Brave swimmers tackle winter Rip swim

July 2, 2021 BY

OFFICIAL records show only eight swimmers have braved a winter crossing of the notorious Rip between Point Nepean and Point Lonsdale.

Topping that list is a fellow by the name of Doug Mew who – wearing no more than Speedos, swimming cap and goggles – conquered the treacherous 3.2 kilometre stretch in 1971.

Doug stepped onto the sand at Lonnie to be greeted by the rapturous applause of a sea of excited locals.

Fast forward 50 years and another 26 swimmers across six teams are preparing to follow in his footsteps on Saturday.

Nikole Ramsay, left, with her winter swim team who will take on tomorrow’s The Rip challenge.

Among them is Nikole Ramsay – a Barwon Heads photographer and ocean lover who completed the swim in summer and now wants to test her mettle in much chillier 12-degree waters.

Nikole’s team of five includes Bellarine and Surf Coast locals Kirsty Tweddle, Lloyd Gwilym and Jack Stewart, as well as their kayaker Murray Joseph.

The July 3 non-wetsuit swim marks the anniversary of Doug Mew’s death and pays homage to him as a trailblazer in open water swimming.

Nikole admitted to feeling nervous but mostly excited about tackling The Rip in the depths of winter.

“I know this stretch of water can be dangerous so I don’t take for granted that it’s doable,” she said.

“Physically I have prepared for it by swimming daily in the cold water to acclimatise my body to the winter temperatures … I have trained myself to swim longer distances to ensure I would be able to swim up to 5km or 6km if I needed to swim further.

“Mentally, I focus on being positive and prepared and don’t give energy to fearful thoughts, like the depth of the channel or what creatures might be in the water.”

The Rip organiser Grant Siedle.

The Rip organiser Grant Siedle has escorted 586 swimmers – aged from 13 to 75 – across The Rip and is one of the eight people to have swum it in winter.

“Winter swimming has become pretty big over the last few years … I thought there’s more people swimming in winter, let’s do a trial swim,” he recalled.

“A couple of years ago we took eight people across (six completed the crossing) and last year 25 people were due to swim but COVID put an end to that.

“So it’s been 18 months in the making for most of these swimmers.”

Grant said all the swimmers had trained hard in the lead-up to this weekend’s crossing.

“It’s a really exciting occasion,” he said.

“When the swimmers get to the other side it is a sense of relief, it is a sense of accomplishment and for a lot of people it is more special given they are in a team with their friends.”

Nikole surrounded by her proud family after completing the summer swim across The Rip. Photo: CHRISSIE MEEHAN

Nikole agreed and said swimming in a team provided a sense of camaraderie and, importantly, safety in the water.

“Because the stretch of water is also a busy shipping channel, smaller groups can cross and navigate through the ships more easily than 25 separate swimmers who may all go in different directions or become separated,” she explained.

Nikole said her mindset was to enjoy the experience while respecting the unpredictability of The Rip.

“I have conquered a lot of fears over the last 12 months through daily swimming and exposure to all kinds of tides and weather conditions,” she said.

“I’ve conquered my fear of seaweed and shadows, my fear of swimming past the break and mostly my fear of deep and dark water, so I think I am ready!”

The Rip swim kicks off at 2pm tomorrow (July 3).

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