Sunday, January 25, 2009

Big day for Big Swim ...

What a big day ... Palm Beach to Whale Beach really was a Big Swim! Longer at about 2.9km, coming in at the south end of Whale Beach, a real ocean to swim, into a sou'-east swell bouncing off Little Head, we were pitching and rolling in the sea, mid-Atlantic-like, then coming in over an at times difficult break onto a sand bank and into a rip, the peloton dragged north like a string of flags in the wind ...

Tell us what you thought ... a carton of James Squire for the best blog this week ...


  1. I have just completed the Palm to Whale Beach swim – how frustrated after a tough but good swim to be greeted by a parking ticket. We parked in a side road (Morella Road) at Whale Beach which was not marked no parking or no stopping. As a courtesy to other cars who may have gone up or down the road the cars before me had parked with 2 wheels on the curb to make more room for cars coming up or down which was a common sense decision. I duly followed suit and copied them.

    At 11.44 am when returning to my car I found a parking ticket on my car and all the others on the road. The message was “stop on path/strip in a built up area".

    A great event spoilt by childish and pedantic rangers who have nothing better to do – we were told that they would be reasonable till 3 pm. I would be happy if you publish this on your blog – I am sure others would agree and plse report to the Organizers as I am sure this will impact on participation in future years. The Organisers should speak with the Council and ask for these tickets to be waived. Its against the spirit of the race – we were there to support the race and the community.

    Yours in swimming


  2. What a day for ocean swimming! This is the best event on the calendar for sure. It was a challenging swim today and I was quite pleased to safely land on Whale Beach.

    A huge thank-you to the blue-shirt brigade of volunteers, your smiles and good humour make it a pleasure to participate.

    I would hate to see this event “Fairfaxised” … we can all suffer the Fairfaxism next week.

  3. A tough swim, until today i had only completed 3 ocean swims the longest at 1.6km and now i can say how much harder ocean swimming really is. I suffered from the cold (but finished) and just wanted to say thanks to the volunteers at the finish who wrapped me up in a blanket, I couldn't really say it at the time but thanks. Overall was well organised, volunteers was great the only complaint was there was no fruit left for those of us who finsihed mid field and the Powerade would have been handy at the end instead of the start - minor issues really. All in all a great event and i will be back again! Thanks ocean swims i am hooked!

  4. A very well organised swim and good fun - proper ocean swimming.

    They'd make more money if they had a T-shirt available with the year on it - I've already got the one they were selling from when I first did the Big Swim three years ago. Whale Beach is pretty high in the Ocean-Swim BBQ league though - those sausage sandwiches were so good I felt it justified to have a couple just to make sure.

    To the orange capped boofhead (doesn't narrow it down much I know) - learn to navigate. Swimming over me from the left, stopping to do a little breast-stroke, then swimming over me from the right and kicking me again probably didn't improve your time much and reveals a distinct lack of brain cells as well as manners.

  5. Today's swim was great... A true ocean swim that i will again do next year. I was extremely impressed with how the event was run except for the gentlemen at the timing station. I tried explaining that my time was incorrect and they very rudely told me that was not possible. I then found out it was incorrect and they still failed to help, perhaps next time they could just listen rather then dismissing me....

  6. Have done a few Palm to Whale Beach swims but today it seemed to go on forever and I really felt "all at sea" - certainly got my monies' worth. Swim closer to the rocks or further out? Hard to know as the swell and chop seemed to be the same everywhere, and the buoys were out there somewhere ahead. Us at the back of the pack were "privileged" to get a good set coming in on us right at the start which sorted us out. Anyway, whenever I looked up there was a guy on a ski or a boat, so congrats and thanks again to all the people looking after us! Yet again the most memorable swim (for me) on the calendar.

  7. Palmy to Whaley, great swim, have done about 10 of them but have to register a complaint about the timing.
    We pay decent money to do the swim and to not receive an official time whether its handed to you personally or up on the notice board within a couple of hours is wrong.
    The afternoon is usually filled with time comparisons with other swimmers and if you missed the clock on the sprint up the beach - you're gone.
    I say bring back Post-it notes. At least then you have a hard copy in your hand. The only people the computer chips help is the organisers.
    At the time of writing this i'm still have no idea and its the evening of the race. Results were supposedly to be on the Web.

