Big Swim Palm Beach 29 January 2012

Map of the Course


The Big Swim is one of the highlights of the season. I had never done this swim before, as I lacked the confidence to do it. I had looked at the swim on-line for the last few seasons thinking that one day I could do it. The course starts at Palm Beach surf club and swims around the point to Whale Beach, a distance of 2.5 km. What makes this swim special is that there are only four buoys on the course, and three of them are off Whale Beach. It is supposed to be easy to navigate, you just swim south along the coast line.

This year I decided to enter as I had done a few swims already. I arranged to give Michael from squad a lift to the swim, the northernmost of the Sydney swims. The beach is really quite beautiful sweeping up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse at the entrance to the Hawkesbury River. For all those Home and Away fans, this is the location for the outdoor shots for that show. Another good thing about this swim is the excellent organisation with free parking linked to the start line by a free shuttle bus. We had arrived early and looked in vain for a coffee before the swim. So we waited for the rest of our squad to arrive.

The conditions looked quite reasonable with a small NE swell and a forecast of a sea breeze. Our squad did our usual warm up before the swim, taking note of the sweep at the entry line, and the rip.

Once again my wave was to be the last one off the beach so I waited with all the other middle-aged pink cap swimmers. We watched the elite wave start and took note of the paths they took to get into the water.

One of the early waves


I was getting a bit nervous about the swim as time ticked over. I was not very aware of the course as I had not swum at either beach before. All I had been told was to stay off the cliffs to avoid the backwash, and then there are three markers off Whale Beach. As all the rest of the squad started I told them all to wait for me at the finish line.

My wave started and this time I was at the front with coach Paul. I ran into the water, but found the wave zone a bit of an effort to get through. I noticed that a lot of pink caps had swum past me, but I thought I could catch them later as the swim is a long one. As we headed along the cliffs the chop got worse as the wind picked up. I had followed advice and I was a long way off the cliffs. However, once again the chop was impacting on my stroke. I tried to shorten my stroke and have less glide, but found this uncomfortable. For long periods I was swimming by myself, so wondered if I was going the right way. Every now and again I would catch swimmers from earlier waves, but I was not catching many pink caps.

After what seemed an eternity I finally passed the point. Now I had to try to find the markers, but the chop made it difficult. About this time I noticed the side chop was loosening my cap, and I was forced to stop and try to put the cap on properly. This cost me some time, and I thought that next time I would just rip it off and leave it behind.

As I passed each of the markers I noticed that I was getting tired. Obviously the swim three days earlier at the Opera House had taken more out of me than I thought. However, I did see the finish line, and despite the choppy conditions made it quite easily into the beach, and even caught a small wave to assist me.

Once again on hitting the sand my legs did not want to work, but I did move into a slow jog just in case other squad members where watching. I crossed the line and managed to rip off the timing chip from my ankle without falling over. Luckily the drinks tent and fruit tent still had stuff left. I eagerly ate the nectarines and drank the water provided. As the sun was quite hot I wanted to find my bag from the drop off so I could put on a hat and shirt.

After finding the bag I searched out my fellow squad members to swap stories about the swim. Several had ridden their push pikes from Manly and then done the swim. Wow, but why? After the swim we went to Jess’s parents place up on the ridge for a barbeque. It sure was a good way to finish off the swim.

Oh yeah my results: a time of just under 53 minutes which placed me 850th out of 1500 swimmers, and 100th out of 160 in my age group. Once again these were not great times or results. However, I was glad that I had finished the course, and I knew that next season I would do better as I knew the course. I also made a note on how I had to improve in the open ocean and how to deal with a chop.Well done Karl you beat me in another swim, and Michael pulled further ahead in our race.


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