Open Water News

Summer Solstice Sunset Swim is Magic

Saturday evening 19 December 2020

Summer sunset swimming with up to 40 friends. This is renewing, refreshing, romantic and magical – everyone who does it says stuff like that.

So bring a friend (or not), swim with all of us, and have the best summer solstice swim you have EVER HAD. This is a LARGE group or we split into smaller groups.

We leave, not from the beach, but from the Crystal Point Steps. then we swim 400 – 500m across to the eastern Red Fishing Club marker and back around the rocks and beach. 1km relaxed swimming at your own pace.

You get a glowing safety marker for your cap, a lighted course with buoys, markers and a team keeping us company.

You also get to swim at sunset on the solstice! This is amazing and you have to do it at least once. Why on earth (sea, tides, sun and moon) haven’t you already done it?

Wear any swimwear you like, get a cap with safety marker, follow the bright flashing markers, and go for it. xxx

BOOK HERE for limited places in the 2020 Summer Solstice Sunset Swim at Williamstown Beach.

Melbourne’s top OWS group is the 9am OWS Skills Group at Williamstown Beach

Since 2015, Coach Jason Bryce has run the 9am Open Water Swim Skills Group at Williamstown Beach on summer Saturdays.

Swimming about 2km in the no-boating area, with a safety team, the group learns sighting, breathing, swimming straight and group swimming.

These are the distinct open water swimming skills that you can learn and practice to make your swim more enjoyable.

More than 1,000 swimmers have attended the class over seven summers.

Coach Jason teaches textbook AUSTSWIM freestyle technique with open water skills added on. Jason is a qualified Coach of Open Water Swimmers.

Mostly this group is about having safer fun swimming in the sea. Over the years we have got better and better at this group and learning what swimmers want and need from their open water swim group and coach!

9amclass15april17 from Coach Jason on Vimeo.

If you want to transition from the pool to the open water, or if you want a great Saturday swim group with an experienced safety team, come down to Williamstown Beach about 8.45am. We meet in the carpark behind the lifesaving club.

This group typically features a coach, a teacher assisting and a safety team on boards or kayaks. This group swims to the yellow ‘no-boating’ marker poles about 200m offshore from Williamstown Beach, but not beyond.

Challenge Yourself to learn open water freestyle

Our entry-level swim class is the 8am Challenge Yourself group.

We learn the basics of breathing, good freestyle stroke and kick, sighting, swimming straight, sustainable relaxed swimming for long distances, group swimming and drafting.

All in shallow water you can stand up in.

Coach Jason teaches Australian AUSTSWIM freestyle with open water skills direct from the coaching manual to you.

Challenge Yourself to swim in the sea

“I have no big new ideas,” says Jason.

“You will learn sustainable, relaxed freestyle in the bay, straight from the textbook.”

“I have been teaching kids and adults for decades and here at Williamstown since 2014. I can teach you to love going for a swim in the sea and make freestyle easier for you.”

“If you want to keep improving, many swimmers move up to the 9am Open Water Swim Skills Group.”

Challenge Yourself Group is very popular, has limited spaces and produces unbelievable results.

Go on, Challenge Yourself, come for a swim in the sea with Coach Jason and the team.

There’s a new swimming club in Melbourne

The Melbourne Open Water Swimming Club is based at Williamstown Beach.

The club is an incorporated association dedicated to supporting and providing access to open water swimming for people from all backgrounds and abilities. The club has recently affiliated to Masters Swimming Victoria.

Open water swimming takes place in a natural uncontrolled environment.

The Melbourne Open Water Swimming Club supports swimmers with safety equipment, education, squads, training, coaches, teachers, swim buddies and safety teams.

The club follows Lifesaving Victoria guidelines for open water swimming, in particular:

  1. Don’t swim alone far from shore.
  2. Don’t swim while cold.
  3. Prevention is the best safety.
  4. All swim groups are risk assessed and have appropriate safety teams.
  5. Swim groups generally stay within the no-boating area.

The Melbourne Open Water Swimming Club is making Open Water swimming accessible to everyone.

The club is registered, incorporated and operating but we are building this organisation from scratch, with a generic name, no logo or mascot yet. We do have sponsors:

Cash Welcome

Swift Electrical

WOWS Coaching

Melbourne Open Water Swimming Club supports swimmers with equipment, safety teams, training, coaches and expertise.

