Bold & Beautiful and Brave

Words: Georgia Parsons

Words: Georgia Parsons

Every morning, you’ll find a bunch of enthusiastic swimmers braving the cold waters between Manly and Shelly Beach, and getting much more than fitness in return.

COVERED. found out more about this popular community pastime.

This daily swim ritual by the Bold & Beautiful open-water swim club attracts people of all ages from across the peninsula and beyond with some swimming seven days a week.

They gather at Manly Life Saving Club for a 7am start, don their pink caps and swim to Shelly Beach and back - approximately 750 metres each way, totaling a 1.5km swim. When they hear the words ‘let’s go,’ they begin the swim, often joined by dolphins, whales and a whole array of colourful sea life.

Manly resident, Lesley Coulter has been participating in the sunrise swim several times a week since 2011 and explains it as more than just a swim.

“It has changed so many people’s lives. Something as simple as a morning swim has helped people through loneliness, divorce and mental illness.”

The squad is mostly from the local community but some dedicated swimmers travel from various locations over Sydney to take part.

All fitness levels and ages are warmly welcomed with a bold pink cap and many smiling faces. Swimmers help each other and wait at Shelly Beach until everyone has arrived to resume the second half of the swim. When they hear the words ‘let’s go,’ they continue.

It all began on Boxing Day of 2008, when Julie Isbill was casually informed that her friend wanted to work on her ocean swimming. As a swim coach and trainer at Manly Surf Club, she encouraged her to swim with her one morning from Manly to Shelly Beach. She was so proud of her achievement that she wanted to go again, encouraging her friends to join in.

Each morning, more people showed up and it didn’t take long before it became a ritual for many keen swimmers. Now the squad is averaging 200 swimmers during the week, and up to 500 on weekends. In summer, they hold long distance Saturday swims, heading north to Freshwater and around to Curl Curl. A total of over 14,500 people have registered to swim with the group over the past eight years.

The community aspect is a major part of the Bold & Beautiful swim club. Everyone is invited, and everyone always turns up. They host a monthly dinner at Bluewater Café in Manly and gather for a coffee after the mornings swim.

This strong sense of community among the club has been utilised to support and raise money for local charity, the Royal Far West in Manly. At the end of winter, Royal Far West holds a ceremony on their premises, where swimmers who swam consecutive days through winter receive a badge. All funds raised go back to Royal Far West, raising more than $7000 in their last ceremony.