A 15 kilometre training swim in the ocean at Apollo Bay

Dan, a friend of mine, did a 15km ocean swim today in 5 hours and 43 minutes. He has been training at Apollo Bay since winter last year for the Cottosloe to Fremantle 19.7km ocean swimming race (the Rottnest Channel Swim) on 25 February 2023. Many choose to do the swim in team relays. Dan is training to swim it solo.

His winter training was in cold ocean water that at times was 12-13°C. Some of the winter training commenced in the dark before any pre-dawn glow. On many mornings the wind chill would be in low single figures. Some days he did back-to-back 5km swims – the first early in the day, and the other late in the afternoon. From my observations Dan was not in the habit of skipping sessions just because of big swell, rough conditions or both. Of necessity, Dan wore a wetsuit until the end of November. But there are no wetsuits allowed in the Rotto swim (for which the sea temp will be around 22°-24°C). From 1 December 2022 Dan has trained in Speedos and a swimming cap. The water at Apollo Bay since then has not been warmer than 17-18°C. So Dan wore a thin wetsuit on today’s swim. If he had attempted to swim for 5-6 hours in 17°C ocean water without a wetsuit hypothermia would have been a real risk. It would also have been an unnecessary risk. The Rottnest swim is in considerably warmer water.

Dan has done many swims of 4-5kms completely solo (no kayak paddler, no boat support), in strong winds and big seas. Such solo training involves many hours alone in the sea. It surely strengthens mind and body.

Brian (in the photo below) will be paddling with Dan in the Rottnest swim, and has paddled beside himon many of his longer training swims (including a 9.7km swim from Apollo Bay direct to Skenes Creek and back). Brian paddled with him today for five of the six laps of the 15km swim.

Kayak paddler beside ocean swimmer

Dan’s 15km training swim was done achieved by swimming six laps of the bay between Wild Dog Creek and the southern end of the bay near the Apollo Bay harbour . He started and finished at Wild Dog Creek. There was a WSW wind for the duration of his swim, with the wind reaching 20 knots at times. The sky was overcast most of the day. The southern end of the bay was sheltered in this wind, but the curve of the bay meant that there was sufficient fetch between Wild Dog Creek and the shoreline directly downwind of it for a WSW wind to create wind waves and quite choppy conditions around the Wild Dog Creek end of the beach. This made it difficult for Brian in the kayak. To stay in touch with Dan he had to spend quite a bit of time not paddling or paddling very slowly. A significant contributor to stability in a kayak is the action of paddling and having a paddle blade in the water most of the time. Brian had a lot of waves washing over his kayak and staying upright was constant work.

The conditions for Dan meant a headwind and swimming against the waves and current while swimming south towards the harbour, and a tail wind with a following sea and current while swimming north towards Wild Dog Creek. Conditions during the day became rougher at the northern end of the route. On Dan’s last leg (which he did without the kayak for company) he was a fair way offshore and it was very difficult to pick him up even using binoculars. It was impossible to keep him constantly in sight as the waves concealed him most of the time from observers on the shore.

Kayak paddler beside ocean swimmer

Staying balanced in the kayak while not paddling was a simpler task in the calmer water.

One of the scheduled hydration and gel stops, at the southern turn point.

Kayak paddler beside ocean swimmer at Apollo Bay

No time spent chatting at drink and food stops. Head down again and north to Wild Dog Creek without delay.

Kayak paddler beside ocean swimmer

Sometimes the sea pushed kayak and swimmer together.

Kayak paddler ahead of ocean swimmer

But most of the time it was more like this.

SLSC patrol at Apollo Bay

Dan and Brian are both active life savers, and had good friends on patrol at the southern end of the bay while Dan swam and Brian paddled.

Dan finished his 15km swim at Wild Dog Creek in these conditions. The waves at this steep beach meant Dan had to carefully pick his location and moment to get ashore. He strode out of the water looking as though he still had fuel in the tank. But I’m sure warming up was high on his list of priorities.

This great training swim is vindication of Dan’s intelligent and determined approach to training. It is also cause for optimism as to his prospects of him completing the Rottnest 19.7kms solo in a a good time. But it’s never over until it’s over. Thirteen days to race day.

Ocean swimmer stroking well

Great ocean swimming form.

9 thoughts on “A 15 kilometre training swim in the ocean at Apollo Bay

  1. John, Dan has not only a solid friend (I assume, rather than a relative) in the water, but also a firm friend on the land, operating as a photo-diarist. An entertaining spread.

    I permitted myself a smile in wondering whether this Dan’s feats might inspire your son-in-law Dan to re-enter the water after a breeding hiatus.

    If you read these posts Dan, you’re a mighty waterman and good luck at “Rotto” (as I believe the locals call it). If not, John please pass on my best wishes from a man itching to roll the arm over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is indeed Charlotte. I understand that Cornwall has many wonderful ocean swimming locations as well. The bay adjacent to Apollo Bay (Mounts Bay, near Marengo), which is a little more exposed, also offers wonderful swimming and snorkelling when the conditions are right. This is a link to a post on this blog about swimming with my friends at Little Henty Reef at the southern end of Mounts Bay.

      Early Morning Snorkelling at Little Henty Reef

      Cheers, John


      1. I feel so lucky to live in Cornwall and have such beautiful spots on the doorstep. Thanks for the blog link, I’ll definitely check it out! 🙂


  2. John, thank you for your deep witnessing and support of Dan’s undertaking.
    He has really valued and found comfort in your guidance, wisdom and advice.
    I felt quite emotional reading your account of his journey.
    Thank you for documenting this time for our family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Louise, many thanks for your kind words. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Dan progress to the point of being very well prepared for his chosen adventure. I respect what he has done. Enjoy Saturday.
      Kind regards,


  3. A great blog. Thankyou John. I have been following Daniel’s journey with pride and some emotion since the beginning. The blog filled out more detail and your empathy for the journey he was on is appreciated. To be present at his successful conclusion was a wonderful gift for me.


    1. Thanks for your comments Simon. I’ve enjoyed following Dan’s preparation as you have. I’m sure being there when he reached the finish line was a great moment for you and his other supporters.


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