Teen Swimmers Sam Bonus (15) and Michael Payne (17) have been gearing up for some huge overseas swimming challenges next year with training swims in the Hawkesbury River.
The teenagers have been braving water temperatures of 13 degrees four times a week but now the swimming pools have re-opened not only has training has increased but so have the temperatures.
Sam plans to swim the English Channel (England to France) next year and Michael, who is studying for his HSC, wants to do both the Gibraltar Straits (Spain to Morocco) and the Tsugaru Strait in Japan depending on travel restrictions next year.
Teen Swimmers aim is show young people what you can achieve by supporting each other and also to highlight youth mental issues.
Both were babies they started swimming but started lessons at about the age of four and have been Ocean swimming together for the past few years.
Earlier this year they were in a duo team in the Rottnest Channel and placed fourth out of more than 80 teams in their category.
Michael’s dad Steve Payne is champion swimmer who has been taking the boys through their training and has inspired them. He and Michael swam the English Channel last year with a friend, each swimming a third of the way.
Sam, Captain of Windsor Swim Club, says Michael’s advice to him has been: “Keep swimming.”
When asked about the challenges of the 32km Channel swim Sam says: “I think the water temperature and the distance will be a big challenge. “My main goal is to keep my mental headspace strong and focused.”
He hopes to complete the swim in under 12 hours.
Michael says one of the biggest challenges has been balancing HSC study at Colo High and swimming training.
“I find the balance of studying and training difficult as I feel guilty not doing training but we are cutting it back majorly for this year,” he said.
Michael’s dream is to study nursing or medicine.
Both teenagers want their swims to highlight youth mental health issues.
“Young people can be seriously affected by mental health issues every day,” said Michael. “By raising awareness of this we can identify problems and put effective systems in place to guide and assist young people in dealing with their issues. Hopefully this will eventually lead to a faster recovery for most.”
Sam said: “I feel this year has been a really tough year for everyone. With the bushfires, droughts and now COVID I feel young people are confused and scared about their future.
“I want them to know that it’s okay to tell people about their feelings and to not feel they are alone.
“There are lots of fantastic organisations that offer counselling and advice. I just don’t want young teenagers to see mental health issues as a taboo subject that they can’t talk about.”
Sam is also a One Giant Leap Australia Foundation Ambassador.
If people in the community would like send in donations or sponsor the duo they can contact Ash Harrison on 0400 796 994 or [email protected], and head over to their Instagram page, @hawkesburyopenwaterswimmers.
If you are seeking help visit: Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800; Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636; Headspace 1800 650 890