Q&A: The pre-40’s ocean swimming challenge that made Jamie ‘mildly obsessed’

During the 2016-17 summer season, Jamie Cairns approached OceanFit to help him achieve a goal he’d been wanting to knock off for years, and with his 40th birthday approaching, now was the time to take it on!

We spoke to Jamie about how his challenge came about, what his training was like and what it felt like to have achieved his goal.

Why did you decide to start ocean swimming and take on your ocean swim goals?

I’d always watched friends do swims like the Bondi to Bronte and thought “I wish I could swim well enough to do that” but never done anything about it.

I’ve spent lots of my life in the water on boats, skis, wakeboards etc but never done any real distance swimming.

I decided to commit to it between Xmas and New Year 2016 and started training at the start of January – I deliberately chose a fitness challenge and to learn something I wasn’t very good at before turning 40!

Why did you choose OceanFit?

The website gave me confidence that the team were local, knew what they were doing and seemed very approachable.

I called the number on the website and spoke to Andre. He asked me about my ability, “what would you do if I said to jump into a 50m pool and swim 20 laps?” he asked. “I’d probably manage 10 I responded,” “great, come down and do the learn to ocean swim clinic and join in the Vitality class.”

I signed up for the coaching and regular group swim – what really appealed was the small group sizes as I knew I’d need a lot of help.

How has the training helped you reach your goal?

Without it, I’d have swum half as far, half as fast and wouldn’t have had half as much fun. The online guided Have A Go 1km swim training program has been amazing for fitness and confidence with the distance – it was challenging whilst still being achievable, a great balance.

The ocean component has helped me make the rips my friend and have confidence beyond the breaking waves. The instruction is friendly and expert, couldn’t ask for more.

What have you enjoyed about the training?

The sunrises over the ocean aren’t bad!

From OceanFit, the structure of the online course and the pool training plan kept me disciplined.

Getting to know my swimming group and seeing them achieve their goals too – supporting and being supported by a lovely little family. The coaches have never taken any of us past our limits – they are great at judging how far to push us but keeping it fun.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Jamie Blog Post Photo-
Jamie getting ready for high-five’s from his children on the way up to the finish of the North Bondi Classic.

It turns out I had greatly overestimated my fitness and ability on the phone – at my first attempt at a 400m time trial in week one I had to get out of the pool, exhausted, after 150m!

The 10 laps I’d committed to (never mind the 20 Andre asked for) seemed an absolutely impossible feat. Just 5 weeks later I completed the 1km North Bondi Classic swim with my wife Lainey and kids Sienna and Harry watching. I am very proud of that and had a great time.

jamie and kids with sign
Jamie’s children (with the help of mum of course) show off their homemade signs to cheer dad on at his first ocean swim – very cute!

I am going to do another longer swim before the end of the season – Coogee Wedding Cake Island swim. At 2.4km it’s scary but thanks to the OceanFit team it’s in my sights!

Oh, that and my Bronze Medallion – I’ve got a five year old daughter who will get involved in Nippers next season and I would love to be able to participate in coaching the kids so needed to build my skills now!

What would you say to others who might be thinking about getting into ocean swimming?

Embrace the fear, the sense of achievement when you overcome it and realise you can do it is exhilarating.

OceanFit'ers supporting each other at the North Bondi Classic.
OceanFit’ers supporting each other at the North Bondi Classic.

Get some instruction to give you confidence and do it as part of a group of people who are also learning. I’ve swum with guys and girls, old and young, great ocean swimmers and beginners, dads swimming with their sons and friends and couples spending quality time together. Great people.

I’ve swum in rough water and on glass calm days, ocean, harbour and pools and each one offers something different.

Exercise caution though – it’s easy to become mildly obsessed – make sure you remember to talk about other things too, not everyone wants to know that there’s nothing more beautiful and energising than diving into the waves at Bondi at 6.15am with the sun rising to greet you.


Jamie’s training program with OceanFit

To train like Jamie, register for the following training with OceanFit:

This combination is our most recommended to help you achieve your ocean swimming goal.

Training starts in October and goes through to the end of February every summer season.

This post was written by Andre Slade

Andre is the owner of OceanFit with over 20 years in the swimming education, lifeguarding and coastal safety industry.

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