Swimmer targets marathon
By ALEX EASTON
FORMER Neighbours star Stephen Hunt did not start wondering about the wisdom of his decision to swim from Byron Bay to Lennox Head until well after he had achieved the goal.
The swim was planned as training for a 40km swim from Spain to Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar in August, to raise funds to help people with HIV.
A raffle might have been simpler. However, speaking at Byron Bay's Beach Hotel before his training swim on Saturday, Mr Hunt said the swim would raise far more cash and awareness about HIV.
Mr Hunt, whose uncle died from AIDS, said the first $50,000 raised from the swim would fund a holiday camp for 82 Australian children with HIV. They would be accompanied by family. The camps had run annually for years, but Mr Hunt, who has worked for about seven years with the AIDS Trust, said this year's was cancelled when money ran out.
And swimming fits well with Mr Hunt's strengths. He said he had once swum the English Channel.
The Byron to Lennox swim was planned as a straight-forward way of practising swimming long-distance in waters similar to those off Spain in August.
However, well before the swim began, Mr Hunt was getting worried. His queries locally about swimming conditions off the coast had been met with baffled looks and concerned warnings about sharks.
He did the swim anyway, emerging sharkfree on the Lennox Head beach less than three hours after entering the water, helped in his swim by a strong north-south current.
However, Byron Bay dive instructor Josh Stone said Mr Hunt had little to fear from the local shark population.
White pointers were occasionally seen in local waters, but the most common shark species in our waters was the grey nurse, which posed no threat to swimmers.
"The fact is the ocean is where they live and, being the top predator, they go pretty much anywhere they want," he said.
"Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. I've been surfing and diving here for years and I've never had a problem."