Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ante-Xmas swims...

Last chance for swims before Xmas at Brighton in Melbourne, Manly in Sydney, and Nobbys-Newcastle in, er, Newcastle... We were at Manly, where plenty of people were stung, although nowhere near as many or as badly as we'd feared.

Tell us what you thought about those swims...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Xmas... Time for the Cole Classic...

An ocean swimmer has sent us an exchange of correspondence he had with the folk at Fairfax Meeja, operators of the Cole Classic. This punter wanted to enter both swims at the Cole at Manly on February 5, but when he tried to do so, he found there was no option for this. So he emailed them asking whether there was some way of doing it. A chap named Will emailed back. We quote...

You can only register for 1 swim at a time, if you would like to swim both 1km and 2km, you therefore have to register twice. Please note (as each name can only be in the system once) that if you would like to register for both events you enter your last name first as (Bloggs) and the second registration as Bloggs. (with a dot at the end). There is no combined swim pricing unfortunately.

Got that? (No mention of what happens to Bill Bloggs's entry if another Bill Bloggs has entered already -- and there are quite a few punters of common  names who take part in ocean swims in Sydney.)

It means that, to do both swims at the Cole Classic, you're up for $94 ($42 for the 1km and $52 for the 2km), if you enter by today (Friday, December 9).
After today, you're up for $114 ($52 and $62).

So what does your money get you?

Will wrote:

In return for your entry fee into The Sydney Morning Herald Cole Classic, you will receive: a finishers medal, a race pack (including one timing tag and one swimming cap), a finishing certificate (that can be downloaded from the website), water, Gatorade and fruit at the completion of the race along with a copy of The Sun-Herald newspaper. An event as large as The Sydney Morning Herald Cole Classic, is hugely expensive to organise and execute each year. Without the support of its sponsors and hundreds of volunteers, it would not be possible to run such a large community event. Representatives from Manly LSC help out on the day and they are given a donation in appreciation for their assistance.

... somewhat understating the value of the role of members of Manly LSC who "help out on the day", we'd have thought. We know that the Manly club contributes many hours of conscientious preparation to "help out on the day".

But let's do some quick maths. If the Cole gets 5,000 punters, and each pays $50 on average (the real amount will be much higher), then Fairfax Meeja makes $250,000 in entry revenue alone, not accounting for sponsorship funds and in-kind contributions. Out of that, they give around $25,000 to Manly Life Saving Club for putting the events on. As far as we can see, Fairfax gives no other money out of this event to charity, although they make a lot of noise about how much the event raises for charity (it's all money from you and your friends, not from Fairfax Meeja). They would pay Council and Waterways event fees, insurance, and to erect marquees, etc, and they would pay for various other services. But they make a killing out of the Cole.

Where does the money go? You all have a right to ask. The Cole family did all this -- and with much noicer style, too -- charging $35 for the main event, and while still covering all their costs including the donation to Manly LSC.

Add the Cole revenue to parallel takes from the fun run the day before the Cole, the City to Surf, the Half Marathon and Marathon, etc, etc, and it all adds up to a noice little earner for Fairfax Meeja. (We checked Fairfax's annual report two years back looking for some acquittal of all this, but couldn't find a mention. If it is there, perhaps someone could direct us to it.)

Certainly, you'd think Fairfax would be able to afford concessional entry for doing both swims...

When we included this comment in a recent emailout, we received immediate responses. One said,
I found the Fairfax staff equally rude last year – I tried to register from my work computer several times and every time it failed - after accessing the site and entering all of my details.

I tried a colleague’s computer with the same result and in desperation I rang Fairfax Events and after the customary time on hold I was told that I needed to have the latest version of some software and there was no other way of registering – that particular bit of software is not compatible with the filing system which we use here and at that point in time I did not have a home email running – so I gave up.

I suggest that Fairfax is ripping off the ocean swimming community and probably other communities for the other events they run.

I know that insurance is a significant cost but if Bilgola can run their swim for $25 and late entry fee $30 (only applicable after the eve of the event) – and make a profit for the SLSC then Fairfax with a comparable entry fee of $52/$62 – and from now on everyone is charged a late entry fee must be ripping us off. Fairfax is charging more than double the Bilgola fee.

Ocean swimming has done very well as an amateur sport utilising volunteers and supporting volunteer organisations. I cannot find any reason to support the introduction of “professionals” working for commercial organisations which are motivated by greed.

My personal protest is limited to not entering the event ever again but how about organising some sort of protest through your invaluable website which I have used extensively for many years?
We're not in a position to organise protests ourselves. We seek to provide a platform from which matters such as these can be raised and discussed. We hope to raise punters' awareness of issues overall. We would also like the many, many new ocean swimmers whom Fairfax is drawing into our sport that not all swims -- indeed, most swims -- are not run like this and cost significantly less to enter.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The saddest moment of the season...

The saddest moment of the ocean swimming season, we reckon, is the moment we leave Bilgola. Each year, it's an enormous build up towards this beautiful boutique swim, but then it's over in such a rush, the swim, the post-swim drink, the fruit, the barbie, the preso, and our traditional quiet little drink with Billie swim organiser Cap'n Graham Foran.

Billie proves the maxim that the swim is the catalyst for the culcha. The swim is lovely, noice. But the swim is the precursor to a wonderful afternoon on the Bilgola club's front lawn, a manicured, pleasant little verdant oasis overlooking one of Sydney's prettiest beaches. The bar is the best on the circuit, a surf club at last having found a good use for a surfboat: they've cut one in two, longitudinally, and mounted it as the club's bar. Buying a drink there is a culchural experience in itself. Then there's the yarning, the story-swapping, the boasting, the whingeing, the catching up with old friends, the catching up with friends you haven't seen since last week, or since squad last Fridee.

But the entire day happens in such a rush. Then, suddenly, it's over. The swim is done. Everyone's gone home, and we're going home, too. Done for another year.

It leaves us with a sense of loss, like finishing a good book. A blur, like our wedding day.

What did you think?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Three ends of the spectrum...

Lovely day at North Curly... grey and cold at Mornington... glorious fading to blowy and miserable and even dangerous at Bondi-Bronte... You couldn't get  more contrasting conditions... We'll have something more to say on our report page, but tell us what you think... click the comments link below...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

'round the island and over the coral...

Coogee is a glorious swim, made better when you get to see at close-up the bottom around Wedding Cake Island. In recent years, we haven't seen that much of that beautiful bottom -- all Devil's Marbles boulders on the beach side, and wavey, weedy reef on the ocean side -- because the booees have been set for safety and kept us wide. This time, however, through some quirk of booee laying, the first return reach, after rounding the outermost booee outside the island, had us almost crossing the corner of the island if you took a straight line booeee-to-booee. Watching from that outermost booee, where we did vox pops with our Olympus video camera, you could see the sets breaking on the island almost across the course. So swimming that leg wasn't just heading from booee to booee, but also keeping out of the way of the swell, heading a bit more to the south. The advantage, however, was that we got to see more reef close up. It is one of the most beautiful bottoms you will ever see. And we are so lucky to get to swim over it. Not many people get to do that...

Up in the Tweed River, by the way, we had reports of the water, which was brown, which meant you couldn't quite see the coral that Killer said was down there. They're developing the Killer brand, by the way, with the release this year of The Killer wine label, a pinot grigio was one we saw tweeted by our correspondent in locus, Roger Muspratt. Roger also was presented with a Golden Globe Award for his report on of this swim last year. The Golden Globe was... er, a golden light globe. Well, perhaps all the Golden Globes from Hollywood have been taken. That corresponds with the Lucky Door Prize at the Tweed River Swim, which is a door...

And at Redliffe, near Brisbane, there was the 3rd leg of the Great Australian Swim Series, this leg won this year by Trent Grimsey and Melissa Gorman. Not a bad effort for Grimsey who, on Saturday, won the 5km and was second in the 10km events in the WA Swimming Open Water Swim Series in... PERTH! Grimsey flew back overnight on the red-eye. Perhaps he won today because he was still warmed up from Perth...

In Melbourne, the season kicked off with the Edithvale-Aspendale Club to Club swim. Can anyone tell us what happened there...

But tell us what you thought... comments below, if you please...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Big weekend all over...

What a big weekend for swims all over the place... In NSW, Woy Woy Swimming Club had their first swim at Umina on Saturday, then two swims on Sundee, at Balmain -- the Dawny swim -- and at Cronulla, the Cook Classic.
We were at Hamilton Island for the Whitehaven Beach Swim. Luvverly day out, glorious weather all 'round, and some very noice water. We saw some triffic tweets from mug swimmers at Dawny, and there was a good report from Cronulla, too. And Whitehaven was just a noice day out. No trouble from the weather.
Tell us what you thought, and complete our swimmer feedback surveys on each of these swims (links on the home page)...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Back to the 'roy...

