Bondi Beach Inspector, Bill 'The Whale" Willis, was the first to do it. A lap of Bondi Beach from the North Bondi boat ramp to the 'the boot' in behind Icebergs was 800 meters. The Whale opened the bidding with two laps. It was the late 60's.
Eric who wore flippers – there's no one alive who can remember his last name – trained at the baths and soon after doubled Bill's effort swimming 4 laps, but no one cared because he wore shoes.
It was our 2nd English Channel swimmer, John Koorey that upped the ante tenfold and swam 40 laps. John was fast and the late Des Renford , our 3rd English Channel swimmer, knew he couldn’t beat John's time for 40 laps but backed himself to swim all day, so Des did 50 laps in the time of 11 hours and 15 minutes. It was now the late 70's.
A decade or so later enter Renford's protégé and great mate, Cyril Baldock, our 5th English Channel swimmer. Cyril, as we will come to learn, likes to break a record and so on the first Sunday in May 1985 he set the course and beat Des' 50 lap record recording a time of 9 hours 45 minutes. That mark stood for two decades until our 13th English Channel swimmer Tammy Von Wisse swam 50 laps in 9 hours 39 minutes.
In more recent times, Chole McCardle, 24 x English Channel swimmer extended the distance, as she does, to 60 laps and swam that on Easter Sunday 2011 preparing for her successful three-way English Channel crossing later that year.
And so, when you take to Bondi on your next long-distance training swim, spare a thought for Bill 'The Whale' Willis, who courageously went there and back when no one else had dared, and ask yourself if you’ve got it in you to do 40, 50, 60 or more to continue the very honourable battle for Bondi.