Easter weekend in Sydney, and finally after 30 days of rain and showers over the previous 45 days, the forecast was for fine and sunny weather for the extra long weekend. Of course the presence in Sydney of the future King of Australia (even if he is English) and his wife and son seems to have helped bring out the sunshine.
The swim last weekend at Coogee around Wedding Cake Island was cancelled due to large swells caused by an east coast low. I was quite disappointed that this swim was cancelled, as I wanted to do the trip around the island one more time before going overseas again. So it was a relief that the Terrigal swim was on despite the large swells forecast. That east coast low from last weekend had combined with Cyclone Ita out near New Zealand to push large two to three metres swell onto the coast. Fortunately, Terrigal is protected from the south-east swell by the shape of the bay.
As you can see from these photos, the swells were large at the point and further down the beach. The swim though took place in the protected part of the beach, so while we had some waves to deal with, they had little power in them.
Terrigal is on the Central Coast of NSW and is about 90 km drive north of Sydney. I had swum here in 2013 and it was a good chance to swim again. The club does the swim in the old-fashioned way, with one wave start, no numbers on the arm, no timing chips, and a manual timekeeping system. This is so relaxing.
The one km swim was a straight forward course: out from the start line to the yellow marker, turn right and head towards the red marker at the southern protected end of the course, then do a 180 degree turn left and head to the red then yellow marker, turn right 180 degrees, back to the first yellow marker, and back to the start line.
The swim was started with a whistle and in we all went. I had started on the right hand side of the start line, as I had noticed a sweep going right to left. The water was lovely and warm, but because of the size of the surf, not very clear. There was no waves to go under on the way out, and I noticed that most of the field were being pushed away from the first marker by the sweep. My tactics worked well, and I was in a good position as I turned south.
It seemed to take a long time to reach the red marker as we had to swim against the current, and there was also some larger swells coming across us. Finally around that one, and then a sharp turn to head north to the large buoys that were easy to sight today as long as you timed it for the top of a swell. It was great to swim in the water today, and good practice for the technique.
The long reach north was quite quick with the current pushing us along. Soon enough it was time to turn again and head back to the start line. Around the last marker and I was with three or four other swimmers, and I decided to head left to try to get some assistance from the current. Into the beach, once again no waves to catch, but I had judged the current quite well, and only had a short jog up to the finish line, passing someone on the way. Grab the time from the timekeeper, and try to keep the piece of paper dry for the officials in the tent.
Now it was time for a rest before the two km event. Last year the swim headed a long way north towards the next beach before turning for home. However, because of the very large swells coming through that part of the course, the organisers had made the decision that the two km course would be two laps of the one km course.
I made a decision to enjoy the two km swim, as I had pushed quite hard in the first race. I had learnt about the conditions of the course earlier, and once again started at the right hand edge. Out to the yellow marker, and unlike most others I did not have to swim wide around it. Off to the red marker, and I did notice that there was a current pushing swimmers away from this marker, so I headed towards it in a straighter line. Oh it was good to swim in warm water, with the sun on the back. It made me think of all those swimmers in the UK who had just started their outdoor swimming season in water around 10c. Today, the water must have been at least 22c. I am sure to miss this when away from Australia.
I noticed that the swells had picked up on the back-end of the course, though they were no chance of breaking on the pack, so it was quite safe. I did get concerned when I saw a rescue helicopter off the point where there were a large number of surfers enjoying the large clean breaks.
I was smiling as I swam today, not because I was swimming fast, but because it felt so good in the water. It was a joy to be out here over the Easter weekend doing something I enjoy in good conditions, in such a friendly location. But all good things must come to an end, and soon enough I had completed my two laps and it was time to head for the finish line. Surely today I could crack a small wave, as there were a few coming through the course. Once again though my timing was poor and I had to swim all the way to the beach. Just once I would like to be in a position to catch a wave in a race. I did mange to navigate my way back to the beach, and even ran up to the finish line.
Would this be my last swim down under? Thank you to Terrigal Surf Club for running such a fun small event.