Sunday, December 12, 2010

Billie, Brighton, Freo, Carlton, Bay of Islands, Champion Lakes, all points between...

Gosh, we're tired. Always are after Billie. Reason being that we always have a quiet little drink with the Billie organiser, Cap'n Graham Foran, after Billie, in their Bilgola Berger Bar, which is half a surfboat cut down the middle. It's the best bar on the circuit, capping off the best day on the circuit. Billie is, without doubt, the best boutique ocean swim of the season. We love going there. And while the water was cool again today, and brown, almost impossible through which to see, it was a smoothish flat, fast swim, with just a little swell onto the bank at the start, and a ripple to bring you home again. And no-one could miss the booees, with the hot pink balloons dancing gaily above them.

Next year, there is talk of all the Pittwater swims, from Newport to Palm Beach, getting together into a mini series. That will make Billie even better.

But tell us what you thought of Billie, and Brighton, Carlton Park in Tassie, Freo and Champion Lakes in WA, and the Bay of Islands in NZ...


  1. I am just a simple farmer so someone is going to have to explain me how Billie can be run for $25.00 and the Cole can be run by Faifax for $49.00.
    To the organisers of Billie well done and Thankyou Mr Blackmore for your support.
    the peach farmer.

  2. In my running heyday the City to Surf was always a highlight of the season and I never understood the runners who elected to miss it.

    Their protestations that it was too big, too expensive and took too long seemed a poor excuse for missing out on the premier road race of the year.

    Of course, as a preferred runner there were no 90 minute long waits in a sweaty crowd for me, just a gentle warm up and stretch round Hyde Park and the Domain before being led out in front of the unwashed masses 10 minutes before the start.

    Now the shoe - or budgie smugglers, is on the other (insert part of body that fits metaphor).

    As an old, slow swimmer who normally has to wait for the last wave to start and who is lucky to finish in the top 80% I now understand the disadvantages of large, crowded events.

    And Bilgola very much justified my decision to focus on smaller, more intimate events this season. No mass crowds, hour long waits or $45+ entry fees in the Bondi-Bronte or Cole Classic for me this year.

    Instead events like Bilgola - a lovely beach, a small, intimate and well organised event and the final wave hiyting the water only 9 minutes after the first wave.

    The flat sea and warm sun that helped make this such a good swim are down to luck of course, as was the somewhat chill water, but the three Bilgola swims I've done have all had the same good feel. And the beachside kiosk consistently does a great pre-race bacon sandwich and long black.

    The 16 degree water counteracted the burning sun and after the initial shock was rather refreshing. I'm not saying I prefer the water that cold - 24 degrees is more my style - but it was much more tolerable than at Coogee and the combination of a flat sea, relatively visible cans and a shorter distance made this very much easier and more enjoyable.

    The great thing about ocean swims is that you get to visit places you'd never normally go. Bilgola is one of those beaches - and it really is lovely and worth the 40km drive, at least once a year.

    It's on my list of "must do" swims from now on.

  3. Congratulations Billie - a superb event as always. It is so nice to actually be made to feel welcome. I couldn't agree more with Steve Hall there is a lot to be said for the smaller more intimate events.....much more fun. I liked the way there was loads of water safety, no long waits in the sun before the start, quick efficient results and lashings of fresh fruit. We'll all be back!! Do you think though, you could just warm the water up a bit for next year to make it absolutely perfect?

  4. I love the Bilgola swim and indeed Bilgola Beach in general. It has a warm, intimate feel and the members are so welcoming not to mention master BBQers! The swim itself was great and I am even (dare I say it) starting to enjoy the bracing water on my skin, that gentle tingle, that, with a twist of the imagination, can feel like you are burning not freezing. Those wetsuit wearers dont realise they are missing this wonderful connection with nature and the feeling of being alive, tougher for the experience, and a survivor. I have a renewed sense of achievement having beaten the cold :) Ban the wettie I say, < 16 degree allowable, yesterday was at least 18 if not 19!
    I tried the fish oil tablets today (thank you Blackmores), no visible signs of improvement yet? Am I expecting too much in 1 day......?

