A day at the beach: ‘I’ve earned my nickname Sea Bull for good reason’ | Lord Howe Island

I fell into open ocean swimming after an incident in 2012. Not lengthy after my forty eighth birthday, I ripped my proper bicep tendon off the bone mucking round at the seashore with my children. After surgical procedure to reattach the tendon, I began swimming for rehab. Then I met long-distance swimmer Trent Grimsey, who inspired me to coach for ocean swimming. In 2018 I turned the first Australian to finish the Oceans Seven, solo swimming throughout seven channels round the world.

When Covid made abroad swims unimaginable, I thought of Lord Howe Island, not simply for a household vacation, however an island to swim round. Nobody had achieved it! I additionally found the work of scientist Dr Jennifer Lavers. She leads a small crew researching the influence of plastic air pollution in the stomachs of Lord Howe’s shearwater birds. Her venture gave me further impetus to do the swim – to lift cash for their analysis.

Long distance swimmer, Lynton Mortensen at Currumbin Beach, Gold Coast
Lengthy-distance swimmer Lynton Mortensen at Currumbin Seaside, Gold Coast. {Photograph}: David Kelly/The Guardian

On the morning of the swim, Valentine’s Day 2021, my spouse, Lisa and our three children had been up at 4am, having breakfast and getting ready my swim meals. You may’t do ocean swimming with out your assist crew following in a ship. To maintain my power as much as swim for such lengthy durations, I cease round each 40 minutes and tread water whereas consuming a “feed” – drinks like Gatorade, electrolytes or Ovaltine. We left our cabin at 5am, our backpacks filled with meals and digicam tools. As a result of Lord Howe is a bike-only island we needed to experience bikes down an enormous hill, in the darkish, utilizing our cellphone torches for lights. I assumed if I survive this, I can survive something!

Ready at the seashore was Michael Bannister (Banno) who had supplied to accompany me round the island, on a paddleboard. Having Banno, an skilled lifesaver, paddling by my facet at water degree gave further reassurance. On the assist boat was captain Jack Shick, my household, and three Lord Howe islanders.


I entered the water at 6.30am. It was tough swimming out of the lagoon to the prime of the island. I punched by means of uneven waves, circumstances I favour. I’ve earned my nickname, Sea Bull, for good cause.

After swimming round the prime of the island I used to be out in the deep ocean. Stopping for a feed beneath Mount Gower, the highest peak on the island, was extraordinary. The view from the water to the prime was like Jurassic Park meets Atlantis.

Long distance swimmer, Lynton Mortensen at Currumbin Beach, Gold Coast
Lynton Mortensen at Currumbin seashore. {Photograph}: David Kelly/The Guardian

Trevor Hendy, an outdated pal and former Ironman champion who runs a swim college on the island, had joined us and paddled over to me on an ocean ski.

“Mate are you simply taking all of it in?” he requested.

I mentioned, “Yeah, when am I ever going to do one thing like this once more?”

And that’s when it turned fascinating.

The oceans round Lord Howe are dwelling to Galápagos whaler sharks. They don’t seem to be identified to be aggressive, however in packs they are often. I’d spied one cruising beneath me at a depth of about 50m. At my subsequent feed, there have been extra, they usually had been nearer.

My crew carries two shark shields – two metres of trailing antenna which emit an digital discipline round me. They trigger innocent spasms in sharks’ short-range electrical receptors that in principle turns them away. The “protected” vary is inside two metres. Something past that, the protect doesn’t work.

Go pro footage of Lynton and a Galapogas shark coming closer for a look
Mortensen with a Galapogas whaler shark coming nearer for a glance. {Photograph}: Jack Shick

The shark numbers had been rising, their physique actions turning into jerkier. As I turned to maintain imaginative and prescient on them, all of the sudden, a much bigger one emerged from the deep, swimming straight in the direction of me, eyeballing me from about three metres.

I yelled out to Jack, “I believe they’re undoubtedly inquisitive now mate.”

Jack yelled again, “Don’t fear large fella, it might take 20 of the bastards to eat you!”

That helped break the pressure.


My eldest son dropped a shark protect in the water. I continued swimming behind the line, hooked up to my son’s ocean kayak. The sharks dropped off just a little, finally trailing away by the time we received round the mountain.

Returning to the lagoon at sundown was stunning. My household swam with me to shore. Someway, I’d scraped my ankle on coral, however nothing was going to cease me strolling up the seashore and grabbing a chilly beer from the native greeting celebration. The official finish time was 6.59pm.

I’d circumnavigated Lord Howe – over 30km in 12 hours and 29 minutes.

Strolling into the restaurant that evening for dinner, I obtained a standing ovation. It was just a little embarrassing. Ocean swimming shouldn’t be a person occasion – it’s a crew sport.

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