Lovely day at Collaroy, and what a revelation was "the bottom". Sure, there were some very noice bottoms that we passed, and which passed us, but particularly the one way down below. Looking out from the beach, Collaroy -- "the 'roy", as Judy Playfair refers to it, a beach where her family was instrumental in setting up the surf club 100 years ago -- looked a bland swim. A champagne glass course, keeping it simple.

The organising club, led by former explosive Tigers centre Denis Bendall, didn't want too many complications. But what a discovery once you're in the water! A bottom full of reef and weed and, consequently, sea life. Big rays, little rays, wobbies sitting on the bottom, and a pod of dolphins swimming through the peloton mid-race, Bendall reported afterwards, although no swimmer we consulted actually saw them. Pity.

It was a luvverly day out, and well worth the trip, and a top effort by Bendall and his cobbers for their first time swim.

Next year's is November 11.

What did you think of today's swim?

A chip of the old block ... err finger.

Folks… this is a tale of a little swimming interaction I had at a pool in Brissy. I’m telling this tale because I think it is food for thought for swim organisers, when designing a swim course of any kind, to spend some time thinking about collision.
So, back in May, I was up in Qld for work. As usual, I pack the swim gear to get a swim in where ever. I normally venture to the Centennial Pool at Spring Hill if I am up that way, but decided I’d give Fortitude Valley a go. When I arrived, lanes were set out by pace, and normally, I’d pop in the Fast Lane, but there were a bunch of people swimming with flippers, slowly. So I jumped in the “Medium” lane, only to learn how frustrating it is not to be in the fast lane. On this day, I had forgot to pack my defog spray for my goggles, so didn’t have the best clarity of vision, which I don’t have anyway. Having tailed some fella for a lap, I decided to overtake him, only to discover there were two of them, and a swimmer coming the other way. Like the urban rev-head, I had put the foot down. However, I didn’t see the swimmer coming my way until my index finger made contact with his massive scone during my extension stroke. In response, I quickly pulled my hand out the way, apologised, and carried on.

So off to work, and the conference, where I realise I can’t lift the coffee pot. By the end of the day, the joint was swollen but could be relieved by holding onto a cold ale. For some reason, probably a male thing, I did not see a doctor for 2 months. When I decided to go, so began the referrals. Doctor says – “you need an X-ray”; take self for X-ray; return to doctor – “you need to see an orthopaedic surgeon”, referred to surgeon; surgeon refers me to CT scan and ultrasound, return to surgeon with imaging; "you need to see a hand surgeon", hand surgeon says “inoperable”, refers me to sports physio, two visits to physio. Now, 9 appointments, 13 total hrs and $590 later, I have given up to let nature take its course.
In clocking this guy on the head, I had taken an 8mm chip off the joint in the middle of my finger that is now permanently wedged at right angles. In all honesty, it has not caused too much grief swimming, and the most painful episode was the physio putting his full weight on the finger to try straightening it up. Luckily for me, he is a keen cyclist. However, I am paranoid about hitting oncoming swimmers as I was told it takes a year to self-heal.

So my point of writing about this little episode is to highlight the potential for collision when swim courses are set out. Opportunities where people can swim into each other need to be avoided. I recall one swim with a T-shaped course where you had to do 180 degree turns into the oncoming traffic. The same can happen with those courses with very sharp angles, like the ones in “Y-shaped” courses, where currents can sweep you into the way of swimmers behind.
Has this ever happened to you? Let us know your thoughts?
John Bamberry

Monday, November 7, 2011

Noosa and Mur'bah - Bikes and bands

Here’s an unusual double - from the Noosa Triathlon on October 30 to the Killer Swim in Murwillumbah on November 27. Noosa is  huge with 7500 punters. That would be like the whole population of Murwillumbah turning up at the rowing club to have a dip in the Tweed River.
Here’s another bit of trivia. When you come over the hill at Noosa and down towards Hastings Street, the whole of Lions Park off to your left is a sea of bicycles (a plethora of pelotons) on the triathlon  weekend – about 7000 of them ranging from the latest carbon fibre wonders with (I am not making this up) aerodynamically shaped drink bottles. At the other end of the scale are some surprisingly banged up old things. We took $4000 or $5000 as a conservative average. Really conservative because these people will spend $3000 to $4000 on a set of wheels. But at $4000, there’s $28 million in bicycles in the park, or $35 million if you take a $5000 average.
Money is no object when you can buy time in a race. Maybe it should be like craft events in surf lifesaving. You bring your ski or board in to be weighed before the national championships, and if it’s too light, they add weights.
The 1500m swim leg is in Weyba Creek. Considering how close you are to the blue waters of Noosa’s Laguna Bay, this is pretty average. But you can see that it would be a nightmare getting the whole field across Hastings Street, especially when you have to close the roads for about six hours.
In Murwillumbah, well, it’s not like Noosa. Good, you say. I agree. It doesn’t have as many coffee shops but it also doesn’t have as many round-abouts either. There’s nothing like the Riverview Hotel in Mur'bah and nothing like the former resident band, James T and the Tomahawks. Their CD has become my music of choice for heading off to the various swim events. This is the only way you’ll hear them now because apparently there’s been a split. I’m hoping the Tomahawks will be a little like grandad’s axe – a new head and a couple of new handles but it’s still a bloody good axe.
It’s hard to explain the attraction of Murwillumbah – a little fund raiser for the Fingal Rovers surf club. Some swims you do if there’s nothing else on. But you have a core group that you keep the calendar clear. It’s great to be part of those monster events like Noosa because you can feel the energy. Murwillumbah is more like a swim with a few mates – who you still want to beat but it’s all good fun.
Roger Muspratt

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some home truths from an old hack... (Burleigh)

Ours is a participant sport and you don’t like to focus on the elite stars but Ky Hurst’s effort in the Dash for Cash at Burleigh on Sunday October 23 was outstanding – real old-time, surf club wading skills stuff.

The four-time Australian ironman champion looked well beaten as the field hit the shallows. The Grimsey boys seemed to have put too big a gap on him. But from there everything went right for the London-bound Hurst. It was a long and seriously treacherous wade with the bottom cut into deep pot holes and a deeper section right at the water’s edge. Then there was quite an incline up to the soft sand where a slight stumble robbed Trent Grimsey of his momentum in the soft sand and Hurst powered past to an unlikely win. It was a surf skills event with that murderous finish. With his win in the 2km and second to Grimsey in the 1km, Hurst had a good day.

 The long wade and run to the finish line didn’t seem to worry most of the regular punters. We just tip-toed through the pot holes and strolled up to the timing mats.  The bottom has been cut up Burleigh for a while now and some of coach Wes Berg’s surf squad have come to grief during their training sessions. Old folks can’t run through it. It’s okay for the kids if they step in a hole. They tend to bounce. We tend to break.

Melissa Gorman put in a tongue-in-cheek protest on behalf of the pool swimmers but the Burleigh guys were having none of it. Protest dismissed.

Burleigh surf club stuck to their early 7am start which caused a few grumbles. But most of the time you will always get better conditions earlier in the morning. And it was true here. For the 2km event, which started nearly on time, it was beautiful smooth swimming and brilliantly clear water. But an hour or so later, for the 1km, the wind was stronger and had started to stir up the surface.

Not as bad as the Coolangatta swim on September 25 but you get the picture.

It was one of those perfect days with a light southerly early. Which was lucky because there was the odd bluey reported at North Burleigh and a lot further up the coast. There was a small shore break, just big enough to have you in two minds about weather to dive over or under the waves. A slight northerly sweep through the gutter took some people off course and then the outside break depended on weather you were hit by a set or got through on a lull. This is perfect ocean swimming – just a bit of a wave but nothing dangerous. It’s just enough that if you do all the surf stuff properly, you’ll get a bit of a jump on the field.

We were in competition with the Gold Coast 600 car race on the Sunday but I don’t think the petrol heads affected the chlorine heads too much. And if you are both, there was plenty of time to get home and watch the race on television. There looked to be just over 400 entries which may not be quite as many as last year but still plenty of encouragement for the Burleigh club to persist with the event.

