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Paul Laver, 29, of Sorrento, was the first across the line. Picture: The West Australian/Nic Ellis

UPDATED: Doubleview former triathlete Paul Laver, 29, has won the 2014 Rottnest Channel Swim in a time of 4:14:04, just 14 minutes shy of the all-time record.

Harnessing every breath of a 25km/h easterly, he completed the crossing 20 minutes faster than last year’s winner but could not match marathon swimmer Mark Saliba’s record of 4:00:15 set in 2000.

The Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club member reached land ahead of Benjamin Konschak, 27, a professional marathon swimmer from Germany who flew into Perth for the swim on Tuesday.

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He overtook Nedlands plastic surgeon and 2011 winner Tim Hewitt, who had established a lead by the halfway point of the race.

Boat skippers were on the lookout for a shark that was seen near the Rottnest Channel Swim course this morning.

Just after 11.30am, Surf Life Saving WA tweeted that spotters aboard the Westpac Helicopter sighted a 1.5m-2m shark - a hammerhead - between Cottesloe Beach and Rottnest Island.

More than 2000 swimmers beat the sun to Cottesloe Beach this morning ahead of the annual pilgrimage to Rottnest Island.

Picture: The West Australian/Nic Ellis

They were greeted by almost ideal conditions, with temperatures in the mid-20s and a gentle easterly at their backs.

One swimmer was reportedly taken to Fremantle Hospital with symptoms of severe hypothermia.

The dawn sky cast a steely blue hue over the field as Noongar elder Len Collard delivered a stirring Welcome to Country then led a traditional smoking ceremony before the event this morning.

Picture: The West Australian/Nic Ellis

Layered in sunscreen and limbered up, the first wave of competitors swam out past the breakers before 6am and the 2014 Rottnest Channel Swim was underway.

Among those competing was former AFL hard man Campbell Brown.

If there was one thing Brown was happy to see the back of when his football career ended, it was gruelling pre-season running.

So when he hauled himself out of the ocean at Rottnest Island today, it was with the sort of exhaustion he was more than happy to experience for the first time.

Paul Laver is congratulated by partner Tarryn Stott. Picture: The West Australian/Nic Ellis

"I've been enjoying not doing too much training," he said as he sat with brother Tim, sister Pip and wife Jess Johnston in a Cottesloe cafe yesterday.

"I'm not a massive fan of running and that's why I've found swimming has been really good for me, because it's still keeping me fit."

After a whirlwind few months involving a move interstate and the start of a "normal" job, Brown said he had had no trouble adjusting to life after football.

Former AFL player Campbell Brown, right, his sister Pip and brother Tim. Picture: The West Australian/Steve Ferrier

The 205-game veteran retired in December after being sacked by Gold Coast for breaking a teammate's jaw in Los Angeles after a pre-season camp.

Brown, the son of WA football legend Mal Brown, was born in Perth and still describes it as his home despite having moved east in 1993.

The hammerhead shark. Picture: 7 News/Ray Raab
Clancy Neesham, 21, son of former Fremantle Dockers coach, Gerard Neesham, prepares to take to the water at Cottesloe. Picture: The West Australian/Nic Ellis

Although he has been eager to do the swim for some time, Brown has not been able to sign up until this year because the event clashes with the AFL's pre-season competition.

He said one of his horses, Sweet Idea, was racing in Sydney today, meaning he would be glued to a radio whenever he was resting on the boat between swims.

"I made sure I packed my radio but I actually forgot my goggles, that's how prepared I was," he said.

The City Slayers team: William Rollo, 17, Justin Van Nieuwburg, 17, Brett Fielding, 16, and Callum Lauriston, 14. Picture: The West Australian/Nic Ellis

RESULTS:
Solo male – Paul Laver – 4:14:04
Solo female - Elizabeth Bellis - 4:52:32
Male team - Rottnest Express (Malcolm Allen, David Locke, Deane Pieters, Liam Ryan) - 3:47:29
Female team - Fastest Laydeez of the Dawn (Emily Chetwin, Georgina Kovacs, Karen Moffett, Hayley Tatum) - 4:55:40
Mixed team - Milly’s Minions (Guy Harrison-Murray, Heidi Gan, Keiran Trump, Solomon Trump) - 4:09:24
Male duo - Last Year’s Heroes (Jeremy Brooke-Smith, Toby Jones) - 4:11:24
Female duo - Sacha (Jaime Bowling, Sacha Downing) - 4:22:46
Mixed duo - SharedMuffins (Rohan Hollick, Naomi Watters) - 4:33:19

CHECK OUT THE WEST PHOTOGRAPHER NIC ELLIS' PHOTOS FROM THE SWIM: