ABOUT 30 years ago, local identity Mick McAvigan and a friend were on life saving duty at Sawtell when they decided that it might be a good idea to swim from the Surf Club to the island at Sawtell Headland.
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It was such a good experience for them that they decided to do it every day before work.
Their swim has now developed into two regular, morning groups that swim at either 6:15am or 9am.
Mick said the benefits of swimming with the same group daily are both physical and social.
“We call it Doctor Ocean,” he added.
Peter Robertson, who swims with the 9am group, echoed Mick’s sentiments.
“There’s something wonderful about the ocean.”
Having a coffee each morning with like-minded people has developed into strong friendships and swimmers often help each other out away from the beach.
Across the two groups, the age range is fifteen to 90 years old and both groups can attract more than 30 swimmers during holiday times.
Daily swimming at Sawtell is possible because it is fairly sheltered, and the water temperature varies between 18°C to 20°C in winter.
While some swimmers wear wetsuits in the cooler months, most do not.
Both Peter, and Jeff Holmes, who bodysurfs with the 6:15am group, stress the importance of knowing how and where to swim safely.
No one overestimates their ability and the groups choose safe places to enter and leave the water each morning.
Peter’s group has swum with dolphins and turtles, and they often see stingrays cruising along below them. He has never seen a shark while swimming at Sawtell.
He calls his daily swim “yoga of the mind” because, once out there “You become one with the ocean and challenge yourself”.
By Andrew VIVIAN