Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lovely morn for a swim

Looked like a lovely morning for a swim, both in Newcastle, where the mob swam Nobbys to Newcastle, and in Sydney, where they swam through Cabbage Tree Bay at Manly. Was it noice at Bicton, too? We couldn't be there in person, although we had entrists in both events.

Where did you swim and how was it?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The curse of the monolateral breather

Perhaps it was because, for one of our first times, we were  mingling with the mob at the finish as a spectator rather than a swimmer, but we have never heard before so many punters whingeing about swallowing gobsful of sea water as we heard post the Bilgola Ocean Swim.

It was a blustery, bumpy day, of course. Glorious at the outset, the southerly blew through perhaps an hour prior to swim start, turning Billie beach into a sand-blasting cell. We were sitting under the registration tent. By the time we stood up, we had more sand on our heads than we had underfoot.

Out to sea, you couldn't see the booees, despite Billie organisers' best attempts. They are the masters of attaching helium balloons to the booees. The idea is that the helium balloons stand up above the booee, making the marker much easier to spot, particularly in a swell. On Sundee, however, the wind was so fierce that the helium balloons spent most of the time "sitting" on the surface of the sea. Every now and again, but, they'd bob up, just long enough to be of use to an otherwise hopelessly lost peloton. Which was just as well because you really couldn't see the booees otherwise. Not the organisers' fault, of course. They did their best. It was one of the most blustery southerly changes that we've witnessed blow through to change the personality of an ocean swim.

We're reminded of Bondi-Bronte last year - when, from our positions at the top of the park, with our cobber, Murray Cox, we watched the change come through like a curtain descending on the first act. Like South Curl Curl at the end of last season, when the change blew through as the starting waves left the beach. The swim to Freshie was essentially one reach, head first into the southerly. It was one of those swims in which we spent more time going up and down than forwards, or even backwards.

Billie was different: it was a circuit swim off the beach, so roughly half the legs would be into the southerly one way or another, whilst the other half - there were six reaches - were in some way with it, or at least across it. Organiser Cap'n Foran wisely changed the direction of the swim prior to the start, sending the mugs off anti-clockwise rather than the customary clockwise. This made the swim a little better, but perhaps not much. Mind you, we wouldn't know. We weren't out there. It was very, very blowy, and very, very bumpy. In such conditions, it's difficult to settle into a rhythm; difficult to get more than one decent stroke in succession. Into the southerly, it's just hard. The secret is to put your head down, lengthen and slow your stroke, and optimise your streamline. This will allow you to finish your stroke with an oomph and give you some push through the onrushing swell and chop until you deliver further momentum with your next grab. The optimal streamline means you will minimize the resistance through the water.

Sideways, it's different. A good streamline still will stand you in good stead, but the swell and the chop are coming at you from side-on. The difficulty then becomes one of getting clear air, as much air as you can to allow you to keep that long, slow stroke going. As soon as your air flow stops, your rhythm will stop, and so will your forward momentum.

The problem is, of course, that most punters breathe only one side, and if that side also happens to be the side from which the weather is attacking them, then every time they roll to breathe, with every breath they take, they'll take in an amount of sea water.

The causal problem is that most punters never were taught to swim proper as urchins, so they were never taught to breathe bilaterally.

Every decent swimmer should be able to breathe bilaterally: to breathe both sides. This is not to say that you should always breathe bilaterally: 3-stroke breathing, say, alternating your breath side to side. This also helps tremendously with your line. Bilateral breathing helps to neutralise your stroke defects: if you pull one way by breathing one way, then bilateral breathing will neutralise, or at least offset the damage. Interestingly, for us, anyway, many, if not most punters have different strokes according to which way they're breathing. And which arm is pulling through. For example, our right arm stroke is different when we're breathing right to when we're breathing left. It's probably true that we have four different strokes: one for pulling and breathing right, one for pulling right, breathing left, etc, etc. We know we have these different strokes, and we know that we pull to the left with some of them - ie go off course to the left - and we know we pull to the right with others. But breathing bilaterally at least will offset the damage.

But, as we say, it doesn't mean that you should breathe three-stroke or five-stroke. It means that you should be able to breathe both ways so that you have the choice. Our late mentor, Coach Sandra, once told us: "Breathe bilaterally, but breathe one way going up the pool, the other way coming back". The reason for this is that it allows us to breathe 2-stroke, which means we get more air. Some mugs need more air. We're one of them. So we generally breathe right heading up the pool, and breathe left coming back. (It also means that we always breathe away from Coach David, but that's so that Coach David can't remonstrate with us and get us to stop for a good telling off if he reckons we're doing the wrong thing. We don't like eyeballing the coach whilst we're swimming.)

But, the important thing is that we do breathe bilaterally, so in situations such as we witnessed at Billie on Sundee, we then have the choice whether to breathe into the wind and the chop - thus to risk the gobsful of water with each stroke - or to breathe away from the wind and the chop, allowing us clearer air.

It wasn't always so. We traditionally were left breathers. It wasn't until we were in our late 30s that we taught ourselves also to breathe right. It took some time, but we managed it. Indeed, every thing you try to do better and differently takes time, particularly when you're an old fart. You must simply persist. Us old farts are supposed to have a better perspective on life because we've been around longer, so we should be able to apply that longer term perspective to things such as stroke changes. Not to do so simply is lazy, physically and intellectually.

So how do we learn to breathe to an unfamiliar, unnatural side? Now, there's the question.