Things now dry up a bit for Queensland ocean swims. Some folks are  doing a swim leg in next weekend’s Noosa Tri and then Killer has his big day at Murwillumbah on November 27.  I’ve become a Murwillumbah regular now. It’s a bit hard to explain the attraction. The water is never really clear and the town’s half asleep and Tomahawks seem to have split. But that eucalyptus-scented water takes me back to swimming in water holes as a kid and with these smaller swims, you feel like if you don’t turn up, it might all be over. And there is the Killer factor. You can be guaranteed of the odd Killer clanger once he gets his mits on the microphone. You can sort of see it in the faces of the locals. Here he goes on the microphone again. What’s he going to come up with this time. They all love him down there. It’s worth going down just for that.

Roger Muspratt

Monday, October 24, 2011

Burleigh, Forries... Start to new season...

Two swims over the weekend -- Forresters Beach on the NSW Central Coast, and Burleigh Heads, on the Gold Coast. How did you like those swims? We've seen some tweets (from Trent Grimsey) and we've had an email about the long run out of the surf at Burleigh, which didn't please everybody. What did you think? Leave your response below...

Above, two of the legends of ocean swimming around Sydney, Big Arm Warrior Stephen De Lorenzo, and Lochie Hinds, head into the surf at Forresters. Thanks to Lochie's mum, Stephane, for the pics. It looked a grand day indeed at Forresters.

Tell us what you reckoned?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shark to Maui! But then the real tragedy...

Sharks and Speedboats - Maui Channel Swim 2011 

The morning of Saturday September 3rd started as other years when the Aussie Ticker brethren gathered on Kaanapali Beach in Maui for the boat trip to Lanai. However, the wind was up and there were a few grumbles about how choppy it might be for the annual relay swim back. We fielded 2 Aussie Ticker teams this year, a powerful new Open Mixed team (Sigi Hill, Chris Allen, Justin Brewer, Carly Brewer, Robyn Hill and Shelley Clarke) and the defending champion Makule (over 40 Mens/ fat bastards) team (Andrew DeVries, Matt McQuade, Graeme Brewer, Guy Farrow, Simon Buckingham and Matt Renshaw). Little did any of us know how the day would unfold. 

As we motored over to Lanai, it became clear that the chop and swell was significant. In fact, one other escort boat sank on the way over and all their swimmers and passengers had to be rescued and taken to the start line! Later we saw it's bow disappear to the depths of the channel! When we got to Lanai, the conditions were no better and another support boat actually got dragged onto the reef and had to be pulled off. It was shaping up as a big day. 

Both lead-off swimmers (Sigi and ADV aka The Great Man) started strongly. The experienced Makule men decided on a direct, high line to the destination point in Maui. Sigi's Open team bet on a lower line to the right, planning to use the current and potentially calmer waters to their advantage later in the race. By the end of the first leg, they were already 100m or so away. Strong second swims ensued from Shelley Clarke and Matty "Lone Wolf" McQuade. Then Justin and Graeme, Little Brew and Big Brew, son and father, hit the water to go "mano e mano" in a much anticipated 3rd leg of the relay. However, they were already 200m apart on different courses - by this stage we were running our own races. 10 minutes later the world turned when the crewman on our Makule boat yelled "Shark!". As you would understand, this is the last word any channel swimmer wants to hear! 

We looked down and to our collective horror a large beast had appeared about 5-10 metres behind Brew (ie. Graeme). Although it's dorsal fin had not yet broken the surface, it was a clear this was a serious shark. The screaming and yelling began as we attracted Brew's attention and the shark appeared to stare and follow him from behind. Brew swam to the boat with impressive speed and we hauled his considerable mass onto the boat as quickly as possible. Intact and unscathed. The shark went right and then down and under the boat. It then disappeared. It had clearly investigating Brew and was either scared of him or decided he was way too big to eat. Both are equally likely! 

We all looked at each other and tried to decide what to do. The race rules state that in such a situation you have to stop advancing in the race, but can move laterally as far as you like before starting again. We spent several minutes establishing that the shark was gone, then motored about 500m away. One other boat was nearby and had pulled out their swimmer and took the same course of action. Despite radio contact with all other boats, everyone else decided to stay in the race. 

Then it was Brew's call - stay out or get back in? Almost without hesitation, he got back in and resumed - one of the gutsiest acts ever witnessed in ocean swimming. Farrow, Rench and I looked at each other, knowing we would be next! Thanks Brew! Oh well, screw it! If we die being eaten by a large animal, then so be it. This is what we do. We have a koa bowl to defend! I know I can speak for Farrow and Rench - our next swims were the longest 30 minutes of our entire lives! 

So everyone wants to know how big the shark was. The first point to make is that the boat we were on was a Big Game Fishing boat. This was the captain's business every day (364 per year), except for once a year when some swimming idiots hire him out for the day. He said this was the biggest tiger shark he had seen for 8 years - around 15 feet long and 1000 pounds. And he is in the business of trying to catch them every day! 

We battled on and eventually finished in about 4 1/2 hours. Despite losing around 10 minutes with the shark incident, we still managed to come 3rd in the Makule division, missing out on first by only 4 or 5 minutes. Oh well, we still ended up with a much coveted race towel and a great story to tell our grand kids! 

Meanwhile, the Mixed team had powered on to the finish 10 or 15 minutes earlier. They had picked a great line, swam strongly and came up with line honours for their division..... and the much sought after Koa bowl! An outstanding performance. 

Aussie Ticker - a first and a third! A big day at the office. 

Tired and relieved, we shot straight to the outside Tiki Bar for the usual post-race festivities and a few quiet Longboard Lagers. It was then that the real tragedy of the day unfolded. The bar is between the beach and the entrance to the hotel. 

The paramedics rushed through the crowd with a swimmer on a stretcher. He was badly cut on one arm and missing his hand on the other. We immediately thought "shark" and the whole crowd looked on in stunned silence as he was whisked to a waiting ambulance. It turned out not to be a shark at all, but a freak speed boat accident. He was a tough and gutsy solo swimmer who had done the whole channel himself when a boat accidentally ran him over 100m or so from shore. The poor bastard didn't sign up for that and there will no doubt be an investigation. It appears to have been a freak accident. Now a  matter for microsurgeons, police and, I suspect, lawyers. We all wish him well. 

A lot to think about for next year! 

Mahalo for our health and Aloha! 

Simon Buckingham 

PS. The Aussie Ticker brethren put in a strong showing in the Waikiki Roughwater the following Monday. In the various age groups, Sigi was 3rd, Brew was 3rd and Chris, ADV, me and Rench peppered the podium in the 45-49 with 4th, 6th, 7th and 9th! A calm day and no marine wildlife to speak of. Luane and Shelley finished 1& 2 overall in the open womens and some of Peter Thiel's Maui team finished 1,2 & 3 in the open mens. A good showing for Australia!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mona Vale Coldstream consciousness

Car pool pick up Doctor Nuclear, fix all the world's problems before we arrive.
Swim in the ocean with no concrete walls.
Try a bit of hypoxic swimming around the course.
Car pool on way home, fill the car with a lot of IF ONLY I HAD
Epiphany this is the sport for the carbon free years.
The Peach Farmer
Ta Mona Vale surf club for a great day.
Glistenrr how was I to know you were lurking in the bushes for the honour of swimming last.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prahran pool gets a facelift for winter

By KAOSVIC - ocean swimmer by preference, pool swimmer by necessity

My local pool opened up today after a month off for a facelift. More accurately it had a bottom lift.
It got a shiny new bottom, some new tiles and that's about it. It's still the same daggy pool it's been since it opened in 1964.
I've been a regular at Prahran pool since before I could swim.  There were no lanes in those days. Just a heap of kids hanging around the shallow end til we got brave, or daring, enough, to tackle the deep end.
The scary pool guard, was his name Ernie?' would keep us under control, much like puppies, with not much more than his voice and a loud whistle. If he noticed you, he made you swim back to the shallow end to prove that you could actually swim before you were allowed to stay up the deep end with the cool kids.
My all-girls school used to take us there for swimming training early in the school year. Although it was probably February and March, the water always seemed to be freezing.  And the communal showers were too unless you had the money to pay for a short spurt of hot water.
I never made the swimming team,  but have had many happy hours at this pool over the past 40 years.
It's nothing fancy, and not much had changed. It doesn't have yoga, pilates, or child minding.
It does have a cool cafe, good coffee, a spa, and a Massage lady, Joy, who really knows how to help tired swimmers shoulders.
The pool always used to close in April and re open in October.  A few years ago the local Council found the funds to keep it opened reduced hours all year round.
It's now 5.50 am to 9.30 am and 4.30  to 7.30 Monday to Friday and 8 til 10.30 am on weekends.
Just enough hours for the squads, the kids and the desperates.
You have to be pretty keen to get into a 50 m outdoor pool every Saturday morning and Monday morning all year round.  The wind blows through wet bodies and although the water is a cozy 28 degrees, the air is single digit.
I often wonder if I'd be a better swimmer if I could get up earlier, but I know I can't commit to more.
I do know, whatever the weather, I always feel better for the effort.
I've done thousands of hours and thousands of kms at Prahran over the years. If the weather permits, it's pretty fine to hit the roof top banana lounges with a novel for some post swim recovery.
I taught myself to swim in the bay, I'm a proud and passionate ocean swimmer and I'd rather be in the ocean than the pool any day. But summer is short and winter endless in Melbourne. Thank goodness there is a compromise.
I'll never warm to the chlorine fug of the indoor pools.
But you'll find me year round with swimmers of all shapes and sizes lapping up and down at Prahran.
I hope little nip and tuck will keep Prahran in workable condition for many years. It's my pool and I love it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Another New Beginnings End

