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John is still Hungary

Think Local

During the working week, John De Mestre is principal of his own law firm in the CBD. He was also chairman of the Tattersalls Club and currently sits on the board of the FSHD Foundation. But that's only one side of the Clontarf resident. At least three times a week and most weekends, the 53-year-old switches his business attire with goggles and speedos, then hits the surf.

John, for those of you who don't know, has been one of the world's pre-eminent ocean swimmers for more than three decades.

Even as recently as September, the Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club member defeated a strong international field (including athletes much younger than him) in challenging conditions, to take out the Hawaii North Shore 5km Ocean Swim. Then he won the Narrabeen Challenge Ocean Swim in October.

John tells Peninsula Living his age is actually an advantage.

"Back when I was in my late teens we were allowed to compete in much rougher conditions, whereas now a lot of the circumstances have changed so they don't run a lot of the events in dangerous conditions any more. I think that's why a lot of the older competitors like me are still competitive because we were brought up in an era where you could compete in big surf," he says.

"Honestly I can't believe I'm still going - when I was 17 I didn't think I'd be swimming when I was 20... and I say every year I'm going to retire,” he laughs.

But it's events like the Pittwater Ocean Swim Series, which starts with Bilgola on December 13, that keep him coming back for more.

“I've been swimming in it over a 30 year span. It's great socially, and you're raising money for local surf clubs so we all look toward to it," he enthuses.

"I particularly like the Avalon leg because at the north end of the beach there is actually natural sea grass, and you swim over the sea grass and there's always plenty of marine life to enjoy.

"Plus it‘s always just after Christmas, so the water is warm, and my wife and daughters love the shopping there.”

He can also attest to the fact that the Pittwater swims are world renowned.

“I know that a lot of people I compete with overseas, it's part of their ambition to come here to swim in, particularly the Palm to Whale [Beach swim]," he reveals.

"So every year there are a couple of overseas competitors who have come from the States or Europe just to take part in that event.”

John plans to swim in all five legs of the series (depending on commitments), before turning his attention to the 2017 FINA World Championships.

“In my age group I would expect to be on the podium,” he replies, when asked what he hopes to achieve in Hungary.

He is currently part of a training squad led by Olympic gold-medallist Chris Fydler (remember that relay final at Sydney 2000, when Thorpey chased down Gary Hall Jnr.) and he says that's another reason he is still competitive.

"Yeah I train with a group of my friends, it's very social otherwise it would just be too hard to maintain that level of fitness I mean we swim about four kilometres at least three times a week,” he explains.

And how does he stack up against Fydler?

Well it’s not a fair contest... he's a bit past his prime but I would have liked to have raced him when he was in better condition," he laughs.

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