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.


  1. It's what we've long felt: highlights of Byron are the informal swims, Fridee, Sat'dee and Mondee. Less stress, less crowded, more relaxed, chatty, then straight over to the pub.

  2. Hey KV don't beat yourself up.

    Time is relative, there's so many variables on an ocean swim.
    And then some days for no particular reason, you may misread the surf, or navigate wide, or get thumped by other swimmers, or take a while to settle into a relaxed stroke.
    On other days you fly through the water, ride the swell, find the rip out, catch that wave in, and hit all the buouys without looking.
    It's all part of the journey.
    Every swim is an adventure.

    I read about the conditions at Byron this year, it looked challenging. Sounds like it was one of those swims where you just had to put your head down and slog it out.

  3. I did the BB swim - this is my fourth in as many years - and I've never seen conditions like this. Usually, the Byron swim is a picnic - a leisurely cruise through a crystal clear, aquamarine fish tank over schools of fish, teams of turtles and sorties of stingrays (I try).

    But the weather dictated the state of play on Friday and Saturday, as frequent torrential downpours literally muddied the waters and caused the swim's organisers to consider cancelling the event while the surf at Clarke's Beach grew bigger and scarier in the countdown to Sunday.

    Then a miracle occurred. Sunday morning was cloudless and the conditions a little less daunting, though the surf was still frisky.

    The swim went ahead (yay - at $65, this swim must be the most expensive in NSW).

    This year the water was weed green, the perfect environment for bull sharks. Coming around THE PASS, I ingested litres of it as I struggled against the rise and fall of a formidable swell.

    The buoys were hard to spot and I found myself hitching a ride with anyone faster - thanks to all those highly competitive, boofy, black-capped blokes.

    Really, it's all a bit of an adventure.

    Tip: surround yourself with people who don't swim and who are in awe of your amazing ocean swimming feats - that way you don't have to ever feel like an underachiever.

  4. I didn't do the Byron swim this year largely due to the pricing and arrogance of the organising committee. I did have friends who competed and they weren't impressed with operation of the swim either. Things like including the shirt as part of the entry fee is problematic when they tell you they don't have one in your size. And the age group placegetter medals are just a generic medal with no specific inscription. These are things you don't normally make a big deal about but when you've been hit for $65 there is an expectation of something better. I noticed that there seemed to be about 400 less competitors this year compared to last. That's a lot to drop in one year and the sponsors must be wondering why they would want to be associated with an event that is attracting less people.
    A letter about the swim appeared in todays local paper. Thought some of the other swimmers might be interested in this. Hopefully there will be some changes, but if not there are plenty of other really well run swims for nowhere near the price (e.g., Forster, Coffs Harbour, Coolangatta, Evans Head???)


    John Haw

    Last swim
    This year will be the 22nd that
    I have competed in the annual
    Watego’s swim. Sadly it will be
    my last.
    As a former member of the
    organising committee, and
    a member of Byron Bay Surf
    Club helping with water safety
    in events such as these, I can
    appreciate the costs and effort
    that goes in to our annual swim.
    I also acknowledge the benefit
    to local charities and organisations.
    But when the average entry
    fee for all the major Sydney and
    east coast swims is $35, we have
    seen a 30 per cent increase over
    two years to $65. Quite frankly
    this has put the event out of reach for many local swimmers.
    Instead of a ‘trickle down’
    of awards we now have all the
    monetary prizes going to the
    few elite athletes who compete
    here once a year.
    As a longtime resident of
    the Byron Bay area I have seen
    a number of our local events
    grow to the point where they
    lose relevance to the local population,
    or simply leave town.
    James Bridgman
    Byron Bay

  5. Don't beat yourself up kerry! I've swum the winter whales swim twice and the conditions were incredibly favorable. Good on you for doing it in tricky conditions.
    I chose to not do the swim this year because of the ridiculous cost. Happy to report that the sth curly swim which was on the same day was much better.
    Luckily there are still a few big swims out there that remain well organized, friendly and don't cost a fortune - the palm beach to whale beach swim is a great example of this. I thoroughly recommend the smaller, out-of-town swims too.

  6. here's a story.

    Despite the reported atrocious conditions, Bill Ringland at the golden age of 89 completed the swim.

    My entry for the swimming Gold Logie of the season.

  7. Hey Kerry, Don't beat yourself up about it. Most importantly you matched your toenails to your togs which instantly made me smile! Bryon this year was a tough swim, rough waters and rough swimmers and low visibility. The "famous" pine trees were very hard to see until you were close to being finished, but not as hard to see as the buoys. If you need that many kids on boards directing swimmers than maybe you don't have enough buoys or that they aren't bigger enough????? Although i achieved a personal goal of cracking top ten, my time was less than desirable. However, I am always pleased with myself after an ocean swim, especially a tough one. I love that sense of achievement an ocean swim fills me with, which reminds me why I was waiting for my ride at 530am in the cold dark of a sunday morning.
    Shayne you hit the nail on the head, many of my nearest and dearest friends would never even attempt such a thing so yes whether i win lose or draw they always are in awe! ;)
    Kerry, see you next year if not earlier. Keep up the painted toes ;)


  8. Hi KV

    I was there for the first time this year. Most people I spoke to had done slower times. A good friend of mine did it 7 minutes slower this year, and he's just come off the back of completing his Gold Medallion.

    I must say, I enjoyed the 8am swim the next day more :)

  9. Thanks to all of you for encouraging comments. You really do inspire me to keep going. Pleased some of you found it hard going too. I'll be back!

  10. Sunday's Byron swim was also my fourth consecutive swim and my slowest by almost 10 minutes compared to last year. But last year was a fast swim (for me) and this year I had an interrupted preparation so I wasn't too disappointed particularly in the conditions.

    I have to confess though I missed one of the buoys too but didn't go back. I thought that I was on track but then I had someone on a jetski call out that I was too far out so I changed course and about 10 minutes later had the same person telling me I was too far in. When I stopped to check where I was I realised I had missed a buoy (and so had quite a few others too - hopefully they weren't all following me) and I had wondered why someone had swum straight across infront of me (Kerry perhaps?). I thought about going back but by that stage I was feeling pretty stuffed and I still had quite a long way to go plus I knew I wasn’t going to be in the top placings (or even top 10 or 20) so I swam over to the peloton and continued on my way.

    I did notice at the start of the swim numbers were considerably less than last year but apart from cost this may have also been because it was so close to Easter. I also noticed quite a few people without timing chips but I guess a lot of people hadn’t registered particularly as the last opportunity to register was Friday afternoon and the weather was not conducive to swimming (we registered during a tropical thunderstorm and were greeted by a small cheer when we arrived at the club) but the organisers confidently told us it was going to be sunny on Sunday!

    I would be interested to know if anyone swam across the bay on Monday. When we saw the conditions we decided to do the right thing and swim between the flags only to find there were no flags (winter) so we joined a few kids (and some adults) floating on our backs in the shallows being swept down the beach. It was a bit of fun – after all that’s what Byron and ocean swimming are all about.


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