Call of the ocean lures swim veteran to Port Campbell

HELEN Lovegrove is still swimming five times a week at age 71.

“I don’t know if it’s foolhardy or wishful thinking but I’ve actually ordered a new wetsuit,” she said this week as she prepares for yet another ocean dip.

“The one I’ve got has holes in it. I thought bugger it, that’s what I enjoy doing.

“That’s what I have in mind, to keep going next summer and through the winter.

“I don’t want one that’s taking aboard water.”

The proactive attitude to staying fit as a septuagenarian is one others of her era could heed.

Lovegrove has contested four ocean swims this summer, including the Pier to Pub at Lorne last weekend, and will line up for her fifth at Port Campbell tomorrow.

She will be one of more than 100 swimmers who will brave the chilly water for the 1.2-kilometre Twelve Apostles Plunge, the third leg of the Shipwreck Coast Swim Series.

The event starts at 11am while a 300-metre swim for novices will start at 11.45am.

“Sometimes you think I don’t want to go, I could read a book or do this, that and the other,” she said.

“But I enjoy the ocean swims. I’m battling to keep up with others now so it’s only going to be worse if I don’t go for a swim.

“As far as my health, it’s good for me.”

Lovegrove grew up at Renmark, South Australia and was part of the town’s swimming club until she turned 16. She has spent most of her life living in Alice Springs and shifted to Victoria nine years ago, and Warrnambool five years ago.

Lovegrove soon joined the Warrnambool Masters Swimming Club — known as the Whales — and has embraced the club motto of friendship, fun and fitness.

“They are lovely. They share the car to go to these places,” she said.

“I’m so much older than so many of them but I’m always made to feel welcome.”

Warrnambool Whales publicity officer Tanya Suggett said the Whales have had up to 20 members contest various Victorian ocean swims during summer. 

They’ve travelled to Point Lonsdale and Lorne as well as competing in Warrnambool and at Port Fairy. Lovegrove, Sandra Skilbeck and Cathy Plater are among those to win their age classes during summer but participation is members’ main motivator.

The club swims at AquaZone on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm and Wednesdays and Fridays at 6am.

Other sessions are on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club will host a nippers carnival today.

More than 300 children from Port Campbell, Port Fairy, Warrnambool and Portland surf life saving clubs are expected to take part in the competition which has a focus on participation.

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