Australian Long Distance Swimming Federation inducted into the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame

Australian Long Distance Swimming Federation inducted into the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame

Nearly 50 years ago, the Australian Long-Distance Swimming Federation, home of the Derwent River Big Swim and Australian Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming, was formed by Chris Guesdon on January 26th 1973 in HobartTasmania. Its purpose is to facilitate recognition of the new sport of open water swimming as this was not forthcoming from the pool-orientated national body in Australia.

In 2023 the Australian Long Distance Swimming Federation (ALDSF) will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Patron Chris Guesdon explains, “The ALDSF brought marathon swimming to life in Australia for the first time. This was the birth of marathon swimming accreditation in Australia and the ALDSF set the environment for the rest to follow.

In launching the first national organization in Australia, we needed to firstly, create the environment, publicize the organization, encourage local community participation, set general rules, provide event management presentations, provide guidelines for coaching and athlete development, appoint officials and volunteers, set team selection rules, and affiliate with pertinent organizations.

Currently, there are 350 open water swims in Australia which attract 100,000 individual swimmers annually. The ALDSFs continued support of this sport has lasted the distance and seen the sport thrive from its birth to this day.

It was thanks to the ALDSF that Australia quickly gained recognition through the association with the International Long Distance Swimming Federation and World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation. Richard (Dick) Campion and I held positions in both international organizations during the 1970’s.

In 1986, when FINA decided that open water swimming be included in their administration, Australian Swimming invited management members of the ALDSF to join the Swimming Australia Open Water Committee. Their role was to set strategy and manage the national open water programs. Australia’s golden era followed for the national team and national development.

In 1996, I was appointed to represent Oceania on the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee. In 2000, I presented a proposal to FINA. This proposed a new concept for an event to be included in the Olympic Games that was agreed to unanimously. The Open Water Marathon 10k was included in the Olympics for the 2008 Beijing Games, thus changing the profile of open water swimming forever.

During the period 1980 to 1986, the Australian Long Distance Swimming Federation had a change of name. For this period, the name Australian Marathon Swimming Federation was used instead of Australian Long Distance Swimming Federation. The organization reverted to its original name ALDSF in 1987 and is based in Hobart, Tasmania.

Australia had many world-recognized individual marathon swimmers. However, until 1973, there had not been any form of sanctioned national recognition and there was no organization to formalize the various marathon swims around the country or to provide an opportunity for those swimmers to participate in a race and officially qualify to represent Australia.

The Foundation members and subsequent office bearers were Christopher Guesdon (IMSHOF) and AMSHOF as President, Deputy President Dick Campion (IMSHOF) and AMSHOF, Secretary Sue Guesdon (IMSHOF) and AMSHOF John Koorey (AMSHOF) Executive Member. To comply with the then constitution, the committee was filled by swimming members of Park Beach SLSC membership

As of April  2022, Guesdon is Patron of the ALDSF. Doug Hughson is President. The ALDSF is headquartered in Hobart

In 1972, the 34k Derwent River Big Swim was born and was the first of the events sanctioned by the ALDSF from 1973 to 2022. This swim was and remains the national blue-ribbon event. This started as a 34 km swim from the New Norfolk Bridge to Tasman Bridge in Hobart. The varying weather patterns can be extreme. Southerly weather brings winds from antarctica in the Great Southern Ocean via Storm Bay. The Derwent is a tidal river with the fresh water from the source and salt-water stretching upriver for 20 km from the Southern Ocean.

The ALDSF introduced the first Australian national marathon races. In addition, the ALDSF initiated and put in place the prestigious Australian Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming.

The Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame was founded by ALDSF members in June 2020

The Australian Open Water Swimming Championships over the marathon distance began in Tasmania in the 1980’s.  These races had Australia’s best open water swimmers with competitors from all states of Australia and internationals from New Zealand. The ALDSF’s first Australian national team competed on the professional marathon swimming circuit.

In Italy, the International Long Distance Swimming Federation’s 1975 and 1976 World Championships were held in the Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli and the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation in Canada at the 1975 Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean. The 1975 National Team of participated in the 24 Heures La Tuque and in 1976 lac Chibougamau Marathon.

The ALDSF in conjunction with the Australian Masters Games Organisation conducted the First Australian Masters Games Marathon Swim and the Tasmanian State Masters Games Championships Marathon Swim. For a short time, the Royal Hobart Regatta Trans Derwent was organized be the ALDSF

Some recognizable names have swum in ALDSF events: Des Renford, Dick Campion, John Koorey, Jenny Anderson, Philip Rush, John Van Wisse, Lynton Mortensen and Chris Guesdon.

There have been open water swimming events of various types and distances on the Derwent River since 1803 when Hobart, the capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania, was settled.

The ALDSF is run by volunteers who in fact underwrote the sanctioned events both financially and with manpower. The organizers provided accommodation, boats, watercraft and personnel. The history on the Derwent swims is not restricted to one course and a few swimmers.  There are numerous courses swum on this great river Derwent, across, up and down the river. There are three bridges used as starting and finishing lines.

Tasmania has many other venues being challenged including lake and ocean courses all influenced by the trade winds, the Roaring Forties.

From inception to 2020, the events run under this organization were free of any charges. All the expertise, the organizing the vessels accompanying the swimmers, the committee, the handlers, the pilots, the kayakers, and the accommodation was provided by the event as volunteers. There have been no sponsors and no input from government. From 2020 pilots have charged a fee for the 34k Derwent Big Swim.

Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney. The city is located in the state’s southeast on the estuary of the Derwent River, making it the most southern of Australia’s capital cities and its harbour forms the second-deepest natural port in the world

From 1973 when the Australian Long-Distance Swimming Federation was formed, swimmers have competed in the races in the Derwent at marathon distance.

The ALDSF continues to sanction and ratify swims from New Norfolk to Hobart, the Derwent River Big Swim, is one of the three events in the Australian Triple Crown of Marathon swimming. It is colloquially referred to as the Jewel in the Crown.

The ALDSF governs the ratification of independent unassisted open water swimming solo crossings of lakes, oceans, straits, and rivers across Australia where they are not governed by a recognised local sanctioning body. Swims must be a minimum of 10K in distance. 

Applications must include a documented outline of the open water swim to be considered for ratification. This would include basic facts of the swimmer, GPS tracking, original narrative, photos and video and independent observer log. All elements must be met for consideration to be included on the Australian Long Distance Swimming Federation honour roll.

Courtesy of Patron Chris Guesdon, President Doug Hughson, and Vice President Val Kalmikovs.

Steven Munatones