About the Wollongong Whales

The Wollongong Whales were the first winter swimming club in the Illawarra (disputed by the Bulli Sea Lions), thanks to the vision of John Prentice. Moving to the Illawarra to manage a tailor’s shop, Prentice had swum for one of the five Sydney clubs—the Maroubra Dolphins and was struck by the absence of a club in the Illawarra. So, he organized a meeting of the North Wollongong and Wollongong surf lifesaving clubs. Prentice never lived to see the success of the venture, dying the following year after a car accident in Fairy Meadow. Michael “Mick” Westbury is one of only two men still alive from that foundation meeting, the other being Geoff Swainson who moved to the Gold Coast 30 years ago.

The format of any Sunday is simple and unchanging. Handicapped races are held over 50m in the ocean pool, newcomers undertake a time trial. Those whose race is run or yet to swim stand along the railings looking into the ocean or having a yarn.

The Sunday’s events run smoothly thanks to all the members who assist, from taking of the fees, to the race allocations and handicapping, the starters, timekeepers and judges (who stand out in all conditions), then to the soup makers, nibbles preparers and to the BBQers. And who could forget the refreshment distributors.

The Wollongong Winter Whales will live on for the next 50 years and beyond!


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