At 6:01am on Sunday 10th August, 2013 the sun rose on to the annual Mudjimba to Mooloolaba Charity Swim.
The early rays lit up the beach at Mudjimba, where over 100 solo swimmers, first swimmers in the relay teams and their support kayakers gathered in the chilly air. Wetsuits, togs, swimming goggles and fins were double and triple checked, and food and water rations were carefully fastened on the skis and kayaks littering the sand. The sound of waves mingled with the hushed voices of the participants as they cast their eyes over the expanse of water stretching from the beach to MudjimbaIsland.
This is the scene of the first ‘leg’ of an annual charity swim that sees swimmers participating in the 11km swim as individual entrants or part of a relay team. Dolphins frolicked in the surf as the brave solo swimmers, first team swimmers and their kayakers stretched on the sand, readying themselves for the 2km stretch from the beach to the first change-over buoy behind the island, silhouetted in the sunrise.
As the swimmers kicked off the beach at Mudjimba, a flotilla of yachts, jet skis, IRB’s and kayaks carrying the other team swimmers and dedicated supporters made its way to MudjimbaIsland from Mooloolaba, including Dove Personnel’s Kirsty Goldfinch and Angela Anderson, on board the sailing vessel ‘Stephen Davies.’
Also on board was Dove Personnel’s Director, Debbie Rawlings, there to support two of her children, Mikayla and Eric, who were swimming in a team, aptly named ‘Shark Bait’ with the support of their sister Anna on kayak. “I am always very relieved to have my children, who have all played a part in this event for the past 8 years, safely on the beach at Mooloolaba at the end of the event. My husband (who teaches at CurrimundiSpecialSchool) and I are so proud of their dedication to this great cause,” Debbie says of the day.
The swim has seen some rough weather over the years, but this year, the participants delighted in the calm, warm conditions, with sparkling salt water flicking in to the air off the powerful strokes of the swimmers with steady paddle strokes of the support craft dipping into calm waters under a hot sun. Swimmers were joined by dolphins and turtles, with many reporting that the playful pods of dolphins interrupted their paths as they swam on, and on.
The iconic swim, held every year, brings together a community for a cause, but it’s not a race, it’s a team spirited event with a difference. Competition is forgotten as encouragement is shouted across the water, deafening cheers greet the swimmers as they run up the beach to the finish line at Mooloolaba, hands embrace tired bodies and hugs abound.
The entry fee, starting at $1000, goes toward our local Currimundi and Nambour Special Schools. Almost $900,000 has been raised since the swim’s inception in 2001 after a dare between coast identities Ashley Robinson and Bill Hoffman saw them swim from Mudjimba beach, around the island to Mooloolaba – all on the wrong side of the shark nets!
The funds have bought both schools much-needed equipment including a hydrotherapy pool, sensory playground, gym & fitness centre, wheelchair buses, playground equipment, technology and curriculum resources.
Teachers, students and their families all get involved, donating their time and showing their support by having cakes, muffins, fresh fruit, coffee juice and soup waiting at the finish lines.
Each year, the moment when the last swimmer crosses the sandy finish line signals the end of a swim for the end of another year, but it’s not over yet. As customary, all involved indulge in relaxing and dressing up after a grueling day on the ocean, and join in on a night at Mudjimba Surf Life Saving Club, complete with dinner, drinks and a live band for entertainment. It’s the time where swimmers regale each other with their experience of the day, friendships are formed, and participants are thanked by the eternally grateful parents, teachers and students who are so touched by their valiant efforts.
The Mudjimba to Mooloolaba Charity Swim is a fantastic event that unites a community, a day of challenges, and a journey full of fundraising, joy, tears and laughter that touches the big hearts of those who are involved. We’ll see you there next year!