been at Lorne, it has played a big part of my entire life so it was disappointing not to be able to do it there, but we need to protect the community and surf club if they’re unable to do it.”

The Pier to Pub is one of the largest ocean swim events in the world and is a testing ground for many existing and aspiring surf lifesavers.

“It’s up to us to keep people engaged in surf lifesaving and surf clubs so there’s the next generation around to protect our beaches,” Marshall said.

“It was actually nice for those who’ve never done it before to take the lead and encourage people to do it.”

Fairhaven’s Tim Gates Classic beach run also shifted to a virtual event over the weekend, Life Saving Victoria scrapped its Nippers competition at Cosy Corner in Torquay last Friday, and the Jan Juc SLSC is postponing its Danger Series swims and Bells Bash Cliff Run, most likely to March.

Organisers are citing unacceptable risks to public health in holding large scale events and a shortage of staff and volunteers due to many being sick or in isolation.

Surf Coast Times story here.

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