Lifeguards prove their fitness in long swim

There are easier ways to get from Stanwell Park to North Wollongong than swimming, yet 30 professional lifeguards hit the water yesterday to prove a point.

They wanted to demonstrate that they are indeed very fit, which is a requirement of their jobs as ocean lifeguards employed by Wollongong City Council.

The 26-kilometre swim started at 6am from Stanwell Park and the first of the swimmers crossed the finishing line about 12.30pm.

The 6½-hour event was predominantly completed in relay format, with each lifeguard swimming for one hour before another took their spot in the water.

Stanwell Park lifeguard Chanan Clark, 26, however, swam the entire way on his own, remaining in the ocean for nearly seven hours.

Clark is no stranger to endurance events. He has paddled a kayak from Wollongong to Noosa.

He was also on duty at Stanwell Park Beach on January 21, 2011, when the large surf dragged 47 swimmers out to sea.

Clark's fitness allowed him to support a group of teenage girls, without the help of a flotation device, who clung to him like a human raft for about 10 minutes, until help arrived.

"The aim of the swim was to bring to the attention of the public the skills which a professional lifeguard holds," said Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association special projects officer Ken Holloway.

"So on the way down they were swimming and different guys were on water safety equipment such as jet skis and surfboards.

"Professional lifeguards, because they sometimes work alone, need to be very fit and highly trained in first aid, and we hope the swim demonstrated just how fit they are."

Mr Holloway said the swim's other aim was to remind people to take care in the ocean during summer, and to swim only at patrolled beaches between the flags with lifeguard help on hand.

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