No shark cage for swim kids

JENNIFER O'REILLY

June 2nd, 2009

FOR the first time this weekend children under 10 will be 'swimming with the sharks' off The Strand as part of a new junior, open-water swimming challenge.

The Salt 66 Strand Swim on Saturday will include the inaugural Sportsco junior 1km open-water swim for children under 10.

The race is part of the Townsville Open Water Swimming Association's pre-qualifying swim program for the Magnetic Island to Townsville swim.

It was only two years ago that the organising committee for the famous local open-water swimming race announced it was ditching the shark cages.

Some claimed the organisers were needlessly exposing swimmers to sharks, crocodiles and marine stingers.

Junior Picnic Bay surf lifesaver Jordan Hoffmann is one 11-year-old ready to take on all-comers in the race, including any lurking sharks.

"I'm not worried about sharks," the Year 6 student said.

"I do surf lifesaving all the time here (on The Strand)."

Jordan has an excellent pedigree when it comes to open-water swimming. His brother, Sam, is the reigning 8.5km Magnetic Island Swim champion.

The younger brother already has his sights set on emulating his older sibling sharks be damned when it comes to brotherly rivalry.

Promotions officer Karen Uhlmann said the inaugural 1km swim was to encourage juniors to join in open-water swimming.

"We want them to have a go swimming in the open water off The Strand," she said. "This race is for anyone born 1999 and after.

"They're our next generation, and it's a safe event."

Ms Uhlmann said the swim was 'manned very well from an observation level' to keep the youngsters safe from 'bities'.

"We are aware that we are swimming in a marine environment, where there are animals living there," she said.

"That's part and parcel of swimming in an open water.

"They won't be going out in very deep water anyhow, it's just off The Strand."

The 1km course will be a triangular circuit off The Strand beach.

The 2.5km and 5km courses remain unchanged from last year.

The Salt 66 Strand Swim is the certified entry swim to the Subway Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim.

It starts at 8am on Saturday at The Strand Beach, Picnic Bay Surf Lifesaving Club.

Competitors who qualify at the Salt 66 Strand Swim will compete in the Subway Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim from the island to the mainland on July 18.

It will be the 55th year of the Magnetic Island to Townsville swim.

Reproduced from The Townsville Bulletin
http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/article/2009/06/02/56765_hpnews.html