Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bar Beach bumpy...

Baths2Bar Swim, Cooks Hill, Sunday, Dec 20, '09

Glistening Dave says: "Sure is crowded up there, if this is what it's like on a cloudy overcast day, what's it like on a hot sunny day? And the built environment, sure blends well with the landscape."

It was a grey and bumpy day... no two strokes were the same, lungsful of ocean at every second stroke, swirling currents, booees you couldn't see, water clear, clean, bit of weed, but it became opaque when we blundered into a rip. Around the last booee -- the only booee of any size, but in a pale yellow, it faded into the background of the white-capped, tossing sea -- we came in through a rip. Most booees, one saw only incidentally.

Person against the sea. 

In through the rip, the more experienced reported: "I was watching the bottom sliding under me the wrong way!" Goodness knows what the Back of the Packers must have thought, a good many of whom had to be pulled out or otherwise assisted from the water.
But that's Bar Beach. It's always problematical, wide open to the sou' and sou'-east, usually difficult in some way, often in many ways. Tide was up, and there were frequent larger sets coming through, but they were breaking into plenty of water. Only problem was the current, the currents.
Always interesting to do a new swim. Special treat at the end: the Cooks Hill surf clubbers had rigged up a diesel generated heater, connected the mains water through it, and we all had hot showers right there on the beach. Lovely touch.

Pics by Mrs Sparkle and os.c, photograrphs by Glistening Dave

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why do some swimmers cark it?

Gidday to our ocean swimming friends from the other side of the ditch (or "dutch" to use the correct Kiwi pronunciation)
I did the Russell to Paihia swim in the Bay of Islands and met Paul and a few other folk there. Just before the swim began we were talking about why some people pass away during swims. This is a serious topic of conversation and, as a High School Science Teacher, I have a hypothesis as to why some of the fatalities occur on the finish line. My hypothesis goes as follows:
Swimming is quite tough and it is pretty fair to assume that the heart rates go quite high. When the finish line comes in sight, some swimmers are tempted to give it a bit of "grunt" for the last little bit. This puts stress on an already hardworking heart. Then, at the end, the swimmer changes her or his body posture from horizontal to vertical as they leave the water and this puts the head about a half a metre above the heart instead of at the same height. The implication of this is that the blood pressure to the head drops (hence the dizziness we feel when we exit the water) and the heart has to work harder (when it might already be a maximum). I think this might be a causal factor in some of the deaths at the finish line. I have no ability to test this hypothesis but I thought I'd advance it for further discussion and perusal, possibly by medical researchers who could investigate further.
If a bit of email "chatter" can contribute to a possible reduction in the number of deaths then it is worth bouncing these ideas around for a bit.
Cheers and thanks
Tony ("Haggis") Henderson
a non-wetsuit swimmer from NZ

We met Haggis at the start of the Bay of Islands swim in Russell on Saturday. Talk about personality filling a void! But we also know that his contribution is inspired by the knowledge that the NZ ocean swim series has lost four swimmers in the last four years: one each year. This can happen, of course, and we are lucky that we haven't had similar issues in Stray'a. But that's what's behind it: os.c

Big day at Billy, history in Bay of Islands...

It was a big day at Bilgola, we hear, although we weren't there ourselves. We're told there were around 750 mugs there -- a big increase on last year. Well deserved, too, although as our antagonist, Glistening Dave, pointed out to us, "Billy is in danger of losing its status as a boutique swim."

We did hear disturbing reports, from two sources., of argy bargy in the laydees elites The reports put it that one elite laydee hit another over the head and ripped off her goggles. Not the kind of behaviour we expect of elite laydees, and very disappointing to hear . We reckon these races should be contests of swimming ability, not of wrestling or extra-curricular aggression. If you want to behave like that, we say, stay at home.

Anyway, tell us all about it... Click "Comments" below to leave your contribution.

We were in New Zealand at the Bay of Islands swim, the first of its kind from Russell, formerly known, in early colonial days, as "the hell hole of the Pacific", now as "Romantic Russell". Sounds like a marketer's tag line. But it certainly is a beautiful place. The swim ran across the bay to Paihia, which abuts Waitangi, where NZ nationhood was born in 1840. Such a beautiful place. And much more peaceful there now than when the oppressive Britishi imperialist colonialists were suppressing the Maori tribes.

We'll have more complete reports on both swims, but tell us what you thought in the meantime...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Whitehaven a buzz...

The Byron Bay / White Haven Swim Party 2009 touring group will be returning for next year's event, with extras, we all had so much fun. The Island staff and event coordinators were very helpful to all competitors. This is what the Island does, manage events and very successfully.