  8. Strange. I thought the Council was pretty good given the flexibility and options offered for parking/transport. The fact that you followed suit (bit like the swimmers who headed off for the blue bouy) in doing the most obvious thing to piss both them and local residence off is more of a concern considering it was spelled out in black and white. See below:

    Parking Rules

    Cars parked illegally will be booked by Council Rangers.

    Park with wheels on the roadway. Don't park with wheels up over the kerb or on the pedestrian way.

  9. I just got home from my second Big Swim. Yes, great swim, great day, great organization, but…

    As I finally crawl up the beach after estimated 70+ minutes in somewhat awkward surf, these were the words of the MC of the moment that greated us:

    “…and there are more coming out of the surf…ladies and gentlemen, they have been there by now for over an hour…. Not sure where they’ve been, may be they dropped in for a cup of tea long the way…”

    My message to this a...hole from me (and I suspect from others like me) is:
    This swim, apart from the few who see it a competitive race, is a fund raiser. We pay to swim knowing that the money will be well spent by the local surf club. We do that with love and conviction. How long we take is totally irrelevant.
    Secondly, any ocean swim is for most of us first and foremost a personal challenge. We have perhaps lost weight, gained weight, are dealing with depression, challenging ourselves, searching for self respect, trying perhaps to do better than the last time…

    I am 59 years old and started ocean swims again last year after almost 30 years of “straying” from the sport, I now swim every day and the oceans swims give me the reason to train harder and with a sense of purpose.

    So, MR PR disaster, you made a goose of yourself and owe a few of us an apology.

    George Kennedy
    Ocean swims lover, old fart and a believer in the “power of one” (even if we do take over an hour…)

  10. I would like to congratulate and thank all the people involved in "the big swim" yesterday.As always with this type of event there is always going to be things that could have been maybe done better or different but i feel confident that the organizers will take all comments on board to look to improve them for next year.I can tell you that this was by far the toughest swim i have competed in, so for all that did compete you should be proud of your efforts and look forward to taking on the challange again next year.Thanks again.

  11. There aren't too many things to remember for a swim: suncream (optional), vaseline (optional), goggles (important), cossies (vital). Somehow, after almost 50 swims over the last 6 years, I forgot the last two. I was mentally preparing myself to swim without goggles in my Reg Grundy's when the ever prepared os.c dipped into his magic gear bag and produced some fresh View goggles and a spare pair of cossies. A BIG thanks! Note to organisers: I definitely would've purchased the $40 cossies if you were selling them at the start instead of the finish.

    Anyway, after solving the gear problem, I also managed to miss the start. The day just wasn't going to plan. When I made my way down to the shore the green caps were heading out through the break, and my fellow orange caps were nowhere to be seen.

    What can you do? I dived in and headed-off for Whaley. It just made me think, for me, and probably a lot of us, it's not about the time and the racing, more about the journey, the navigation, the swimmers along the way. It's the personal challenge - especially in a primo swim like Palm to Whale where some of the conditions felt like man against the sea. I also appreciated the volunteer craft keeping their distance which forces you to take responsibility for your own navigation and creates lots of open space.

    Thanks to the organisers for a great event - my 5th, and I look forward to next year.

    What was the helicopter looking at/for hovering right overhead?

  12. 10.00am in my opinion is too late to start the event. I appreciate the fact that it ties up with the BBQ at Whale Beach but standing around in the sun at the start and the finish does nothing for my skin cells in trauma.
    Well done with the additional buoys at the Whale Beach end. It certainly allowed a 'better line' to the rounding bouy.

  13. To Richie and all involved,

    Just a quick note of thanks for yet again putting together the best swim on the calendar. Really well run and lots of fantastic people in and out of the water to help.

    Bloody hard but very enjoyable.

    Enjoy the rest of the season

    Thanks again.

    Dave Campbell

  14. Why stop at Whale ? Bring on Palmy to Avalon, I can walk home then and miss the traffic on the way home !!

    AWESOME Swim. Brilliant surf safety. Cheers

  15. Yes, it was another great swim. The volunteers did a wonderful job as usual. It was a tough swim but I really enjoyed it. My only complaint as one of the older swimmers and hence one of the slower ones it would be nice to at least receive a drink of water at the finish. Could the organisers possibly make sure that there are drinks, fruit etc for the slower ones. I know for a fact that some swimmers get more than their share not to mention a few greedy spectators. When you have been in the water for over an hour you look forward to rehydrating and refreshing. It's not the first time I've missed out and not just the Big Swim. Surely it couldn't be too difficult to keep a supply stashed away for swimmers like me.