2010-2011 Another year of swimming tragic

.. But I'm not the only one


Eight Ball

Bondi Beach, Australia

Ocean swimmers are an independent bunch
While the rest of the world follows calendar years, or summer and winter seasons
I love it that we've decided that the Australian ocean swimming season finishes at the end of May and starts again at the beginning of June
For no real reason, other than the sea water on the south east coat of Australia is usually warm-ish from November until May, the cool-ish from June to October

I have enjoyed some good swimming over the last 12 months
Followed pretty much the same regime as last year with pool training and ocean swim races most weekends in summer, but ventured a little further afield and extended with some longer swims and some adventure swims
Some glimpses of improvement in swim times, not getting slower anyway
Total distance swum in open water races was about the same as last year
I got off to a slow start with no swims entered in October, while I completed a lifesaving course.
And then ditched a couple of the crowded swims that I didn't enjoy from last year
Although did end up doing more 5k longer swims than last season

I don't think os.c is giving out the results of the Ocean Swim Tallies until the presentation nite next month, I'll have to wait and see if I'm in the running again for Magoo's Distance Tallies Trophy. I did hear that some other swimmers had made a late charge with some longer swims this month.

Highlights from last season ...

- Magnetic Island to Townsville swim 8k -
Loved completing a challenging long swim in tough conditions, Loved the rolling celebration party afterwards - From the Surf Club, to the Waterworks Hotel in Townsville, to the Sun Ferry, to the Picnic Bay Hotel on Magnetic Island - Remember what happens on the island, stays on the island

- Pan Pacs Masters Open Water Swim 5k - A fun swim around a small lake on the Gold Coast - Took home a gold medal (team) and a silver medal (individual). Sometimes race selection is more important than swimming ability

- Sri Chinmoy Lake Swim Canberra 5k -
Not what I was expecting - heavy rains had brought muddy brown water and a strong wind chopped up the course. A good challenge and I enjoyed finishing

- "Bold & Beautiful" Manly Swims -
Some good informal swims with B&B Swimmers - including a "10k" harbour swim and "10k" ocean swim, both swims supported with paddler and fully catered with a teddy bear's picnic at the halfway mark

- "Across the Heads Swim" with B&B Swimmers and - Tough conditions, a little nervous, a good challenge. I never thought I would be doing something like that when I started ocean swimming a few years ago

- Around Cape Banks Swim - Little Bay to La Perouse - Informal swim with Murray Cox ( - another good adventure

- Coogee to Bondi Redux - An Informal swim with my Seas The Limit training buddies - Good confidence booster to complete a swim 5k in big seas, rough water and 2m swell

- South Head Roughwater Swim - with Murray's team - spectacular scenery and quite fun actually

- Swimming at Coogee every weekend (almost) all year round with my old swimming friends

- Swimming in an ocean swim event somewhere up or down the coast most weekends in summer with my new friends from ocean swimming

Thanks coach Chad for keeping the training fun and interesting and helping me with the confidence and mental preparation needed to take on longer and more challenging swims

Every swim is still an adventure for me

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Awaiting winter

Two different swims over two days -- Sat'dee, the Noosa swim, then Sundee, the 2nd Inaugural Bondi Bluewater Challenge. Smooth water with slight offshore breezes at both, but very different in setting and water.

Noosa's water was muddy. Indeed, when we swam on the Fridee, literally you couldn't see the hand in front of your face. It was slightly clearer on race day, but not by much. They've had a lot of rain up there, and it washes out through the river and in run-off. But we had a lovely couple of days staying with friends. We've done this swim four times now, and we've always struck murky water. It's not dirty or polluted, just cloudy, murky. They tell us it was perfect last year, but we missed it. But for a Sydneysider coming out of the cold that's been Sydney the last week or two, it was reassuring to exit the plane at Maroochydore into such balmy, near summer temperatures. Rained a lot, especially overnight, but the setting at Noosa is idyllic, with the national park forming a backdrop to the swim which, despite the murk, was run in very good water.

Main swim was 2.48km, according to the GPS-in-plastic bag, not 2km as advertised, but there's nothing wrong with that. We like a bit of extra distance. The booees were set very far out to sea.

Then Sundee at Bondi... Cooler, urban backdrop, smooth water still which was clear through the break, but murky once you moved out to sea, not a muddy murk, just a white, opaque murk. Nothing unpleasant about it out there. It just wasn't clear, although we did see the stark white float of the shark net marker hovering a couple of metres below the surface just past the far out turner off Mackenzies Point. It seemed like farther than the advertised 2.1km, but the GPS on Mrs Sparkle's back told us it was absolutely spot on 2km.

A triffic thing they did at Bondi was to award little prizes to what swim spirit Cyril Baldock referred to as "the average swimmer" in each age group -- the average time. What they did was to take the swimmer in the middle of the age group, say 15th out of 30 swimmers in the age group, and give them a prize, too. If that swimmer wasn't present, then Cyril read down the list until they got someone who was there. It wasn't really the "average" swimmer, more the median swimmer. But the difference is immaterial. The gesture recognised the rank and file. "We want this swim to be the swimmers' swim," Cyril told the mob over the electric microphone. Indeed. We applaud the move.

A melancholic feel at the end of the day. We have two more swims in NSW -- at Evans Head on the June long weekend and Mona Vale on June 26 -- and Queensland has the 3.8km Caloundra swim next weekend. But the season now is as good as over. Noice to have life a bit easier, but sad to miss the good times over the past eight months.

Into winter now, into the Pacific... another favourite part of the year. Come to think of it, it's always our favourite part of the year. Not a bad way to be, perhaps.

Tell us about your swims...

Monday, May 2, 2011


I wasn’t there for the Blues festival, but I had the blues after the Byron Bay swim this year.
My third time and worst result. I did an awful 14 minutes slower than last year . I barely beat five other women in my age group.
Why why why?
It has been two months since my last event – the Pier to Perignon from Sorrento to Portsea. But I swam that event faster than Byron, despite the course being more than twice as long.
And I know conditions were not favourable at Byron this year. Everyone seemed to pull up slower times and the local paper reported that there was heavy chop around the point and a blustery offshore wind made it hard going in the home straight.
The home straight? The whole way if you ask me. I didn’t find it particularly hard to get out, but once around the point it was a slog the whole way home. There was a decent swell, which meant visibility was tricky. The pines of the surf club were even hard to spot. So I made the mistake of following some guys in front of me and they led my astray. We ended up to the left of either the fourth or fifth buoy and the lifeguards were sternly pointing us back to the buoy, about 50 metres to my right. I briefly considered not swimming around it, but I would only have been cheating myself wouldn’t I. Every time I lifted my head for a look for the finish, I seemed to cop a mouthful of salty water. By the time the finish line loomed I was sick of it. Sick of swimming, sick of stroking, sick of not being there yet. Finally I stood up when everyone else did, and was promptly dumped by a massive wave – a 360 degree forward roll dumping that filled my bathers and my nose with sand. When I finally got to check my watch there wasn’t much time left under the hour. Truly uninspiring.
And while I’m at it, the t-shirt was awful. Purple with all the sponsors’ names on the front. I totally understand the importance of sponsors but unless they swim with me, their names should be on the back.
There were some good things about the event. I got to meet the lovely and talented Seppo (Michelle from Brisbane) who won a place in her age group. I got to meet some Peninsula Pirates, who have been intimidating me for years in Bay swims, and I discovered they are not so scary out of the water.
And the rain that had dogged our visit to Byron finally stopped and we had blue skies for the swim.
But I must say I enjoyed the two pre race day swims with the locals much more than the actual event. On Friday and Saturday we met them on the deck at the club. A bunch of fit looking veterans, mainly men, led the walk down to the other end of the beach and then the swim back to the club. Lovely. Particularly on Saturday when we swam towards a complete rainbow. That was my swim highlight.
I have to come back next year. Pride demands it. I can do better.
That’s it for me this year. I’m off to the pool to work on my technique. But I’ll be back for the Brighton swim when the weather warms up again. See you in the water.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arrival of winter swimming

South Curl Curl, Byron Bay... they herald the start of winter swimming season. All around the coast, clubs with names like Icebergs, Splashers, Mackerals, Frigid Frogs got going this weekend in the winter swimming season, many of them at beach pools on beaches which, until now, have been the scene of ocean swims. The Byron Bay swim has been held on the first Sunday in May because, traditionally, that's the start of winter swimming (it's nothing to do with the Labour Day holiday in Queensland). Now South Curly is building a similar tradition, although their timing has been more to do with finding an empty Sundee in Sydney.

