Sam Sheppard has won the Powercor Lorne Pier to Pub a record 7 times, also won it as a Junior 3 times, has the race record and is a former Australian Dolphin national swim Team Member. He has also won medals at the Australian Surf Life Saving titles.
He is a huge supporter of the race, and donates substantial hours helping behind the scenes, commentating and running swim clinics for Pier to Pub swimmers.
We sat down with him to discuss his passion for open water swimming and his love for our famous event. He’s given us some handy training tips as well, so read on.
TRAINING QUESTIONS – with Sam Sheppard
Q: Lorne Surf Life Saving Club: How many Powercor Pier to Pubs have you completed and what makes you keep coming back?
A: Sam Sheppard: I have completed 15 Pier to Pub races over 13 years, along with many unofficial swims whenever I am in Lorne for a weekend away, I just can’t resist! When I was younger, I would compete in the Junior events as well as the SuperFish, I just wanted to race and win. Although now I’m not as focused on winning, I’m always hoping for a good swim. It has become a yearly Sheppard-family event.
Q: What is your favourite Pier to Pub memory and why?
A: My favourite Pier to Pub memory would have to be in 2017 when I convinced my parents and three sisters to all swim the event with me. I entered everyone without asking and then convinced them by saying the others had agreed to swim. This was a really special year for me as I had put a lot of competitive pressure on myself in the previous year. 2017 was my first year of being retired from professional swimming and I was only focused on having a great day with my family.
Q: Have you challenged any of your friends or family to complete the virtual Pier to Pub with you?
A: I have a lot of different ideas and plans with a few of my swimming friends as to how we might complete the virtual Powercor Pier to Pub. At this stage, the plan is to swim it as a handicap race and put a wager on the line to make it interesting. I may also run the virtual Mountain to Surf but will have to find some local hills!
Q: What are your top training recommendations for a beginner trying the virtual Pier to Pub for the first time?
A: This year has been difficult for everyone, but it has been an opportunity to reflect and get creative in terms of training especially with pools being closed. For swimmers that are new to open water, I would recommend getting down to your local beach and jumping into the water before you undertake the virtual Pier to Pub, as open water swimming is very different to swimming in the pool and can really change depending on the conditions. Start off swimming small distances and then build up slowly to 1,200 m (the distance of the virtual Pier to Pub). Focus on navigation (swimming in the right direction, it’s harder than it sounds!) and try out a new skill each time you swim (breathing to the side, breathing forward, drafting close to someone, changing speed etc.).
Whenever you go for an open water swim, always make sure you swim with a buddy for safety and only if the conditions are safe, no matter your skill level. If you do not have anyone to swim with, there are plenty of beaches around Melbourne and Victoria that have open water swimming groups every morning, so just turn up, say hello and the open water swimming community will welcome you!
Q: Tell us something interesting about yourself. What do you do for fun?
A: Like most people that swim, I also enjoy my water sports and generally being outdoors. I surf when I can and jump on my road bike on the weekends. I’m currently teaching my sausage dog to be on the stand up paddleboard with me.