Well it is now that lovely time between Christmas and New Year, when the city seems to take a breath waiting for the spectacular fireworks on New Years Eve. As I write this I am sitting near Sydney Harbour watching the sail boats skip across the blue water, and the Manly Ferry making its way to Circular Quay. I can also see the flotilla of boats mooring in the lee of Bradleys Head to get a wonderful view of the fireworks tomorrow night. By then, you will be almost able to walk across the harbour from boat to boat.
But now back to the swimming in December. My last blog was a report of the Coogee Wedding Cake Island swim in late November. I signed off that post with a reference to the Bondi to Bronte swim which was held on the first Sunday in December. Well to cut a long story short, I did not compete that event this year. My reason is simple: this year I will not be pushing myself to do a swim every weekend, and if the weather is dicey, I will skip the race. Well the weather was dicey, with a strong southerly change hitting just a few hours before the swim was to be held. I had memories of the challenge of last year’s race, so I decided to stay at home.
The following weekend was the Bilgola swim, a swim I have not entered till now. Once again, I missed that one too, so maybe next year.
Several people I know who did both races said the conditions were testing.
However, I did manage to swim in the ocean this month. We went and visited some friends in Geelong for a weekend. We had met this couple in New York in 2011 when Al the property manager did the Brooklyn Bridge swim with me. We have kept in touch since, so a visit was arranged. For those of you who do not know where Geelong is, it about 100 km south of Melbourne in Victoria. Now Al swims every Saturday and Sunday at Front Beach at Torquay, a short 20 km from their home. The group is quite informal and is made up of mostly old salts who have swum and surfed most of their lives.
Torquay is famous for being the home town of Rip Curl and Quicksilver, two surfing clothing and equipment companies. Now why would these companies set up in that part of the world where the water is cold enough to need a wet suit even in summer? Well the reason is the surf. Each year a surfing contest is held at Bells Beach just five minutes from town on a famous surfing break. I had heard stories of this break all my life, so I was keen to see it. The surf is consistent with long swells coming into Bass Strait from the Southern Ocean and hitting the coast at just the right angle to create smooth rides in the prevailing winds.
I took my wet suit with me as the water temperature had warmed up to 16 degrees C. I was a bit nervous as we drove to the beach as it was cold and windy, and I thought that the surf would be big. Well as we arrived, I realised that the wind was offshore, it had stopped raining, and there was no swell. As the others showed up, I was introduced as the gun swimmer from Sydney, which was quite flattering but far from true. I soon learnt that the biggest danger were the stingrays the size of dinner plates, as one member of the group had found out in a painful way the previous month. We negotiated the stingrays, and swam out in the cool water to a buoy offshore. We then swam around 350 metres down the beach to another buoy, did a few in and outs, and back.
Those old salts could really swim, I could only manage to keep ahead of one or two of the dozen swimmers. I am glad they do not get up to Sydney to swim, they would put some egos out of line for sure.
So that was Saturday. We then drove down to Bells Beach and had a look at the clean breaks of around 4 foot with a multitude of surfers getting their fix for the day gliding effortlessly down the face of the waves. Just one problem, I had left my camera at home, so there are no photos of this iconic location.
Sunday morning we went back again, and this time there were more swimmers, the water was colder, and I was feeling a tad dusty after a few drinks the night before. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this friendly group of people who share a love of the ocean and an ability to swim in it with ease.
Back home in Sydney, our squad returned to our normal training pool after a short sojourn at Glebe Beach pool. It sure was different swimming in an outdoor pool again.
Once the Christmas break hit, our squad moves outdoors for few weeks, with a few mornings a week at Clovelly Beach in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. Clovelly is a long narrow cove that usually misses most of the swell due to it narrow entrance. It is also a marine reserve, and there is plenty of marine life within its confines. It can be a challenge swimming at high tide when there is a large swell outside, with the waves creating a washing machine effect. It is great for practicing in rougher water and for navigation skills. I have been there a few times and it is stunning first thing in the morning with the sun rising, and the city slowly coming to life. I have even managed to see the resident blue grouper a few times as it swims with dignity. Good to see the Irish Muppet and The Reporter there as well.
The photos on this entry were taken at Clovelly at sunrise. I hope you enjoy them.
A big hi to all those brave souls swimming at Brighton Beach in Brooklyn with the water temperature of 6 degrees as the snow falls. I will never complain about cold water again.