Port Macquarie was Sat'dee, too, and that was to do with the Port Macquarie Iron May. So, really, these swims have little to do with the start of winter swimming, outside Byron Bay. But together, that's what they herald.

And what a weekend! South Curly deserves credit for the courage they showed in going ahead with the swell as it was on their own beach. Curly is gnarly in any kind of swell, but when it gets up, it is one of the most dangerous beaches on the coast. So it was moved to Freshwater, next door, and what a lovely swim it was. Some very big swells rolling through, but the rip ripped us out to the gates, and it wasn't too difficult getting back. Ended up at 1.47km, with a couple of hundred of metres of that running into the sea.

The swell was from the east, which means Byron would not have had the protection it normally has from difficult seas, which usually roll in from the sou'-east. Port Macquarie switched their course into the Hastings River.

How was your swim this weekend...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter swims...

Wildly diverse swims over Easter... Tilbury Classic at Nowra Culburra, then a glorious day at Pacific Palms, near Forster, then almost a wash-out at Coogee-Bondi, which went ahead as a truncated swim inside the bay at Coogee...

Tell us about your weekend of swimming...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

2nd Super Sat'dee-Sundee...

The start of the season's 2nd Super Sat'dee-Sundee... eight swims this weekend, that we know of, one postponed before the weekend got under way... two Sat'dee, six Sundee, two Queensland, six NSW...

New start to it, with a new swim, The Swim for Saxon, at Queenscliff, at the northern end of Steyne beach, named for Saxon Bird, the 19-year-old Queenscliff iron man who was killed at the Stra'an Surf Life Saving Champeenships on the Gold Coast a year ago. And for that reason, the biggest turn out of gun swimmers we've seen in years. And they came to swim for Saxon. We know this because the winning swimmer, Tom Fraser-Holmes, donated his $1,000 winner's prize back to Queenscliff surf club for rescue equipment. What a nice young lad! And proof that these kids don't always just swim to pay their squad fees.

It was a miserable morning on the beach, to be sure, with the wind howling in, the rain driving almost horizontally, freezing us to the bones -- and, in our case, that's through a fair bit of flesh -- and leaving us wondering why the hell we were there. The break was a mushy mess, whitewater everywhere, rips galore, gutters and banks, waves crashing and rolling in every which way. But the water! Oh, the water... so warm, so clear... so clear, indeed, that you could count the grains of sand on the bottom. It was, without doubt, the noicest water we've swum in all season. But, by all accounts from those who swim along that beach each morning, it's been like that down there for a few weeks now. How lucky they are.

Shellharbour also ran on Sat'dee, with Warriewood, Terrigal, Mollymook, Dicky Beach and Hervey Bay due on Sundee. Bondi postponed before the weekend to May 22. A courageous decision, by a club whose beach faces sou'-east, directly into the bad weather this weekend.

But tell us what you thought... click the comments link below...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lovely autumn swim at Stanwell Park...

Lovely day, typical of the autumn ocean swimming season, at Stanwell Park. Water clean and reasonably clear, equable temperature, bright, sunny day with a clear blue sky, and a gentle offshore breeze to smoothe out the water and keep those pesky blueys out to sea.

Gee, it was noice. But tell us what you thought... What was your swim like...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Seas subside for season ending intro...

Lucky swimmers! In NSW, anyway, where the seas subsided to allow the North Steyne and Shark Island swims to go ahead, while their direction probably meant they would not have affected South West Rocks, one of Stra'a's most glorious beaches, facing north away from turbulence from the South. Coogee (the other Coogee) ran in the West.

From our eyrie here in Paris, it all looked noice. While we've been here (three days in Paris after a week darn sarth), spring has arrived (see right). Now we know why scientists say the seasons change on the equinox, because this one certainly did. Paris is greening as we watch it, and the railway corridor yesterdee from Paris to Orleans was a corridor of emerging colour.

We swam on Fridee in a pool in Paris, and that was an experience that we'll blob about in the next couple of days. We'll have Aquagirl's report from Bonbeach, last weekend's season ender in Victoria, up very soon. But tell us about your swims this weekend...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Such a perfect day on Sydney Harbour, Tangalooma...

... it was such a perfect day at Sydney Harbour. It seems this swim just strikes some of the best days of the season. We recall one of the earlier swims at which it rained very heavily after the swim, but all the rest, pretty well, have been like this. The water was the best we've tasted it, for the harbour, there was a gentle chop, just a little breeze from the nor'-east to take the edge of the heat, and plenty of sunshine. Just so noice.

Results are up now. Later on, we'll break them into categories and handicaps. And we'll post our report, which will be words from Aquagirl, visiting from Frankston South, photograrphs from Glistening Dave, and our video, "'ullo, Eileen!"

We hear they had a good time t Tangalooma, too. Check out @seppo311's comment below... Settles rear their ugly heads again.

But tell us about your swimming this weekend, whatever and wherever...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Super Sundee (Super Weekend)...

It was Super Sundee in NSW, Super Weekend, really, with five swims on offer with 11 events in all. Don't know which way to look. We arrived at Freshwater to see the Manly course laid out past the headland with our marker booees. Some people turned up and were heard to gasp in wonder, "gee, it's a long swim!" But, no, the Freshie people didn't require us to swim all the way down to Manly and back.

All three swims on Sundee reported triffic conditions -- Freshie, Manly and Tamas-Cloey. Water is so clear right now, you can reach out and pat the blue groper, maybe not the baby sharks. We got some noice video, we think, and will post it on very soon.

It rained in Coffs, a bit, and Lake macquarie was a bit blowy from the south with side chop, disorienting particularly those who float high in the water.

But tell us about your swims...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tour of Booees, Pier to Perignon, Rotto, et al...

We hear everyone had fun at the Pier to Perignon, particularly in the vanilla slice shop at Sorrento afterwards. Rotto was hot, glorious, but slow. People so far are positive about Long Reef, except for @_Perama who turned up first at Freshwater and wondered why there was no swim in evidence.

Tell us what you thought... your experiences... Use the comments button below...