    Apart from that the swim was fantastic!!

  16. Long time swimmer, first time Big swimmer,

    At first I was a little surprised by the Gilligans Island style DIY navigation. But in the end I really enjoyed the change from the usual buoy to buoy swims.

    Thank you Cecily for your 'don't cut the headland' advice, you were right, there is more than one headland to aim for....we're not in Bronte anymore ,Dorothy!

    One thing that I noticed. Did anyone else see the pink capped swimmer flop onto the North side of the beach long after the dash for cash had finished?

    The course had long been deserted by water safety and he was clearly exhausted. He still had a tag on as he walked over the empty finish line. A volunteer rushed him a glass a glass of water and retrieved his tag. Bravo, all good.

    Anyone know how that happened? He may have been way behind and cut the corner? I wonder if it will be reflected in the times? Or maybe he walked around....just curious.


  17. "Did anyone else see the pink capped swimmer flop onto the North side of the beach long after the dash for cash had finished?"

    This is actually quite disturbing.Whale Beach SLSC would have noted this in their incident report for the days events.Perhaps Oceanswims can look into it and let us know what happended.If a volunteer was there to remove the anklet then the SLSC would have reported it in a debreifing session.I'd be surprised if they allowed him to stay in the water that long..given he was exhausted.

  18. What a great but oh so challenging swim especially for my first ever. I didn't think it was possible to become sea sick while swimming but I showed it was possible. Thanks to the three guys who let me take a breather on their boats mid swim.
    I'm glad to hear others who had previously done the swim found Sunday as difficult as i did.
    Did anyone else repeatedly encounter jelly fish/ bluebottles while swimming?...
    Thanks for the experience

  19. WOW is all I can say after my 50 minutes or so competing in this absolutely fantastic and memorable race yesterday. This was ocean swimming at its most challenging and finest!

    It was my second ‘Big Swim’ (should it be renamed the ‘Big Loooong Swim’ next year?) and it had all the demands I guess I had been looking for this summer after the other benign races we seem to have had in the pool-like conditions at Bondi to Bronte etc. (My shoulders are actually aching today, so I guess this is a sign of a great race)

    We had a decent distance to swim yesterday at close to 3km perhaps? There was a somewhat demanding start (I managed to go over the top of a pretty impressive fat wave at the start of the men 35-39 just before it broke and came out the other side still in one piece thinking woo hoo, here we go, we are off on the Big Swim!!), oh and yes, there was that very challenging swell and chop! Don’t get me started on those random blueys that seemed to be out there - I copped one on the tip of my right ear rounding the headland and thought geez how did that little bugger get me there of all places? I hate those things and they REALLY hurt…even on the tip of an ear! (As an aside, at a BBQ at Coogee after the race, after a few chugged glasses of Moet, the stinging pain of 4 hours on my ear quickly seemed to subside and I thought hmmmm, maybe I have found the cure for the pain of bluey stings after all….) There were some great body surfing waves at the end of the race to bring some of us in with style. Unfortunately, I managed to miss them all and got caught in the rip…

    Folks this race is (for the time being at least) a very well organized community event that challenges us who like the really long distance journey races. I am really proud of those swimmers who took up the challenge of this very demanding race for the first time, maybe some of them did not realize how tough it could be….but I am sure we all completed the challenge with the same good spirit. The website is brilliant, the post-race rissole sandwich yum, and the whole organization including the shuttle buses that ferried us from Whale Beach to get us to Palm Beach very efficient.

    I guess my two minor complaints about the day were having to queue up yet again for 10 minutes at the gents before the race (can’t we at least get a few portaloos??) and, more seriously, there was a boat spewing out vile fumes at the final turning buoy, does that seem to affect anybody else or is it just me?

