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Conditions can vary, this is the open ocean after all, and the final straight is often as much an exercise in body surfing as it is swimming. The Victorian waters are chilly, so organisers recommend use of a wetsuit and there is a bit of a hike to the start line, which can often catch people out, especially if it's their first time. The Aussies know, of course, how to throw a good party, and part of the lure of Lorne for so many people is to experience what has become a carnival event. “Lorne has built its iconic status, I think, because of its glorious location, and its timing," says Paul Ellercamp, founder of the sea swimming website Ocean Swims (oceanswims.com). "That part of the Victorian coast is iconic for reasons way beyond this swim – it's a beautiful part of the coast, where many Victorians go for their summer holidays.”


IT'S A BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE COAST, WHERE MANY VICTORIANS GO FOR THEIR SUMMER HOLIDAYS


Roache agrees, saying: “It's also one of the oldest events, and


unlike many of the other ocean swims it has a real event vibe, with a full commentary and prize-giving, music, sponsor stalls and entertainment. It at racts over 20,000 spectators and everything stops for the main race.” Oliver Wilkinson, H2Open Magazine's 2012 Swimmer of the Year, has experienced for himself just how popular Lorne is. “You have to be quick to get in," Wilkinson says. "It's so popular


not the most arduous swim there is. The Rot nest 19km in Western Australia, for example, is a much more formidable beast. But for the organisers of the Lorne event, none of that mat ers. “The GMHBA Lorne Pier to Pub is a stand-out for a couple of reasons,” says Nicole Roache of the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club. “The fi rst, in my opinion, is the perfect natural course. 1.2km is a great distance, as it's achievable for most people but is still a challenge.” The huge number of participants means organisation has to be tight. Lorne is organised into groups or 'waves' of swimmers, with around 300 in each. These waves start from a ramp near the pier and follow the coastline north for a kilometre before a frenetic 200-metre sprint for the fi nishing line back on the beach, opposite the club house.


they have a ballot system to ensure fairness, and having missed out in the past I secured an entry in the 2011 swim." He adds: "As you'd expect from such a massively popular swim the start is a lit le like an Ironman, with hundreds and hundreds of swimmers jostling and thrashing their way through the water.” “It is iconic,” says Kerry O'Shea, a Melbourne-based open water swimmer, who is a four-time veteran of the event. “A surf beach. Big waves. Big scene – you have to do it at least once, just for the experience. It's a beautiful part of the world and like nothing else. It's like swimming in a washing machine with hundreds of other people.” For those that prefer more serenity in their swim, with such vast numbers in and out of the water, Lorne may prove too much. Indeed it could be argued that it has become a victim of its own success. 


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