  5. Absolutely loved this swim, beautiful beach, great organisation, good example of the ocean swim 'culcha'. Numbers were down slightly on last year - they'll be up again next year I'm sure. Only surprise was to not see more top talent turn up to try and win the $500 prize money... was it simply the cold water, or was it that the 'wetties allowed' rule meant anyone could win?

    Congrats to Luane and Eliza who like me swam newd, cruised on my feet the whole way round, only to run straight past the crippled old man up the beach! Were we cold? Were we F&%*!

  6. Bilgola - a glorious swim in Godzone country. What could be better than sun, hot sand, cool water (hmmm.., make that cold water), a reasonable distance for the likes of slow swimmers like me who fade after about 2 km, and a very friendly crowd.

    Even though I got clunked a few times as green-capped swimmers swam into me from the rear (I know the water was a bit murky, but surely those blokes can see someone ahead in relatively uncrowded water, in the back of the pack), it was a still a great swim, so thanks to all my fellow swimmers and they Bilgola organiseres for a wonderful Sunday morning.

  7. Beautiful beach..... second only to the steak sandwich afterwards.

    Cheers Bilgola slsc

  8. That swim bowled me over... I was blown away by the hospitality. Nothing beats the intimacy of boutique swims. Next year I'll wear the baggy green cap...

  9. Hello Aquagirl!

    'No, I am Spartacus'... or at least, the 'friendly swimmer' who wished you good luck before the Brighton Swim for Your Life. Certainly was apposite. On the washing-machine scale of swims, I’d say that was an 1800rpm full rinse, wash and spin, without conditioner. I was getting over ‘flu so had an excuse to just take long easy strokes, which probably helped me pace myself into battling the ferocious tide, but it was simply about survival after turning the first buoy. I was actually happy with my final place (somewhere almost exactly in the middle of my age-group) but more so with making it back to dry land. The steep shelf of the beach and large under-water rocks added a certain je ne sais quoi to the last ‘sprint’.

    Yes Brighton for some reason is always a race for the true believers – the fact that it was warmer in the water than out, plus the steadily increasing swell as we waited for the start, watching boat loads of slow-finishing, gasping 4km swimmers getting deposited on the beach – all helped build moral. But that was what I loved: the many grimly smiling faces waiting and at the water’s edge before the start; the sense that this was just another day at the office for Victoria’s open water swimmers. There was a bit of consternation at the start when we were initially told ‘turn left at the yellow can and then swim 80m parallel before turning back to shore…’. No second can??! But after some speedy SLC work, two cans were in place (although my 16’00 finish makes me think the course may have been a tad short…).

    I have swum in worse – the Peter Mac swim after the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne was ludicrous, and my first ever experience of open water swimming (without a wettie at that stage – & I wondered why others laughed at the start…). It was more of a skiing event than swimming, waves that deserved black-run status, but after near-death I was hooked. I was determined to try again and prove it wasn’t a freakish accident that I had survived.

    Keep up the great writing and sans-wettie mission: it is inspiring, brave and possibly tide-turning, if you will excuse the pun. I am off to Tassie for Christmas and so won’t be at another Victorian swim until Lorne; but will be doing the fabulous Taste of Tasmania River Swim on the 28th, a delight (the Derwent is incredibly sweet after racing and training in Port Philip!) but definitely wettie-territory. If anyone is heading down there, DO THE SWIM and then feast at the food festival that opens immediately afterwards, literally at the finish line. Beats a handful of snakes.

    Happy splashing,

  10. Thank you Kit for responding....I've just read your report and am delighted someone else felt just as I did, you've even reminded me of some of the other not-so-great parts of that swim. It certainly was a washing machine out there and I agree, the Peter Mac swim came very close to it in conditions.
    Lorne will be fantastic, I am really looking forward to it. I'd say we'll try and meet there but we may have trouble finding each other there amongst our other 4000 closest swimming friends.
    Tassy sounds delightful and should be a walk in the park for you, considering the terrible conditions we've had to deal with, water and weather wise in the past month."What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger."
    Best of luck in your training up to this race, I hope it is a great event and look forward to hearing about it.
    To Tasmania and beyond!
    ~ Nicole (AquaGirl72)


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