Brunswick Heads' The Sportsmistress achieves a lifelong dream - being hugged by Peter "el Diablo" McCormick. Who's the other cove, on whose torso The Sportsmistress has scribbled hastily her phone, email and other contact details, as husband, Mr Lionel, is about to be put away for a few days for a knee replacement? Hey, it was Movember.

After a short ferry ride to White Haven, we alighted onto the beach to prepare for the swim and listen to the race briefing. Both the 750m and 2k started at the same time, with the 750m swimmers walking down the beach to line up with the far turning buoy, and commence their swim by rounding it and then swimming parallel to the beach to the last buoy and finish. For the 2k competitors it did not pay to be timid when rounding the first buoy, which was about 50m off shore, especially when there are seasoned triathletes amongst us. The field soon spread out. Overall male winner was Ky Hurst - 23:11 and female Kylee Muldoon 25:26.
The presentation dinner was enjoyed by all competitors, with generous prizes for the Overall and Age Group Winners.

Byron Bay touring team at Whitehaven Beach. They reckon they'll be back.

Byron Bay, Balmoral and North Sydney Masters were well represented and I am sure will be bring bigger contingents next year.
In the women's 50+, Byron Bay made a clean sweep with 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and last, 2nd last and 4th last, well represented at both ends. We all had fun.
Congratulations the Peter MacCormick, Balmoral, winner 50+. See you next year at White Haven.
Hamiltion Island Triathlon started very early on Sunday morning. Another exceptionally well run event. The Byron Bay Swim Party group were out in force, vocally supporting elite and age group competitors. We are sure Courtney Atkinson, Belinda and Justin Granger, Miles Stewart and Paul from Townsville (hi Paul) all appreciated our support.
To Glenn Bourke, CEO, Hamilton Island Enterprises Ltd........... We'll be back.
Alexandra Evans
(with the Byron Bay/White Haven Swim Party 2009)

A very pleased Neil McDonald, from the Hamilton Island organisers, tells us: "The swim went fantastic. We ended up having to turn people away because the boat was full. We had 140 competitors and around 70 or so spectators who specifically went to watch their partners.
I have never seen so many BIG WIDE SMILES after an ocean swim. The venue certainly helped but the event did look first class.
Well, that is my opinion and many comments were similar, so I hope it true."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Swell day, mozaic of currents from Bondi to Bronte...

Almost perfect day to swim from Bondi to Bronte... a bit of swell at the start, easy but lively water, a brisk current running off Mackenzies Point, whisking us into Bronte, a very high tide to provide a cushion under those swells at the finish, the Bronte Express running apace, making the negotiation between the currents and the reef a mind game -- we've never seen so little sand at Bronte: there was reef all the way across the beach from the official reef at the southern end. And the famous Bronte shorebreak crashing onto the sand.
All of which made the funnel into the beach from out the back a narrow one, indeed. Stimulating from start to finish.

Around Mackenzies Point, a bloke mug chases a laydee.

Bronte is one of the most dangerous beaches in Sydney, particularly so when you're coming in from behind a break that you haven't seen. Even on days of small swell, this is beach is a maze of currents and shifting sandbanks. When the swell gets up, as it did on swim day -- cushioned by a 1.9 metre tide - it can be a nightmare. It often looked benign as the peloton threaded through the currents and amongst the reefs to shore. But every now and again, a set came through. And, if you were out there amongst it, you got a better feel for how big they were and how much power they carried. There could have been a disaster at Bronte, but the Bronte water safety people were very attentive and professional at watching the mob, picking the ones who needed help, and shepherding the crowd onto the beach. They did a very good job.

A lovely, lovely day. But a crowded imbroglio on the promenade at the finish. There's little enough space up there on the best of days without all those commercial interests thrusting themselves into your face.
Excellent gear management, again. They do a good job, here, too of collecting your gear at Bondi, loading them into a truck and the Waverley Council happy bus, and unloading them in Bronte Park in neat lines, allowing the arrivistes to mooch along, between the lines, across and aback the park, picking out which bags you'd like, preferably your own.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

North Curly - Swim meets grim

The 3 Points Challenge at North Curl Curl is one of those rare events when two sports of different culchas meet -- ocean swimmers and triathletes, or, more correctly, aquathletes, since there are just swim and run legs. They are different culchas, one epitomised by paunchy bellies, budgies and swim caps, the other by bright, colourful uniforms with sponsors signage plastered all over their nether regions, and grim faces. One thing we will say for aquathlon is the running rips the weight off you much quicker than swimming, and the grim, taut smiles on the aquathletes faces testify to this: gaunt, boney, whippets, they are. Unlike all us middle-aged mugs who wallow in the sea until we're washed back in by the surf.