How your Garmin was held for ransom – successfully

How much did Garmin secretly pay to criminals who hacked into its online systems?

Reportedly Garmin paid US$10 million in bitcoin (very quickly) in apparent defiance of sanctions against doing business with cyber criminals. The same criminals who are demanding ransom money from hospitals during a pandemic.

Garmin, the makers of popular GPS watches and devices that link to Strava and other online communities was attacked by sophisticated online criminals and paid them off to regain control of customer data.

You may have found that the Garmin network has been having problems recently. You might not have been able to upload your run or swim to Strava.

Garmin was attacked on 23 July. The criminals used the WastedLocker ransomware developed by Russian based Evil Corp. Yes that is its real name.

The US government has placed sanctions on Evil Corp and companies that do business with Evil Corp or criminals using WastedLocker and other Evil Corp products like Dridex.

Garmin tried to pay off the criminals very quickly, to get their systems back up and running, but that didn’t work because the intermediary company backed out, fearing the US sanctions.

But Garmin successfully managed to pay off the criminals, using another intermediary on 24 or 25 July 2020, reported IT media outlets last weekend. The criminals then provided a WastedLocker decryption key to Garmin.

Last Monday, 27 July, Garmin announced that it “was the victim of a cyber attack that encrypted some of our systems on July 23, 2020.”

“Many of our online services were interrupted including website functions, customer support, customer facing applications, and company communications,” said the company statement from Garmin.

“We immediately began to assess the nature of the attack and started remediation. We have no indication that any customer data, including payment information from Garmin Pay™, was accessed, lost or stolen.”

What Garmin didn’t say is that just one or two days after the 23 July, they had paid US$10 million in encrypted bitcoin (reportedly) to the criminals. 

“Affected systems are being restored and we expect to return to normal operation over the next few days. We do not expect any material impact to our operations or financial results because of this outage.”

Can a company do business with criminals who kidnap our data?

This is said to be happening increasingly in Australia. A surge in ransomware attacks on companies and customer databases in 2020 was reported last week by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OIAC).

Online security company MacAfee reported that NetWalker ransomware business is booming – A$35 million in extorted Bitcoin from companies globally in the last four months.

Some of that money has come from Garmin (customers) and apparently now NetWalker is being upgraded.

The original version used emailed messages to unlock machines but now a “security code” must be entered into a darkweb website. NetWalker now offers criminals “instant and fully automatic payments” according to advertisements on the dark web.

One IT media outlet asked the criminals behind NetWalker if they would stop attacking hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OIAC says health providers are the leading target of malicious attackers and the number one source of data breaches in Australia.

The NetWalker criminals responded:

“Hospitals and medical facilities? do you think someone has a goal to attack hospitals? we don’t have that goal -it never was. it coincidence. no one will purposefully hack into the hospital.”

But what if NetWalker has been deployed into a health service computer system already? Perhaps by accident?

The criminals were asked directly: “Will you give hospitals the decryption code for free?” (you know, so they can get back to saving lives … ) and they replied, directly:

“If someone is encrypted, then he must pay for the decryption.”

More on the recent OIAC report at my blog.

Guide to safe cold water swimming

UPDATE: September 2021: The water is getting slighter warmer every week in Melbourne and now is a great time to jump and have a go. The water is usually clearer and often calmer than summer months.

Here is the executive summary:

Cold water swimming is awesome. People start out hesitant and then love it. You will be in a good mood when you get out. Cold water swimming produces endorphins more effectively than just about any other activity, so you won’t regret doing it, safely.

Cold water swimming improves your mood

Yes you can swim for a short time in water temperatures from 10 to 15 degrees without a wetsuit but you will be cold and you will get colder when you get out. If you are not acclimatised to the cold water, you will probably need a wetsuit for temperatures below 15 degrees until your body gets used to the cold water. That takes weeks and months.

Walk in to the water slowly. Put your hands down in the water as you walk in. When your hands start to feel ok with the temperature (might take 5 to 10 minutes of standing around chatting), you are ready to dive in, though you might like to start with some breaststroke or water polo – head up freestyle.

The first ten minutes are confronting. Your face, hands and feet will feel the cold the most. After that you will realise that you’re starting to get used to it and you will even be starting to enjoy the amazing feeling all over. Like your whole body, nerves and and senses are being overloaded, bombarded, activated.

Bunch of newbies trying cold water swimming at Williamstown Beach, Melbourne.