Pier to Perignon ... swimming with the Premier

Swimming in the Pier to Perignon event is a season highlight for many reasons.
It's a great swim - 4.5 km from Sorrento front beach along the coast til you hit Portsea front beach.
It's hard to get into - only 700 spots which filled up within a day of entries opening.
It is an extremely beautiful part of the world. Gorgeous coast, clear water.
This year has been a bad season for ocean swimming down south because of terrible weather - lots of rain resulting in awful water conditions.
And an added bonus for me this year was meeting my on line swimming and tweeting colleagues AquaGirl and Dolphin Jo.
We caught up on the start line and it was lovely to have some new swimming buddies to bond with.
For a change this summer, the weather forecast was promising, high 20s and light breezes.
So my swimming buddy and I got down the night before, had our pre race pasta and wine at a friendly Italian bistro in Sorrento and got an early night.
Registration opens at 9.30. We were there at 9.15 as excited as kids on a school excursion (no, more excited, I went on some pretty boring school excursions).
Conditions were really picture perfect. Calm, sunny and benign.
Thanks to our buddy, Age journalist Russell Skelton, who had written about a competitor swimming over a shark, my sb was in a state of mild anxiety, but the organisers assured her it was a dolphin, not a shark, that the swimmer saw in a year gone by (well they would say that wouldn't they).
P to P does things a bit differently. We all wear pink caps and we all go off together. Well sort of together. Lots of competitors (you know who you are) ignored the organisers pleas to get back towards the shore and started walking out before the start signal. So it was a water start as we all followed them to get that extra what, 10 seconds? advantage of not starting on the beach.
It is quite an occasion. Bands, fly overs, in previous years even a cannon. This year, I presume because we had the Premier (who started the race with a mate over 20 years ago) swimming, we also had a water rescue boat. As you might remember, we lost Prime Minister Harold Holt in water not far from there (but way more dangerous) several years ago. We don't want it to happen again, which is unlikely as Big Ted is a really good swimmer. He finished in a handy 45 minutes. Meanwhile the rescue boat brought up the rear.
Swimming for 4.5 km really allows you to get your act together. Plenty of time to get into a good rhythm, think of sharks, dismiss thoughts of sharks, wonder how far you've got to go, wonder why you can't see any lifesavers, wonder if you are going the right way, wonder if you should be swimming closer to the shore or further out to take advantage of the current.
This is my fourth crack at this swim and I was reasonably confident that I knew what I was doing. I decided to stay out wide and go with the flow. I felt well trained, ready and raring to go.
My goal with this swim is to beat an hour - the first two years I didn't and last year I did it in 56 minutes. Last year was also special because I swam it with my brother who came out from the UK to do this as a 50th birthday treat. He beat me, as usual, but it was great to have that sibling rivalry alive and well after so many years.
There are probably as many opinions on how to do the event as there are competitors - go wide, hug the coast, swim through the boats, swim around them.
I decided to go out and take my chances, and keep my eyes on the pack in front.
This year, I did have some swimming neighbours who were within sight for the whole course. Last year it felt like I did the whole race on my own.
It really is a simple course. Get in at Sorrento, turn left at first buoy, follow the coast, turn left at next buoy - which is at Portsea - pass third and final buoy close to shore and you're there.
It gets a bit choppy around Point King, and you want to watch out for boats and the Sorrento ferry, but there really are no hazards with this one.
No jelly fish this year. And I didn't see any lifesavers either. I guess they were there, but not within my sight until I turned for home at Portsea front beach.
A few minutes of strong stroking gets you to the finish line - tide not impossible this year.
Corssed the finish line at clocked in at 52.22. Very happy. A PB and way faster than I could ever swim in the pool. Got to love that strong current.
It was a very long walk to get water - the whole length of the front beach and then up into the reserve where there was a long line of thirsty and hungry competitors. But how can you complain when they give you bottles of water, muffins, free sausage sandwiches, a cap, and t shirt for bragging rights.
That's the last swim of the season I have scheduled and it was a great season ender, unless I'm tempted by a few more while the weather permits.
Finished off with world's best vanilla slice in Sorrento. And decided to sleep in and miss squad tomorrow. But I will be back on Tuesday. Promise, coach!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Swimming the heads - vainglorious or just glorious?

I just noticed that one G Greer (Germaine?) posted a message criticising OsC and his friends' trans-Heads swim, saying the chances of being eaten are greater over the depths of the channel and that a shark-induced fatality would set back the cause of ocean swimming.

He/she suggested this was a vainglorious and selfish stunt.

I'm not one to jump thoughtlessly to OsC's defence, particularly after being called a professional Pom by him (I'm an amateur Pom/Aussie), but I thought this a tad harsh, on the facts at least.

Given that the channel between the Heads is deep and that a lot of nasty snappy bitey things go in and out of the Heads, does this make it more likely that an attack will occur? I'm not so sure.

Admittedly, you don't see many swimmers between the heads but most shark sughtings, attacks, etc seem to happen in shallow waters. The only fatality in Sydney since the war was in the harbour in knee deep water. The attack on a diver last year was off Garden Island - in the close vicinity of two ocean swims this year.

And I seem to remember some guy having a small chunk taken out of him in the river at Parramatta about 10 years ago.
Certainly sharks breed at near the Spit, so they have to go past Balmoral to get there - scene of another ocean swim in March.

Let's face it, there are sharks out there. Your chances of being eaten are improved by going out at shark dinner time (dawn or dusk), looking like a seal in a wet suit (so they say, whoever they are) and swimming alone.

Does deeper water and a busy channel equate to greater risk for a group of people in budgies, swimming outside feeding time? I'm not so sure - and call me vainglorious but I'd love to do such a swim, if I had the stamina. And I'd gladly increase my shart attack risk a tad by weraing a wet suit if it kept the stingers away.



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sri Chinmoy Lake Swim - Looking for Nirvana

Sri Chinmoy Lake Swim Canberra 5k 20th February

Looking for Nirvana from the muddy banks of the Molonglo ...

Sri Chinmoy spent his life practising sport to express his philosophy of self-transcendence.
Being an old sceptic, I usually don't have much faith in this philosophy.
Still, I do try to go to keep an open mind when I go to these kinds of events that are organised by people who are committed to their beliefs.

The evening before

My first mistake was to drive down to the lake on Saturday evening to check out the conditions. I knew about the algae warnings, but I didn't expect the water to be so brown.
My previous experience swimming in Lake Burley Griffin was the Sri Chinmoy Capital Swim in 2009.
Lovely cool clear water then. It would be different tomorrow.

I arrived early at Yarralumla Bay on Sunday morning and registered for the 5k lake swim and lined up at the start with the small group of purple-capped 5k swimmers. The course being 2 laps around a 2.5k circuit.

I was a little hesitant to enter the brown water. Finally I dove into the murky water and pushed off.
My suspicions were confirmed - Zero visibility - Well almost zero anyway, maybe about one foot. I could see my arm about as far as my elbow, then my forearm and hand disappeared into the gloom.

Nursing a shoulder strain from a week of tough pool training, my plan was to take it easy for the 1st lap.
I knew I could push through shoulder pain on the 2nd lap if the shoulder blew up.
I find mentally the 1st half of a long swim is always the hardest. It seems to take me ages to relax and get into a rhythm. So usually after nearly an hour of swimming I'm doing it tough, knowing that I have still at least double the distance to go to get to the finish.
A couple of times I thought I might get out after completing just 1 lap (2.5k) and blaming it on the conditions. But then put my head down and got back into a repetition of stroke-stroke-breathe, and that negative creep went away.

After completing the 1st lap and passing the halfway mark, I was feeling much better. The 2nd half always seems to be easier, like swimming downhill, with the end in sight.
A northerly wind had come up and was starting to chop up the course.
I had tried to avoid swallowing any of the brown and algae water, but now there was no escaping it, with the chop splashing my face as a turned to breathe. I tried to spit out as much as I could.

Shoulders were hurting as I passed the last turning buoy, with a 600m straight swim to the finish.
Just concentrating on maintaining a slow consistent stroke now, happy that I would be finishing today's race.

With 50m to go, I lifted my head and could read the writing on the FINISH sign.

Then from nowhere and without me thinking about it, a burst of energy filled my body. My kick grew stronger, my body flattened out and my arms were pulling harder with perfect technique. I didn't feel the weight of the water; it felt like I was skimming over the surface. I was smiling underwater as I flew through the finish gate.

It was certainly a good feeling to finish on such a positive high.
Most likely it was an unconscious reaction to me being happy to finish a tough swim in adverse conditions, and pleased to conquer my negative thoughts before and during the race.
Those who are more spiritual might say that, on a muddy lake in a strange town, I enjoyed a small part of the self-transcendence experience.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Different strokes at Malabar...

Just back from Malabar, which is a pretty cove, also known as Long Bay, in Sydney's south-eastern suburbs. Water was glorious, perfect even, apart from the fact that there were no waves at all. At all. It was a pool swimmers' swim. Flat, even, little current, clear, clean water, not even stingers -- ah, yes, one punter was stung by a bluey at the outer reaches of the 2.37km course. But that's not much, for the rest of us. Sorry for the punter, however.

It was stiflingly hot, too. Stiflingly. Race organiser Murray Rose promised us a southerly at 12 noon. And during the longer swim, as we stood in waist deep water, we felt a sou'-easter waft around our face, tantalisingly, teasingly. It was so stiflingly hot. Water temp c. 23C. Noice.

In water like that, there's not much point us sitting on turning booees out in the sea taking pitchers o' punters schlepping around the course. After we'd observed the starts, they all were gone, and there are only so many images of swimmers in flat water one can see before one screams. So we shot video again, and this time, for something a little different, we decided to focus on stroke technique. Not as a class, but as a demonstration of the vast array of strokes on display in an ocean swim. If there are 880 swimmers in a swim, as there were today, then there'll be 880 different strokes. Some of them weird, some of them wonderful (you work out which is which). Anyway, we'll post this video on our report page on later tonight (Sundee).

Hard to believe Malabar/Long Bay used to be one of Sydney's most polluted beaches, with the Malabar sewage treatment works pumping out the nasty stuff just around the point for so many years. The deep ocean outfalls changed all that, however. Now the nasty stuff is spread more widely, and comes in at Cronulla, albeit in far weaker strengths.

