THEY might be Subway Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim virgins but these guys are hardly fish out of water with months of hard training up their sleeves.
Kendall Messer, 17, had done little swimming training when she decided to take on the race at the beginning the year but when the stars aligned she had no choice but to jump in head-first.
''I'm turning 18 on the day of the race which is also on the 18th so when I found out it was on my birthday, I knew I had to do it,'' Kendall said.
''I started training six days a week. I haven't done much swimming before but I had a good fitness base from other sports I'm involved with.
''Personally I just want to finish at about the same base as the people I've been training with and still be alive enough to party that night.''
Fellow first-timer Matt Conroy said he too had been training hard ahead of the race.
''This is a new fitness kick for me I haven't swam or even done much sport before,'' he said.
''I think it's very inspirational when you see some of the people competing. My coach is a very inspirational person and keeps me motivated.''
The swim will kick off at 9am Saturday.
The 8km race began 55 years ago and has progressed from a shark-cage race to an event patrolled by safety craft and paddlers.
This year's event has set records for solo and team competitors and all proceeds will benefit the Heart Foundation, Picnic Bay and Arcadia Surf Lifesaving Clubs, Townsville Outrigging Canoe Club and Townsville Kayak Club.