    Kerry Dickson

  20. Who won the average swimmer trip to Hawahi?
    I noticed on the results sheet that Rob Lees took over 12 hours? (Assuming you average all times and then pick a male & female average):If you include Rob then Samual Shepherd is the male winner on 56:25.Sophie Cruickshank wins female on 56:24.If you decide that Rob Lees didn't arrive on Sunday night then the time is 55:59 and no one has that time.So Melody Xu wins female on 55:58 but how do you decide between Jim Casey & Julian Lymberner either side of the time? (If the organisers took all females and averaged these) then Claire Lickley wins on 57:51 but again in the males you have Rob Lees.Assuming he is in then Sandon Admas wins on 55:53.If Rob is out then 55:17 is the time and no one has it but John Forster & Mathew Smeal finish either side????Perhaps Rob claimed the prize at the half way mark and took off early for Hawahi? Did we take into account the guy who came in after the timing equipment was stopped???

    Jonno Howard

  21. I noticed a pic of someone in a snorkel on the report. According to the rules on the website these weren't permitted? Not to be a party-pooper, but I know of someone who didnt swim because he wasnt allowed to use his snorkel...annoying for him!

  22. The girl who uses the snorkel was involved in a car accident a couple of years ago and has a neck injury and cannot sustain her having to breathe when swimming for extended periods. So that she can still participate in this great sport she uses a snorkel and my understanding is that she has previously sought permission from event organisers to swim in events on the NSW ocean swim calendar. Good on her for not letting a neck injury get in the way of something that we all enjoy and love. She should be encouraged and admired for her efforts.

  23. thats fair enough...thanks for the clarification. hopefully all those who used snorkels or other aids (there were more than one) had similar permissions/reasons. a good lesson on not pre-judging others though!

  24. I know i sound abit of a whinger..... but in the big swim on Sunday ...i got hit on the head once....kicked in the face twice and rammed into from the swimmers going straight over the top of us old 55 year olds ....

    what's worse was all of the above were women....the one that hit me in the head (which hurt by the way) i pulled up and explained to her that she had the rest of the ocean to swim in and asked why did she choose to swim over me ? was abit more colourful....

    but i mentioned this because she was totally stunned at my outburst.... i think she wasn't even aware of what she had had done !!! which is a worry

    not all of us are 'olympians' racing against the clock.....some of us just want to finish and enjoy the ocean..... i spoke to some mates my age at the end of the event..... and all four 'got wacked' out there guy had a cut on the side of his face ....courtesy of a female fingernail

    i was nominated by these mates to point his out to the organisers.... i know it was pretty rough out there but there has to be some sort of etiquette when passing slower swimmers.... as in 'the passers must avoid the passees and not go over the top'

    this should be made clear just before entry into the water

    or alternatively more time between groups .... i am aware of the fact that you want all to finish about the same time thus avoiding stragglers..... but i have always beleived that fastest go off first

    mate can you pass this onto the approicate bodies? as i said 4 out 4 got wacked... that's 100 %...i wonder who else feels the above


  25. My first Big Swim and it was most enjoyable, although it would have been better if I remembered to take my seasick tablets (honestly, they are very effective for anyone who suffers after a long time in the water or from boat fumes, as mentioned above).

    It was much more fun than Bondi to Bronte which was like a lake swim!

    The website was informative, the entry fee reasonable, the buses quick and after I had some problems with my entry, the os.c team fixed it up for me quick smart. All in all, well run and I will be back.

    Just picking up on some comments of others, I did find some people swimming over the top, but I found the bouys much less intense than most swim (or was that just because there weren't many of them?)

  26. I have to say, one of the most enjoyable swims I have done though it was pretty testing. There is always an air of excitement about the Big Swim and the swell made you really feel like you were out in the ocean. The swimmers seemed spread out so there seemed to be less bunching up than usual, but I felt sorry for those who swam close in to the headland though that would have pretty bumpy I think. I splashed out on some new goggles for the day and it was amazing the difference it makes to actually see where you are can enjoy the view and the extra peripheral vision helps you see the faster swimmers in the next wave approaching from behind and get out of the way before they swim over you!

  27. Ok Phil I can see a new rule coming on here. Girls Must Not Wack Men...Unless they're wearing two piece Bikinis as per the new rules...then they can wack away for all they want.
    We need a couple of official seamen on hand at the final bouy to ejact offensive females from participating.


