“It’s interesting to reflect on the way social media has enabled these connections,” he said.
“Not just in the local community, but one of the things that struck me in the last summer was that having a Facebook presence means we get these swim tourists.
“And so we’ve got people on our Whatsapp group from Melbourne, we’ve got a guy Bruce from Perth, and these guys they come to Umina for holidays or to visit family and they Google ‘who can I swim with’ and they become part of the community for a short little while as swim tourists.
“We had a lady from Brisbane the other day.
“We actually had a lady over the summer from Alice Springs, you know, ‘where ya from?’ ‘Alice Springs’, like how’s the ocean there!
“And they remain part of the community even though they’re not here physically, they’re part of the social community, which is also kind of nice to touch base with them once in a while.”
Whilst the term swim tourist was new to me, the idea of meeting up with other swim groups around the country isn’t new.
Groups like the Shark Island Psycho Swimmers in Cronulla have been welcoming swim tourists for decades, as do dozens of others around the country. In fact, we had the pleasure of swimming with many of them on our Great East Coast Road Trip last year.
Just like Paul said, it’s really been social media that has made it easier for people to discover each other and connect for social swims, and swimmers are getting out there in droves.
The pandemic has turbo-charged participation in ocean swimming and it’s only natural that as more people travel and holiday domestically, swimmers will want to connect with others and experience the open water and swim community in new and exciting locations.
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt by swimming with so many groups, it’s that they are all overwhelmingly welcoming to visitors.
To connect with a group on your next adventure, you can search for a swim group on oceanswims.com Swim Directory or simply turn up at a beach, usually between 6-7.30am, and look for a group of swimmers. If you approach the group with a big smile and ask them if you can join for a swim you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Swim tourism is something beautifully unique to ocean swimming, it truly is a wonderful gift to us all.