Warrnambool quartet earn Sharkbait status at Pier to Pub swim

TANYA Suggett remembers her first Lorne Pier to Pub swim vividly — her memories of tackling the 1.2-kilometre ocean swim aren’t all that positive.

“It was awful. I was at the back, I wasn’t a strong swimmer. At the back is where all the hacks are. It was like being in a washing machine.”

But Suggett, 43, returned to Lorne the next year, and the year after that. After all, open-water swimming is one of her passions.

Today, she will become one of four Warrnambool swimmers to complete 10 Pier to Pubs, an achievement which earns them membership of the Sharkbait club.

Richard Wade, Alan Aulsebrook and Darren O’Brien will also reach the milestone. For them, the day at Lorne in early January has become an annual pilgrimage.

The common denominator is all four have swum the Pier to Pub 10 years in a row, since 2005. But all four had their own motivation for entering in the first place.

“I swim with the (Warrnambool) Masters (Swimming Club) and a few of them started the open-water swimming,” Suggett said.

“I always said to my mum when I was little I’d do the Pier to Pub one day.

“I didn’t think too much about it but once I got up there I thought I should keep going to get to 10.”

For Wade, 41, swimming became a passion later in life. The regular surfer took up the sport when he was 30, wanting to keep up his paddling fitness.

“I didn’t do swimming sports or competitions at school, didn’t even swim laps. When I started I was 30, I could only swim about 100 metres,” he said.

“I gradually built it up. The more you do the ocean swims, the more comfortable you get at them.”

Wade also recalls getting “bashed around” during his first Pier to Pub.

“Certainly the first one is a bit of an eye-opener. It’s very easy to get knocked about,” he said.

“After you’ve done a couple you learn to stay out of trouble, whether that’s staying to the side or knowing where people are around you.

“You’ve got to think a bit more about what you’re doing and you’ve also got to look around, have a reference point to swim to.”

By contrast, O’Brien, 51, swam when he was growing up. But a back injury meant swimming became his sole sporting focus.

“I sought out something a bit easier on the back as part of my rehab,” he said.

“Then I decided to branch out into the sea and do the Pier to Pub and Shipwreck Coast series swims.

“I’ve done that for 10-plus years and I enjoy the Pier to Pub the most out of the lot of them.”

Aulsebrook came to swimming through surf lifesaving. His first experience of the Pier to Pub was driving a bus to Lorne so mates could swim.

“They said ‘why don’t you drive the bus and swim’. I had to teach myself how to swim, so I went to Jayson Lamb,” he said.

“He said ‘you’re doing everything right, Alan, you just can’t swim. I stuck at it.

“The Pier to Pub is just a good day out. There is plenty to do and lots of people I know do it.”

About 5000 swimmers aged from 12 to 90 will contest the 34th Pier to Pub, with between 15,000 and 20,000 people converging on the coastal hamlet.

Sam Sheppard, a three-time winner, and Eliza Smith will defend their crowns they won in 2013 but will face tough competition.

Warrnambool young gun Isaac Jones and former Colac athlete Tristan Read are among the top seeds in the open male category.

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