It's a long day. We left Casa Sparkle at 0700, and returned at 1600. It's a long day. But we took a bit of extra time afterwards to show our new friend, Aida, who's Mexican now living in Belgium, around the eastern suburbs. Aida -- first person we've met with an opera named after them -- is a friend of Shelley Clarke from the FINA world open water circuit. Aida picked up 1sts in her age group in both the 1km and the 2.37km today. That's Aida above. We had lunch in that cafe strip at Bronte. Aida ordered an "Aussie Burger", and couldn't believe the size of it. "How do I eat it?" she cried. No wonder we're going the way of the Americanos el Norte with obesity in Stra'a.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

To swim or not to swim in dirty water



All week the signs have been bad for today's Cerberus swim at Half Moon Bay. The EPA said water quality was poor, the weather forecast worse. And then it rained heavily overnight. Let's face it, the water in Port Phillip Bay is filthy.

I ummed and ahhed about whether to line up, particularly as it's the big season highlight next weekend - the 4.5 km Sorrento to Portsea swim. Fine athlete that I am trying to be, I cannot afford to get sick this close to the big event.

On the other hand, I needed a challenging lead up swim, and I had personal demons to overcome at Half Moon Bay. Last year's swim was my worst ever and I had almost vowed not to come back. Last year was also a wild windy day, and they changed the course so it didn't go around the sunken Cerberus, for fear of us all smashing into it. The start was way down the beach and I was late to get there - unheard of for Ms Organisation. But worse. jellyfish. My personal worst thing. Couldn't swim without running into them lurking a foot below the surface right where I wanted to stroke. I had to do a shallow very slow Aussie crawl and emerged a very grumpy competitor.

This year can't be as bad I kept telling myself. All week, my swimming buddy and I went back and forth, would we, wouldn't we.

Finally we signed up on line, though conditions kept deteriorating with the water quality. And today dawned hot and humid. What's going on? We don't do humid in Melbourne.

And I had a long trip to the start. I only live 15 minutes away, but my annual work conference was overnight at Healesville - that's a weekend away for me! I rang my sb anxiously on the way home because it looked like I would be late again. Fortunately we 'veterans" go off well after most others and I got there in plenty of time.

But again conditions were against us. Wild wind, strong northerly, wild waves, water impossible to see through. Course organizers had to modify the course- no swimming around the boat. And the Finish line fell over as well as a few marquees.

At least it was warm.

So us veterans all lined up together men and women. There were only 12 women in my group - only the mad keen would try it today.

And it was wild. Huge unpredictable waves. This is a bay beach acting like a surf beach. But once you surrendered to the feeling, it was fun. Waves smashed you coming and going and we all veered right towards South Melbourne. But there were plenty of lifesavers on Boards to point us In the right direction.

Out we battled, going up , over and through the waves. Within the first few yards I had swallowed my first mouthful. So I'm waiting to see what effect swimming in poor rated water has on the body.

But we crashed and bashed on, rounded the buoys and then got some lovely wave assistance on the short leg home.

Very satisfying to hit that finish line. But could I put in a request to the swimming gods for some decent conditions next year. It would be good to get around that boat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

KAOSVIC gets out of the ocean and into the lake

Not much swimming to be had the the Bay this weekend, with the EPA forecasting dire consequences if you dared to take on flood affected, Yarra infused local beaches.
Lucky there was an alternative, even if it was only for the invited few.
I travelled about 90 minutes out of town to Daylesford for the second annual Lake Daylesford Swim Classic.
An old school friend lives there, and her brother and a few mates organise this boutique swimming event - a good reason to catch up with old friends and try a different type of swimming event.
It's swim at your own risk, no liability, but two of the organisers are local doctors.
I was keen to give it a go, never having, to my memory, ever swum in a lake.
As close as I have been to Lake Daylesford is to walk around it building up an appetite for tea and scones at the tea house, or looking over it from the special occasion Lake House on its shores - which claims to be one of Australia's best restaurants.
It was a chilly start to the day in Daylesford. Could it have been 7 degrees in summer? Definately a wet suit event.
At 10 am 15 of us lined up - up from 12 entrants last year. We all got a number on our hand, and we were all to go off together in the 1.3 km course.
The race briefing was simple. Swim to the first red flag at the other end of the lake, turn right to the next marker with balloons, cross the lake, hug the shore past the tea rooms and home via the little beach (patch of sandy stuff. not really a beach)
Sounds easy, but local knowledge is a fine thing. Who knew you can't see a thing in the lake? All the locals took off at a good clip, leaving me to enjoy the scenic view in my own time. Don't believe I have ever swum past gum trees before.
Not a hard swim, nor a fast one for me. In fact everyone else was home and hosed by the time I did a few gentle breaststrokes to finish (never never breaststroke in ocean races, but was a little scared of what a freestyle stroke might strike on the bottom of the lake).
Lots of prizes for the participants. Winning guy - James Cooper - did it in 14.17; winning girl - Emily Gartland - did 18.28. I got the Esther Williams encouragment prize for my graceful stroke.
Peter O'Mara, Beth Quinn and Greg Stewart ran a fine convivial race. If you want an invitation for next year, let me know and I'll introduce you to the committee.
The swim co-incided with local producers gournet food day at the Lake House. Post event I started with samples of garlic paste; blueberries, honey, sourdough bread and oil and lunched on local wine, gourmet wood fired pizza and lemon tart. Happy drive home.

Bumpy and breezy at North Bondi...

Overcast, windy, weather from the sou'-east blowing straight into Bondi today, but it still was a good day. The water was a bit sandy close in, but crystalline once you got out past the rocks a bit. The Express was running full on today: see how everyone hugged the rocks to get out, and the farther out they went, the closer in they hugged. That was the rocks drawing them in in embrace.

We took video today and will post it a bit later in the evening, we plan.

What did you think of today's swims?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cole Classic... here we go again...

The Cole Classic is this weekend, the third outing of this event under the ownership of Fairfax Meeja. And we expect to be welcoming a whole lot of new ocean swimmers as a result, and that's terrific. But every year, we have a whinge about how we believe Fairfax Meeja diss the ocean swimming community, and every year, we get the odd few people whingeing back at us for our whingeing in the first place. These issues remain, however, and we feel we have a duty, as the unofficial meeja outlet of ocean swimming, to point out a few things. Heaven forbid, if we didn't do it, all these new swimmers whom Fairfax are bringing into our sport -- and we acknowledge that they bring in lots every year -- well, if we didn't point out some truths, then all these new swimmers would think the treatment they get from Fairfax is common to the sport, when it's not. The only result of our whingeing to date, however, is that Fairfax won't play speaks with us, and by and large their dissing and ignorance of the ocean swimming community continues.

This blob now is prompted right now by the imminence of this year's Cole, next weekend, and by the news that Fairfax Meeja now have taken on a "new" event -- new for them -- at Dee Why, where they seem to be perpetuating many of their existing practices. The third prompter is an email we received today from David Collins, who wrote to Fairfax yesterday, thus,
    I have just broken my wrist and cannot compete in the Cole this year. Can I transfer my registration to another person? If not, is a refund available?
Seems a reasonable request to us. Most swims automatically would allow a refund, especially seven days ahead of the event. We do this all the time in cases of genuine need and, often, when swimmer's circumstances change and they cannot make a swim for which they've entered and paid. Generally, we retain a small admin fee to cover bank transaction fees for two transactions (payment and refund). Anyway,  Fairfax's "Natasha" responded to David...
We are very sorry to hear that you will no longer be able to participate. Unfortunately, was have passed the cut off for a medical refund.
Then Natasha appears to cut and paste a section of the Cole Classic's FAQs...
    "Can I get a refund or Transfer my registration?

    There are no refunds or transfers for this event. If you have an injury that prevents you from swimming, a medical certificate may be submitted for a refund of 50%. This can only be done up until 5pm on Friday, January 14, 2011."
David is not the first one to be disadvantaged by this policy of whom we're aware, but it's sad and a reflection on the Fairfax organisation that they are so unsympathetic to the plight of people in his position. It's not as if, after all, David planned to break his wrist right now and contrived to seek the refund. The matter is even worse when you consider that "earlybird" entries to the Cole's main event are $49, and $59 in the final several weeks. Fairfax are making a fortune out of the Cole and give very little to charity in return. They trumpet their support for charity, but most of their support is to encourage entering swimmers to raise funds themselves to donate. Fairfax themselves donate very little, indeed nothing that we're aware of apart from a $25,000 donation to Manly LSC for providing course layout and water safety services on the day. In the meantime, Fairfax are raising something in the area of $200,000 from entry fees alone, never mind sponsorship, and that's a conservative estimate.