  28. Dear Patrick please provide brand and model of goggles to Phil....


  29. I felt like a cork as I was being tossed about by the ocean from one wave to another during the Big Swim. I got seasick for the first time! I think the ocean was playing with us - I'm sure I was thrown backwards. I was taking water in on both sides, so I figured out that I had to crane my neck back and kick extra hard to grab a breath. At one stage, rounding that headland which seemed to go on foreverrrr, I reckon I had an out of body experience - I'm sure I saw Nemo swim past and smile. Maybe there was something in that breakfast coffee? Anyway I was glad to finally see the sand at Whaley. Isn't it so welcoming to make out the sandy sea floor and not zillions of Jellies highlighted against a dark green background? Well for me it was. That swim was definately the most difficult ocean swim I've encountered - which I'm grateful for the experience.
    Huge thanks to the organisers but just one comment to make with regards to the water safety team that perhaps the kids on the surf skis are prepped with a list of basic questions and answers. One young man on a surf ski couldn't really tell me how much distance I had to swim as I reached north Whale. Just a ballpark answer would have been fine, rather than "I dunno"..
    See you on the beach.

  30. They say "don`t judge a book by it`s cover", yet to that I think we should also add "Don`t judge an ocean swim by it`s serene-looking aerial photography".
    The night before I checked out the course on the website and thought "nice, easy swim out in the rip, bit of a cruise around a headland, catch a wave into the beach, and then back to the pub for debriefing and cocktails".
    No chance.
    The waves on the way out were relentless, I was sure each time I dived under them I was seeing the same patch of sand, and was in fact getting nowhere....still just keeping reaching over that barrel, making the “S” and putting change in your pocket...
    And then bliss…no waves breaking on my head. I put this down to the different waves having a disagreement about exactly what they wanted to do to me. Some intent on depositing me on the headland, whilst others wanted to turn me into a human metronome, pointing me left, right, left, right but never at the next buoy…still – barrel ”S” ..change.

    And round the headland we go, and still round the headland, and yes more headland.
    It seemed to be the swimming version of a treadmill with an endless, albeit beautiful bit of coastland rolling out next to us. It actually made me happy to hit swarms of Jellyfish, so that I could at least confirm that I was in fact still engaged in a rough approximation of forward motion…it was about here I started noticing the error in my technique – reach over the barrel, make an “S”, change in the pockets and BREATHE. Yes that last one is rather important and helps immensely.
    Once I`d rounded that headland I really felt a lot better, and felt a real sense of enjoyment and achievement mixing with the fatigue, as well as the sense of camaraderie with the other 1500 people who decided to get up on a Sunday morning and do something so bleeding hard instead of just reading the paper and having a coffee.

    And so in we came, with me a “left-breather” unintentionally eyeballing the “Right breather” next to me, until a gush of white foam, separated us and and an unanticipated somersault deposited me on the beach, where my legs disobeyed simple instructions to head to the finish.

    I`ll now judge this swim by the feelings at the end – joy and stiffness.

  31. Thanks to all involved with Sundays race. It is about 10 years since I last swam the Palmy to Whaley. I shouldn't have left it so long to make a comeback. The conditions were great for an ocean race smashing into chop and swell all the way.
    The last time I swam this race I got a piece of paper with my time on it when I got out of the water. Now we have the electronic timing which must be great for the organisers.
    However, maybe all that bashing into the chop has slowed my brain, but could anyone explain how the timing works. On the results sheet there is your time and handicapped time. Which is my race time and how does it work.
    Any assistance for an old swimmer would be greatly appreciated

  32. Which well known Eastern Suburbs Identity lost his goggles thirty seconds before the over 50 wave went into the water? Just to remind everyone: don't wash your goggles in the ocean when your hands are full of Vasoline (Vasso up well before take off)
    ps: The culprit finished goggle-less in a respectable time
    - Vasso

  33. For info and re "incorrect" times on Sunday, we have had this information from the official timers:

    "On the day we checked the clock at the finish and noticed it was 3 mins and 3 sec out from the actual time the race started. Therefore those swimmers who noticed the time and deducted the start time off were calculating their final time incorrectly.

    I've since rechecked our watches from the start and our timing equipment and its all in sync with UTC (universal time clock) (which is synchronised) via GPS. I've rechecked all the start times but they all seem to be fine, too, leading me back to the clock at the finish. I gather it was started at 10am, but from whose watch? The race started at 9:56:57 on UTC time so is it possible that (the finish clock was started) at 10am and not when the gun really fired?"

