Townsville teen's big birthday      DANIEL BATEMAN  July 20th, 2009


AWESOME ... Kendall Messer, 18, of Alligator Creek successfully completed her first Magnetic Island swim in 2 hours and 15 minutes ... on her 18th birthday

PLENTY of teenagers turning 18 like to celebrate the momentous occasion by hitting the pool.  Kendall Messer's big birthday was held on Saturday, the day of the 55th annual Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim.  The event was held on the 18th day of the month a coincidence that proved too hard for the Alligator Creek teen to resist not joining in the historic race for the first time.

Kendall swam from Picnic Bay beach to The Strand beach in a tidy time of two hours and 15 minutes. Hauling herself up the beach, Kendall described her first open ocean swimming race as simply 'awesome'.  ''The first 4km, I did pretty well. The last 2km were really tough, and then as soon as you see the yellow buoys, it's just the best feeling in the world,'' Kendall said.  ''You know it's almost over.''

It was the second year the event has allowed swimmers to enter without shark cages. Previously, the cages restricted the numbers of entrants, however organisers claimed they had enough safety protocols, such as accompanying boats and paddlers, to ditch the cages for good.  Kendall said she felt comfortable swimming without a shark cage.  There were no shark sightings during her big swim, but there was one solitary sea snake. ''I did see a sea snake on the way here, but that would have gotten through a cage anyway,'' Kendall said. ''When I saw it I screamed underwater, and then yelled out 'sea snake!' ''It just kept swimming underneath me. I said 'you can just keep on swimming, buddy!''' 

Kendall prepared for the big race by undergoing a gruelling six months of training.  ''I was training about six days a week,'' she said.  ''I train at Tobruk and I also do gym training sessions with Dale Last.''  She said she was looking forward to celebrating the rest of her birthday just like any other teenager.  ''I think I'm going to have a real big sleep, and then a little party tonight with my friends,'' she said.

Meanwhile 13-year-old Magnetic Island swimmer Tegan McKeon fought off sea sickness to become the youngest competitor to finish the race. ''I thought I was going to vomit at one stage because it was a bit choppy and I was getting washed around a bit,'' Tegan said.  The Pimlico High School student and surf lifesaver arrived in two hours and 32 minutes.