On the second Sunday in February each year, thousands of brave swimmers will plunge into the ocean and race 3.6 kilometres around the Busselton Jetty.

The Busselton Jetty Swim started life in 1996, when two couples decided it would be a cool idea to swim around the jetty. Word spread, and 82 other swimmers joined in. The local hardware store even donated a first prize – a hammer!  Now more than 4,400 competitors participate, and the event is spread across two days!

Event and sponsorship coordinator Clare Anderson told us more.

“The event was the brainchild of Max Higgins and was initially arranged as an event of the Busselton Triathlon Club,” she said.  “Max, his wife Jenny and their friends Richard and Leanne Ford, were on the Executive Committee from 1996 until just after the 2020 swim, which was also the event’s 25th anniversary.”

The popularity of the event has continued to grow. In 2021 the Busselton Jetty Swim became so popular that organisers had to change the entry system to a ballot after 24,000 devices tried to access the website at once when entries opened, crashing the site the previous year.  Then in 2023 the swim became a 2 day event, with a new smaller 500m swim distance added  – Simons Shortcut  – to cater for  people who might not be quite ready to swim the whole way around the Jetty.

Swimmers at the start line of Busselton Jetty Swim 2022.

“The Busselton Jetty Swim has always prided itself on being a grass roots participatory event for all swimmers, regardless of age or ability,” Clare said.

“The event attracts novice, experienced and elite swimmers by being affordable, inclusive, supportive, welcoming and community focused.”

The founders  have also wanted to keep the swim affordable, so entry is only $85 for the main event, which swimmers can complete as a solo, or in teams of two or four.  There is also the One Mile Swim to Shore, which involves walking to the end of the jetty, then swimming 1.6km (a mile) back to land, the smaller 500m race under the jetty, and a kids swim on Saturday.

“The Kids Swim was introduced in 2017 and has been very well received each year,” Clare said.

“Around 200 young athletes between eight and twelve years old swim 222 metres around the small jetty. The kids love the excitement of being in their swim caps and wearing their swim tattoos to line up on the beach, and then finish under the main finish arch.”

The event attracts novice, experienced and elite swimmers by being affordable, inclusive, supportive, welcoming and community focused.

Swimmer getting ready to start the Busselton Jetty Swim 2022.

Theres a range of land-base activities spread across the weekend too. Racers can feast on a Carb Loading Dinner at The Equinox for $18 or enjoy the free family friendly concert at the Busselton Foreshore amphitheatre which features a major headline act, local bands and  the finals of the City of Busselton’s annual Battle of the Bands (heats were held as part of the Festival of Busselton). Plus the  Busselton Runners Club also host’s their annual BRC Bay Run with a marathon and half marathon, as well as a five and 10km run events.

There are plenty of activities for families to enjoy over the entire weekend too, including Classic Beach Games, like the egg and spoon race, sack race and treasure hunt, as well as Aquatastic Inflatable Obstacles, which kids can play on for free. Head here for the full timetable so you don’t miss out on any of the fun.

Spectators watching the Busselton Jetty Swim 2022.

But the weekend is really all about the swim.

“2023 was the biggest year ever with 2,800 swimmers in the Solo Swim, 400 in the Team Swims and 800 in the One Mile Swim,” Clare said. “Four swimmers even completed their 28th Busselton Jetty Swim .”

The popularity of the Busselton Jetty Swim comes as no surprise to anyone who has experienced the liberation of an ocean swim. There’s nothing quite like diving into the salty, cold sea and gliding your way steadily through the water.

Aerial shot of people swimming at the 2022 Busselton Jetty Swim.

Even science agrees.

In 2019, Science Direct published a study on the effects of self-organised ocean swimming groups on healthy ageing. According to the study, exercise, as well as spending time in nature and being part of a supportive community, all play a part in improving the mental and physical health of people who swim in the ocean.

The camaraderie and social connectedness that comes with swimming with other people was one of the key benefits. In short, jumping in the ocean with mates is bloody good for you. And the Busselton Jetty Swim is about just that – thousands of people, swimming together and experiencing the joy of the open water.

Kids preparing at the start line of the Busselton jetty Swim 2022.

Of course, those who take part in the Busselton Jetty Swim won’t be alone. Swimmers will be joined by more than 120 Surf Lifesaving volunteers, as well as a helicopter, which will patrol the events. The jetty will also be closed the night before to ensure there are no hooks or burly in the water the next day. All of these safety protocols ensure swimmers can stay focused on enjoying their ocean adventure.

For more information on the Busselton Jetty Swim, including a full rundown of the free activities and entertainment available over the weekend, head to the event’s official website.

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