  34. Great swim & well done to the organisers!

    Times for the mens 35-39 wave were not correct though. I beat a guy in the previous wave by a couple of mins but the offical time has me beating him by not quite 3 mins. I also timed myself with a stop watch - looks as though the whole wave had 2mins added to our times.

    In any case the event continues to be the best on the calendar. Well done to all the volunteers & competitors.

  35. Interesting about the times I was in the 5th wave and even accounting for the 3 mins late start of the Whale Beach clock I reckon my recorded time was 2 mins long??

  36. How convenient. How apparently innocent."Swimmer loses GPS in Whale Beach waves". But this is not an unknown, innocent punter. This swimmer was in fact the one and only David Helsham of whom we havee long held suspicions - I mean how does he keep placing in the top 5 while also taking hundreds of excellent, glistening photographs (also available framed) in each race. This is beyond normal human ability and at last we were going to see the evidence of a satelite-eye's view of exactly what he gets up to during a swim. I was a witness at the start of the race to him having a strange bump in his head (the GPS) but it was well and truly stuck under his cap with goggles the cap firmly - no way it could have escaped unless his whole head came off. So why didn't Paul Ellercamp, who calls himself a jounalist, follow up this obviosly suspicious story? And, more importantly, what did Dave have to hide? I only ask these questions to get things out into the open and not because he beat me.

  37. "Did anyone else see the pink capped swimmer flop onto the North side of the beach long after the dash for cash had finished?"

    I gather the organisers said "no comment"
    Thanks for the $80 000 though....

  38. I loved the big swim...everyone was so nice. I didn't have anyone touch me during the race at all.
    It was oh so hard but I loved it.
    This was my first big swim and I just want to thank Spot Anderson for all his advice and help before the race..we love you Spot..even if the cameraman is rude and jealous.

    Jenny...Byron Bay

  39. Great event ..thanks to the guys on the skis pointing me in the right direction after taking the headland a bit too wide(was trying to avoid the backwash)....I was unaware of the no wetsuit rule and as i was waiting to start noticed i was prob. the only person in a wetsuit(short arm/short leg
    ) officials said anything ... i am skinny and a slow swimmer who really feels the cold.... i spoke to my docter a few years ago and he said there are usually a few cases of hypothermia post race each year..any thoughts

  40. Great swim.
    First time for me on the big one. A few guys and girls from work did it all with respectable times. We were treating it as a bit of a warm up for the Bridge to Manly swim (relay div).
    re; the spurious times for 35-39 I timed myself and did the same time that was officially posted so i have no problems with.
    I thought was well organsied given the numbers. Nice fruit at the end.
    Great bus service with lots of friendly helpers.
    I didnt really feel the cold but saw some (generally thinner types) who seemed to be suffering so i think the no wetsuit rule is a bit harsh. Maybe just ban from the elite group??
    Thanks to John Conrads and Damo Lockhart for the good tips. John - turn your head high. Damo - keep wide of the headland and dont head for the beach too early.
    Luckily no stingers for me. Was a few bumps and body contacts but for me thats just what happens in ocean swimming. The buouys were surprisingly uncrowded for me maybe because it was a more of a linear path. The buoys where you turn a big angle are alwasy crowded me thinks. EG Bilgola which did not have nearly as many people entered but much more crowding due to diamond course. Just a theory.
    Anyway thanks to all the volunteers. See you next year. Oh and to avoid parking dramas and traffic jams do yourself and the environment a favour and ride a motor or pushbike.

  41. In three of the 40 blogs so far the mysterious pink capped swimmer doesn't fall, collapse or stunble onto the beach. He 'flops'.
    The mystery deepens...

  42. YIEW. . . Palmy to Whale. . .AWESOME. . . talk about a trying swim. . . Sure it may have felt like 3kms bring it on. . . Just got my second wave as we turned the last can. I wanted more!! Perhaps we shoudl go all the way to Avalon???

  43. "In three of the 40 blogs so far the mysterious pink capped swimmer doesn't fall, collapse or stunble onto the beach. He 'flops'.
    The mystery deepens..."

    Does your wife have problems with your communication?
    Cause I can't follow this at all?


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