In the beginning….

So how did I get into ocean swims? I had swum for a couple of years in Merewether Baths with some friends from work. We would ride our bikes up the pool from work in the city (a distance of around 3 km each way) during our lunch break. We would then swim 1 km in the pool and we would do this a few times a week year round.  Of the three of us I was the fastest due to my pool swimming when I was a boy.

I started this exercise regime to try to keep fit and to enjoy the salt water pool throughout the year. After about 12 months of this I was looking for another challenge, as I was getting quicker in the pool.

The local surf club then advertised a swim called Baths to Bar. This was a swim from Merewether Surf Club to Cooks Hill Surf Club on Bar Beach a distance of 1.5 km. So I enrolled in the swim and convinced a triathlete friend to swim with me. I was confident as I had swum at both beaches several times, though always within the flags. I increased my distance in the pool to see if I could swim 1.5 km non stop, and I could.

The swim was scheduled for late November 2008. Now November is an interesting time in this part of Australia. The air temperature can be 30 degrees plus, and the sea water temperature can be around 16 degrees. At that temperature it would be advisable to wear a wet suit.

The day of the swim was cold. The air temperature was 13 degrees with a westerly gale blowing (it was snowing up in the mountains), so the wind chill was in single figures. Luckily the water was only 15 degrees, and the organisers agreed to allow competitors to wear a wet suit. I chose to wear mine, my friend decided not to.

So we went to the start line, and I stayed warm due to my wet suit. I had not even thought how I was going to get through the break, and was intrigued to watch the elite wave get smashed by a big set when they started. I hoped that my wave would be more gentle, and luckily it was. I managed to get out through the wave zone without having to go under a wave. So far so good.

First buoy was off the beach and then you turned left to swim north. The problem was by the time I go to that buoy I was puffed, and I contemplated pulling out because it was so cold. However, I decided to keep going as my wife was waiting at the finish line and I wanted to test myself. So I put my head down and swam. I swam to seaward of the guiding buoys well away from most of the other swimmers. I was by myself most of the time, which I had planned.

After what seemed ages I turned left and followed the course into the finish line. The strong winds had reduced the swell so it was quite easy getting in.

I walked slowly up the sand exhausted. I had finished. I then had a chance to check my time of just under 27 minutes, and I thought that was quite good. My wife rushed over to tell me that my friend had finished a few minutes earlier, but he was very cold and was in the car to get warm.

So now I was an ocean swimmer. I finished 72nd out of 144 starters, and I was very happy with that. I had walked the length of that beach many times, but now I had swum it.

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