Don’t stay in cold water (under about 15 degrees) for longer than 45 minutes until you are quite experienced. If you are too cold, you may not realise it so set a firm time limit for yourself and stick to it.

Don’t swim in cold water alone.

Always plan for your recovery after the swim. You will get colder when you get out. Have a thermos of hot tea handy and warm clothes. Get out of the wind and out of wet swimsuits.

Be prepared to move around in the sun or sit in a car with the heater on until you warm up again. Shivering is OK, it won’t last forever but you can’t drive until you warm up. So you need to schedule recovery time. For newbies to cold water swimming this might be up to 30 minutes.

Read below for more info about the cold water swimming including the risks and more about how to do it safely.

My personal cold water swimming journey:

Like most swimmers, I have come from a pool swimming background to open water swimming. I found the cold water a deterrent for a couple of years and would stop open water swimming in Autumn and come back to it in Spring.

I now swim in the ocean year round, often with no wetsuit in the middle of winter, down to temperatures of 9 – 10 degrees and love it, look forward to it and assist other swimmers to do it.

What I wear for cold water swimming:

I used to swim with a thick 5 mm wetsuit and thermal cap (see pic below near the end of this article). Now I wear two latex swim caps and ensure I pull them down over my ears to prevent the cold getting into my inner ears.

I’ve done away with the thick wetty and now wear a thin 2mm sleeveless wetty and that is more than enough for mid-winter swimming. So your body does change and adapt and you reap health benefits from doing it. You burn heaps of calories (but beware the urge to ‘carb-load’ afterwards).

No wetsuit winter swimming

UPDATE April 2021: Cold water swimming in Melbourne is starting again for winter 2021.

Check out this post for more information or go straight to this page to book in for supported cold water swim group, every Saturday at Williamstown Beach, Melbourne. This calendar list of open water swim groups and swim coaching in Williamstown, Melbourne has all our swim groups for open water and the pool and you can click straight through to book in, choose a date from the calendar and reserve your place for open water swimming or swim coaching.

Is cold water swimming good for you?

Is cold water swimming healthy? Is swimming in the cold winter ocean safe or advisable? What water temperature is considered cold in cold water swimming?

Firstly, yes, swimming in the sea during winter can be healthy and safe and completely energising and revitalising. There is no doubt that cold or cool water immersion can assist with blood circulation and science says this is just the start of the benefits. Your mood will improve and your brain functions will improve as a result of more blood flowing through the head.

But, and there is a big but, you need to know some of the basics before jumping in. And you probably won’t be jumping in anyway, more like a slow walk at best.

That’s because cold water swimming done wrong can be risky and dangerous to your long term health.

Is cold water dangerous?

Cold water swimming comes with risk. Here are the major ones:

  1. Cold water shock – When you first get in the water, you will feel the shock of the cold, especially on your head, hands and feet. The terms “Ice cream headache” and “Brainfreeze” will have new meaning for you. Your breathing will be constrained and you need to focus on your exhale to calm down. Cold water shock can lead to panic attacks requiring assistance or rescue. Enter water slowly with hands in the water. Don’t submerge your head in the cold water until you feel ready.
  2. Hypothermia – the big one. Hypothermia is when your body’s core temperature falls below 35C. This can lead to unconsciousness, organ damage, organ failure and cardiac arrest. You may not realise you have hypothermia or how low your temperature has fallen because your brain and body is not functioning efficiently. Never swim alone, never swim when you are shivering and never swim too long.
  3. Swim slow down – Cold water swimming causes your body to restrict blood flow to the arms and legs. This slows down your movements but you may not realise it. Eventually you can no longer swim properly. Don’t stay in the water if you are at all struggling or slowing down.
  4. Surfer’s Ear – Cold water can damage the inner ear. Pull your swim cap(s) down over your ears to prevent the water entering your ears or use ear plugs or even blue-tak in your ears.
  5. After-chill – When you get out, the cold blood in your arms and legs begins to circulate again, lowering the core body temperature. You may feel colder ten minutes after your swim than during your swim. Warm tea – to warm up your core from the inside and warm clothes as soon as possible is the best solution. A steaming hot shower straight from the cold sea is less effective and not very beneficial.

How to swim in winter / How to swim in cold water.

First – yes do it you will enjoy it. No one ever regretted a (safe) swim. Be prepared though if you want the benefits, not the injuries.

There is nothing enjoyable, smart, healthy or tough about swimming for long periods alone, far from shore in very cold winter water with just speedos to protect your modesty.

You can get hypothermia from swimming for long periods in relatively warm water – into the mid 20s degrees Celsius, so winter water needs to be respected.

First a wetsuit, gloves, boots, cap (or two) is the best way to protect yourself from the cold while swimming in winter. But even all this neoprene will not protect you from Hypothermia and all the associated risks after about an hour.

Second – Swim in a group, never alone, don’t stray far from shore and shorten your swim for winter.

Third: A thermos of hot tea is your best friend.

Fourth: A run along the sand before or after your swim can help keep you warmer or warm back up.

How long should I stay in the cold water?

Lifesaving Victoria say if you are in cold water for more than one hour, you almost certainly have hypothermia and are at risk of black out. Limit cold water swimming to less than one hour in winter when water temperatures are low.

If you have low body fat, you will want to be getting out of cold water after about 45 minutes, depending on the temperature.

What temperature is “Cold Water Swimming?”

Cold Water swimming is a general term but there are guidelines and health and safety regulations around cold water swimming events. Swimming Australia, FINA, triathlon organisations all have rules for cold water swimming based on health advice. All too often these rules get developed after a tragedy or many, so let’s find out more:

Cold water swimming temperatures in centigrade/Celsius:

Mid 20s degrees: warm enough for everyone

22C: Warm in Victoria, but a bit nippy for northerners from NSW and Queensland!

20C: You might like a wetsuit for long swims.

18C: Time for a wetsuit. FINA and Swimming Australia say wetsuits (not swim suits) are mandatory in OWS events under 18 degrees.

16C: FINA and Swimming Australia rules say no event can be held in water under 16 degrees.

15.5C: Swimmers who want to qualify for an English Channel attempt must swim for two hours, without wetsuit in water that is 15.5C or less. This is really cold and you will need time to recover from swimming in water of this temperature. You can’t leave the water and expect to be able to drive a car, for example.

10C: This is cold. Limit swims to well under one hour and do not attempt without a wetsuit at very least.

8C: Do not enter the water for more than a very short period of time – max 30 minutes – for the most experienced swimmers.

5C: This is called Ice swimming. Please seek medical advice.

I no longer need or want the thermal cap and thick wetsuit. My body has got used to the cold water and I look forward to winter swimming, when the water is crisp and clear and invigorating.

This POV swim video will make you feel like you’re swimming. Put it on big screen

I took 5 minutes off my tri swim PB! Thanks Mussels!


By Ben Wilson

I have been competing in Olympic distance triathlons since the 13/14 season here in Melbourne. I have always been a good runner and the bike came naturally. The swim however was harder work and seen as a necessary evil to competing.

Leading into races, my anxiety levels would be at an all time high thinking about the swim. I always managed to get through well but knew I could do much better with dedicated open water swimming coaching.

I decided leading into the 17/18 season that I would get some coaching, as I wanted to take my racing to the next level. I looked online and came across Coach Jason’s open water swimming class on a Saturday morning at Williamstown.

After attending my first class I immediately felt much more comfortable in the open water. Coach Jason has a friendly teaching style and provides a lot of great advice and drills to help improve technique and efficiency.

I spent 4 weekends in a row in Coach Jason’s class with my confidence and technique getting better each week, Coach Jason then encouraged me to move into The Mussels group. The Mussels are a group of swimmers who get together every Saturday morning and swim in a non-competitive and highly encouraging environment. Some swim a couple of hundred metres, other swim 3km+, it’s totally up to you.

The Mussels have been absolutely incredible for my further development and I owe a big thanks to Tim and Neil for their guidance and support. I am now swimming 2.5km+ every Saturday morning in the open water. It has resulted in me taking 5 minutes 17 seconds off my swim leg PB for 1500 metres, and 6 minutes 8 seconds off my Olympic distance PB this season. I look forward to continuing to swim with The Mussels throughout the rest of the year in preparation for the 18/19 triathlon season.

If you are looking to get more confident in the open water and take your triathlon swim leg to another level, I can’t recommend Coach Jason’s class and The Mussels group highly enough. They have helped remove my open water anxiety and turned the swim into nearly my favourite leg of a triathlon.

Thanks Coach Jason and The Mussels.

Ben Wilson