Luke Smoothy spends 14th birthday becoming youngest to complete Rottnest Channel Swim


Luke Smoothy celebrating with his mates from Year 9.
Luke Smoothy celebrating with his mates from Year 9.

WHILE many would celebrate their 14th birthday with laser tag, a party and cake or a camping trip, a Mindarie boy set his sights on Rottnest.

Luke Smoothy swam 20km to the island in six hours and seven minutes on his birthday last Friday, getting into the Rottnest Channel Swimming Association record books as the youngest swimmer to complete the feat solo since it introduced a 14-year age minimum in 2007.

“It still hasn’t fully hit me that I swam it,” Luke told the Weekender.

He followed up the swim with a shower and a burger, then had a birthday dinner with his family, which includes father Martin, brother Sam and sister Esther who are all keen open water swimmers too.

Back at his school, Quinns Baptist College, this week after recovering over the weekend, Luke said his peers had supported his record-setting swim.

“A few of my mates were a bit shocked that I was the youngest; most of them just congratulated me,” he said.

Apart from a curious 2.5m shark that his support crew kept quiet about, Luke said there were not many surprises along the way.

“Most of it was the same as people told me; it was tiring around the 12km mark; it got a bit rough,” he said.

The teenager spent his summer training with schoolmates and other open water swimmers coached by seven-time long-distance world champion Shelley Taylor-Smith.

His training was set back when he broke his arm in April, although he said it did not hurt during the May 13 swim.

Having done the Port to Pub swim in a duo this year, Luke said he wanted to take part in the official Rottnest Channel Swim next year.

He would also like to do several international swims, including the triple crown of open water swimming – the English Channel, Catalina Channel and Manhattan Island routes.

His school swimming coach Ian Bower said Luke’s older brother Sam “paved the way” for his younger siblings and Luke was already in the league of top swimmers.

“Luke is in the elite squad with Shelley Taylor-Smith,” he said.

“He was always just waiting, waiting, waiting to get old enough.

“To do (Rottnest) in just over six hours at 14 years old is really high level stuff.

“He is an outstanding young man.”

Mr Bower said the college principal Tel Williams, who does long-distance ocean paddling, supported the school’s open water swimming program which has taken students to the Busselton Jetty and Rottnest Channel swims in recent years.

“He is really supportive of that sort of endurance event because he knows the teamwork involved; it’s all about the planning for the journey,” he said.

“Without having a pool access, everything is done in the ocean – all the training is at Quinns Beach.”

Prior to the introduction of the 14-year minimum age, a 12-year-old girl, Chhavi Madan, completed the Rottnest Channel crossing in six hours, 15 minutes in 1995.

The fastest swim time was set by Mark Saliba in 2000 when he reached the island in four hours and 15 seconds.

The first solo crossing was recorded in 1956.