It's hard to know how much precisely they make, and how much they may pay to various organisations and individuals for various things, because they don't publish their accounts. Indeed, we went through Fairfax's annual report last year to see what we could find, and we couldn't even find the Cole Classic mentioned, or any of their other highly lucrative events.

Apart from exorbitant entry fees and unreasonable requirements for "early bird entry" -- swims are not runs: New South Head Rd does not change in wild and windy weather, whereas the ocean does, and swimmers like/need to better assess conditions closer to swim time before deciding whether to enter -- they also do questionable things like require you to pick up your "Race Pack" in the city on the Friday ahead or at Manly on the day ahead (early, early entrants have theirs mailed out to them). What this means is that swimmers are inconvenienced by having to make a trip across town, probably two trips in two days, just to get their chips.

There is a worrying corollary to this: by distributing chips in advance and not providing on-day registration, Fairfax Meeja has absolutely no idea who enters the water on race day. Thus they have no idea whether all swimmers make it back to the beach safely. We remain amazed that their insurers let them get away with this. We regard that as an unsafe practice.

There are many other matters that we would raise, but ...

But if you have problems, issues with the Cole Classic, then this is the place to vent them. Often, it helps just to be able to have your say.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Big Swim, the Bloody Big Swim, Queenscliff, etc...

It's the season's peak... Aquagirl and DolphinJo snagged 1st by 16 minutes in the Bloody Big Swim in Melbourne, Kaosvic bought books then lunch after swimming by Queenscliff pier, and on Sundee, a few hours into the future, over 1,700 swimmers will swim Palm-Whale. It is the season's peak.

Tell us about it... what was good about the swims, and what was bad about them... what happened to you?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No newds is good newds, at Mt Martha, on the bottom in Farm Cove, fog in Newie, et al...

Where to start -- when we alighted from the 6:38 from Meadowbank at Circular Quay (changed at Central), the harbour was shrouded in fog. You could barely see the Opera House, you couldn't see the bridge, and ferries came and went, emerging from the fog and disappearing back into it... But then it lifted to a scorcher of a glorious day, in some truly pristine water (all things are relative - we were in Sydney Harbour), and we walked on the bottom in Farm Cove over firm, clean sand, by wafting, waving farms of bright green weed. It was a lovely swim, if cramped in the facilities.

Down at Mt Martha, @Aquagirl72 had been drooling, even bragging over the fact that the swim there was offering a Newd division on Stra'a Day,  ie without wetties. This is new for Victorian swims, we thought, although a Victorian friend in the check in line under the Opera House steps told us several swims down there had taken up the challenge by providing newdist waves. Aquagirl was v. excited. An excitement doused as with a fire hose when she arrived at Mt Martha to find they wouldn't accept newdist entries on race day. But they would accept conventional entries, it seems, so she had to swim newd in a wettie wave. Good girl for doing it, anyway, but perhaps someone from Mt Martha could explain the rationale behind not allowing newdist entries on race day but allowing wettied ones. Go figure.

Up at what the locals these days appear to call Newie -- an appalling moniker for the city of our birth -- the Newcastle Harbour Classic became the only swim this season so far to attract an enormous proportional increase in pre-race day entries: up more than 50 per cent on last year's onlines. There was fog there, too, we're told, but it, too, cleared to a bewdiful day.

There were swims in plenty of other places, too.. Lake Glenbawn in the Upper Hunter, where blokes do that swim vertically, Brighton, in Melbourne's Bayside suburbs, where @KAOSVIC had told us a few days back the water was putrid, a new swim at Hervey Bay, a swim/run at Burleigh Heads, Scarborough in the West, Kingston Beach in Tassie, Grange in Adelaide, Williamstown in Melbourne, and the 'Gong, souther Sydney.

Tell us about your swims on Stra'a Day...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blueys at Mona Vale, eye candy at Cooly, Port Campbell... etc

Third week in a row, there've been blueys all the way up and down the Sydney coast, yet we swam without injury. North Bondi, Avalon, and now Mona Vale. Thought we were lucky. About to decide to start going to church. Even sat off the last booee taking pitchers in water that was clear and the warmest it's been all season. And no stings.

But then we got into the beach and saw the carnage of the early waves. Some horrific injuries on younger swimmers especially. That'll teach 'em to be fast! And to show all us codgers up. Poor Max Collins who, as the afternoon wore on, found one of his welts forming blisters. Max reckoned they didn't hurt, but then Mrs Sparkle had gone to town on him...

Mrs Sparkle ran hither and thither applying X-Sting-Wish (which she retails) to every injury she could find. Needed confirmation that the stuff works. We applied Ross' Jelly Fish Sting Relief, which we're trialling for Ross down in Melbourne, to see whether it works on blueys. Did you have any applied to your injuries? Which worked?

Lovely swim, but, apart from the blueys. Our friend, Patricia, doubted they really were blueys, since she said the stingers appeared to be gossamer threads with no head. We've seen similar things in the tropics, mainly. We did see dead blueys on the beach at Warriewood before the start (the only good bluey is a dead bluey, but even then they can sting so even then they're not good).

Anyway, tell us your story...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A dozen swims are barely enough...

We count 11 swims on 'round Stra'a this weekend, starting with a biggie, Portsea, down on the tip of the péninsula, over a journey course in the national park, today, Sat'dee. Also Torquay today, Cape Patterson Sundee. Scarborough, in the West, today, Albany Sundee. In NSW, Avalon, Penrith, and a Swim we heard of only yestee, Fingal Beach, just outside Port Stephens (South side of the Heads) tomorrow (thanks to @maitlandswimmer for tipping us off). Tathra, way don South, also Sundee. And Devonport, in Tassie, and West Beach, in Adelaide, also tomorrow, you can do West Beach tomorrow after twitter riding with Lance Armstrong today...

@swimsparkle and @tacomajim doing 8km training session for Rotto today at Balmoral with Coach Charm, and with Shark Shield.

Tell us about your swims, formal/structured or informal/unstructured...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lorne, Sorrento, North Bondi, Cottesloe, Gerringong...

Lorne 154
Lorne was a big day, as we saw on the telly, although we were mightily disappointed to see Victorian Premier, Ted "Death to the Wettie" Baillieu, sporting a wettie for the second year in a row. Even worse, it was on the telly! For all the world to see! Is there no shame?
So we sms-ed Ted seeking his explanation, and we tweeted. And within minutes, the Premier of Victoria was on the phone seeking to explain himself. He was with his daughter, Eleanor, driving out of Lorne, through those windy (as in wind around) hills along the Great Ocean Rd, and the signal cut in and out. But Ted reckoned he had to wear the wettie, because he was racing Eleanor, in a wettie, and pride was at stake. The way the Pier to Pub is organised, it probably was that Ted and Eleanor were swimming at vastly different times, so one would have no idea how the other was going and what time they had to beat. We'll cop it this year, Ted, just like we copped the team excuse last year. But it won't wash forever. Your membership of the Death to the Wettie Institute, and your credibility, is at stake here.
That said, it's noice to have an ocean swimmer as premier. Victoria has a good record at that in recent years. Steve Bracks is a swimmer, albeit a regular wettie wearer, as we understand. Indeed, a good proporation of Bracks's cabinet are/were swimmers. Why can't the NSW people match this?
Aquagirl was at Lorne, as any of you who follow her tweets will be well aware. Her tail along the 3 1/2 hour trek in a 25-seater bus from Frankston, the long way around through Melbourne, and back again, was a saga of missed loo stops and revolt. All very messy, she said on her way home. And there were 4,000 others there, too. Lorne is the largest individual ocean event in Stra'a, and quite possibly the world. The Cole Classic may claim more overall, but theirs is split between two events.
We're off to North Bondi tomorrow. Looking forward to it.
Over in the West, Brett Martin tweeted about having his goggles kicked off by a breaststroker on the first booee in the Cottesloe Mile. It was a very blurry swim after that, said Brett.
But tell us about your swims this weekend... all the good bits, and the bad bits. All the contributions to culcha, all the mishaps, the gaffes, the heroics -- in the water and in the pub -- all the inside stories...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Black Head, Newport, Pt Lonsdale, Dungog... And beyond

As we write, we're on Stroud Rd Between Gloucester and Dungog, en route from Black Head to Sydney. This road is not conducive to typing, so we'll say only this: tell us about your New Year swims. Let the discussion begin...

Lovely day at Black Head: barely a cloud -- just passing Ram Station, perhaps one of those wife-swapping, group sex party ressorts -- water c. 22C, bit of a wave, and very warm (it's 37.5C on the road hère). How was it where you were?