Will we or won't we? The show of hands went up when os.c spotted two blueys in the break near the starting line at North Curly, prompting this spontaneous act of democracy.

Another thing we can say, however, is that ocean swimmers, as a race, human race, swim better than aquathletes/triathletes, many of whom appear lost without their wetties. But they run better than us, those of us who do run, who ain't many of us. The other source of smugness we take is that it costs much less to get into ocean swimming than it does into aquathlon/triathlon: they have to spend thousands to equip themselves, so they must take themselves very, very seriously, indeed. And, in the end, when their knees give in, their shoulders give up, their hips are into the second replacements, they will come to ocean swimming, which is much kinder on the ageing body than the constant jarring and muscle tightening of the road sports.

Killer's Wingman, Paul Mitchell, came down from Murwillumbah for the V8 Rockapes at Homebush Bay, er, the 3 Points Challenge at North Curly. Just goes to show: anyone can do this sport. Wingman and Killer have a personal trainer known as "The Cockatoo", for his hairstyle. (If this is not the Wingman, we apologise. Looks like him, though.)

It was a lovely day at North Curly. We were alarmed when we spotted two blueys mooching about in the break right on the shore by the starting line, but there was nothing out the back or around behind the headland, apart from clean, bumpy water.
Not hard to see why this event zooms up in numbers each year: the aquathlon part of it is unusual, with the run interspersed with three short swims, and now the ocean swim takes us north around the headland towards DY: not just another circuit on a familiar beach.

Where do they get all these characters? And this is just the Prepubescent Boofheads Wave in the 3 Points Challenge. The real Boofheads - Killer's wave - was still to come, not to mention the Fragrant Wave.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Hustle and Bustle of Oceanwims

There's been a fair bit of comment of late on the subject of , how should we say; over enthusiastic swimming tactics such as scratching, grabbing, kicking and just plain swimming over the top of one another, particularly around the buoys.

One point of view is that oceanswims are like some sort of marine love-in, and should be an aquatic stroll in the park. Of course there are those who are diametrically opposed to this and for the most part have far less to say on the matter; possibly because they are the accused kickers and scratchers. But they may well be the silent majority.

Whilst I respect the right of quiet enjoyment of an oceanswim for those who so desire, 'tis not really an opinion that I subscribe to. I make no secret of the fact that I enjoy a bit of slap and tickle at the start and around the cans, but despite being a self declared slow but strong swimmer, I have an uncommon fear and loathin for breast strokers at any close proximity. I've always reckoned that if you want to breast stroke or don't like the rough and tumble, then you can always start at the back or your group and swim wide of the peloton round the cans.

Sure there are the elites; cyborgs, supermodels and circus freaks who tear off on there own at a cracking pace and can kick and scratch each other to their hearts' content. But there are many fellow oceanswimmers, who like me mostly race against the clock, constantly trying to improve upon there last performance in each event, using their brains as much as their brawn to efficiently navigate an otherwise tricky course, seasonally adjusting times to account for the conditions of the day or the variations in course layout, and occasionally having a bit of a match race with their contemporaries. Then of course there is the Hahn SuperDry Series where swimmers of slightly higher calibre can win something extrinsic as well as intrinsic for their efforts.

As long as such an esprit de corps exists in ocean swimming we are bound to have varying levels of competitive vigour and proficiency that transgress the categories of age and gender, and as such will always have traffic problems as swimmers pass one another. Perhaps swimmers should be categorised going on past performance with all novices at the back, as some races already do? But then all you need is one burglar to be a ring in for the first time and you have a cat amongst the pigeons again. There was plenty of that action goin on and the associated whinging thereafter at the inaugural (by posponement) Tama to Cloey race last season. And if you over categorise the swims, the large ones will take all day to be done; as is already the case down at Lorne where you have to take a cut lunch with you while you wait to start.

So perhaps Mr Os.c, you can knock up one of those votin thingies on the subject of kickin n scratchin etc.

Should over entusiastic swimmers just chill a bit?
Should the slower swimmers just toughen up or swim wide?
Should swims be categorised by pace and not age and gender?
Should swims be categorised more or less?
Should breast stokers have their feet amputated? Ok, I spoze that's goin a bit far coz their boney stumps would hurt even more when they kick ya.

Maybe you can improve upon this guvna?

And maybe youz, Oceanswimmers the lot of yuz, can have yer two blob's worth on the subject too?

David Love.