The last day of March 2012 and the Caves Beach swim was on a Saturday. This was the beach I had grown up on as a boy, and it was good to return. I had done this swim in 2009, and the course is a good one. The early morning drive up from Sydney for the last day of daylight saving was highlighted by heavy fog on the F3. For a sporting event this could be bad news, but for an ocean swim it meant there was little or no wind with clean conditions the result.
After registration and bag drop at the surf club, you can walk or get a bus shuttle down to the start line at Spoon Rocks. The walk is a pleasant one along the coastal path so you get a good view of the course. There were 4 buoys and the first one was at the end of the break wall, with the last one north of the finish line and a long way out. It would be a long 1.5 km today.
After all the competitors congregated at the start line we were given our instructions. Start, keep all the markers on your left shoulder, and turn for home at the 4th one. Aim for the pine trees at the finish line and enjoy the run up the beach.
A touching moment with a minutes silence in memory of the young competitor at the Australian Surf Living Championships who died earlier in the week. There was silence from all with just the sound of the gentle waves lapping the shoreline.
My wave was the number four, and I noticed the earlier waves were being swept towards the breakwall. With this knowledge I decided to start on the left hand side of the line to reduce the distance I would have to swim. This was a big wave with all males over 35 in their green caps swimming together.
The hooter sounded and I raced to the water, dived in and started stroking. No need to worry about the surf break, as there was none at the start line. Despite looking up regularly and trying to see the marker and the coal ship offshore which I used as a reference point, I did not see the first buoy until I was 50 m from it. I was surprised to notice that I too had been swept slightly to the right, but not as badly as a lot of others who were now swimming towards me. Went round the first mark feeling strong, and thinking that was a long reach.
The next two buoys appeared relatively quickly and I managed to breathe left to look at the shoreline as we headed north. I was swimming just behind a couple of locals and I was comfortable with the speed and stayed in their wake. We crossed some reefs which always make the swim more interesting, watching the seaweed wave in the gentle pull of the water.
We turned the last buoy and headed for shore. The choice now was to either head straight into the beach and have a longer run, or head to the finish chute and a shorter run. I had noticed earlier that there was a slight rip near the beach if you went straight in, so decided to head towards the finish line. Luckily my guides made the same decision.
Usually when I pass the last buoy I try to increase my speed knowing that the end is near. I tried this for fifty strokes and looked up and thought I was still a long way out. So I slowed my pace and tried to keep on the feet of those in front of me. Before long we were in the wave zone, almost caught a small wave, and then stood up to wade. The finish line was near the surf club, and as it was low tide, the run was a long one. Crossed the line puffing knowing I had swum hard the whole way.
The fruit went down a treat, as did the ice-cold water and warm showers. Some swimmers were lucky and received a lucky door prize as they finished.
Enjoyed the swim, and then chatted with some old friends over a couple of beers from the bar in the club.
A beautiful autumnal day with light winds, warm sun, and an excellent swim. This event should be on your list of swims to do, and I wish the club well in attracting swimmers to future events.