Some advice, we can give. When you swim to train, you have the opportunity  to work on your streamline. One of the good ways to do this - apart from doing torpedoes out from the wall - is to swim catch-up, or three-quarter catch-up, at least. It's not hard. It's all in the mind. Most people hate catch-up because they think they're going to sink. That's why they pull through early. But try this: when you're swimming along, no pressure, just you in the pool, try to swim as absolutely slowly as you can. And leave that leading arm (the one that's out in front waiting to pull through) out there just that little bit longer. One way to do that is to that is to stretch it out, deliberately, rather than pulling through as you normally would. Keep your head and neck loose, too, so that they follow the natural movement of the body. As you stretch your leading arm, a natural function also is to allow your corresponding hip - right arm leading, right hip - to drop just that little bit. Almost imperceptibly. That hip drop, however, is a key part of your rotation. As you drop your hip, your body, from the hips, will rotate, also almost imperceptibly. That rotation will bring your head around, very slightly, but enough to allow you, with your forward momentum, to take a breath. Breathing should not be a matter of throwing your head around - throwing your head around destroys your streamline - rather it should be a matter of your head rolling naturally with your body. Have a look at the good swimmers: when they breathe, their mouths actually are below the water line, but their forward momentum means the water rushes past their mouth, not into it, allowing them to breathe whilst not disrupting their streamline.

This will be easier on your natural breathing side. But stay relaxed; leave your body as loose and as supple as it can be; try very hard to swim as slowly as you can. And try that with your non-natural breathing side, too. Leave the leading hand out there, drop the hip, ever so slightly, as you stretch, allow the head to roll as your hip drops and your body rotates, and suck in that air from your unnatural side, just as you did on your dominant side. Try it with fins, if you really can't get your head around it at the start, then gradually lose the fins.

You'll have to keep at it until it starts to feel natural. But you can teach yourself to breathe bilaterally, and breathing bilaterally will help you to escape that horrible curse of the monolateral breather.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Another grey, bumpy day at Bondi-Bronte

We didn't do Bondi-Bronte today, so we can't tell you about it. We did... rather, we attended North Curl Curl on Sat'dee, although we didn't do it, either. North Curly has become a bit of a favourite for several reasons, but the overwhelming one in 2012 was that, not being in a position to swim, we could prop ourselves up at a pitcher window at the front of the surf club at North Curly and supervise proceedings, laid out before us. It's a lovely spot there, at which supportive punters were able to ferry us cuppas, bacon and egg rolls, watermelon, even a beer, had we wanted one, which we didn't. We'll mount a separate report on North Curly later on Mondee.

In the meantime, Bondi-Bronte...

A couple of generous punters sent us pitchers, and thank you for that. We couldn't do this without support like that. And some sent us whinges about the fairness of allowing wetties in 19-20 deg water. We've said our bit on this event's wettie policy, which we reckon is silly, but at least it was clear and displayed prominently on the event's website well before entries closed, so everyone who entered should have done so in full knowledge of what that policy was.

It certainly looked like a bumpy, grey day, which we've come to associate with the Bondi-Bronte swim. Any less-than-glorious weather means you're probably heading into a sou'-easter around Mackenzies Point, which they were today, apparently. Was it really cold? Our cobber, Murray Cox, who took the pic at top, told us: "Really a near perfect ocean swim, warm and windy, a challenging chop and swell most of the way, a calm entry to Bronte..."

Plenty of you lot did Bondi-Bronte, so please tell us all about it... What did you like, what did you dislike. Click the comment button below...

Glenn Muir called us via Skype a couple of weeks back from Cyprus, where he'd been enjoying long, solo swims along the coast. Earlier, Glenn had been doing the same in Crete. Lucky lad. He arrived back in Stra'a yesterday, and headed straight down to Bondi, from where the water safety chaps at Bronte found him bobbing around in the break off Bronte. He'd have made it anyway, lads... Well, he did make it, but this pic makes it look as if they had to pull him out, which we're sure they didn't.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lovely day, but bludgers were afoot

We weren't there, but we hear the Island Challenge at Coogee was a lovely day, but we expected it would be. From our bolthole, cosseted in an oasis of greenery in Sydney's inner east, gaoled, we could see the sky, we could feel the breeze, and we could smell the late spring air. Typical Coogee, we thought. And from all accounts, it was.

Our cobber, Murray Cox, looking for something of a flagship nature to do this season, is to be the male lead in a Tropfest movie about insomnia. Murray was at Coogee early -- he couldn't sleep -- and sent us a few pics of punters on the beach. We have no idea whom these punters are -- apart from  one of them -- but, since Murray was kind enough to send them to us, we feel we should acknowledge and use them. As for Murray's movie, Insomnia, his producer/director will be appealing very soon for supporters -- $10 a pop will get your name in the credits, for example -- so we'll let you know and you, too, can become a movie mogul. The bottom line is, if they don't get enough supporters, they won't make the movie, which is a bit extreme, we'd have thought.

Anyway, most of the accounts we heard from Coogee were positive of a smoothly run, friendly event. The only slightly negative bit of feedback -- apart from the heel wafting of one recidivist of which we heard -- was of the presos conducted in the surf club. One punter told us they were terrific, whilst another told us they weren't. We have to say, any presos conducted inside a surf club immediately exclude the bulk of the entrants, who don't feel able, for one reason or another, to go inside just in case they win a random draw.

Speaking of heel wafting, Mrs Sparkle was the victim of one, but she also tells us she swam past another woman heel wafting on some bloke, who seemed to have his heels painted with bright stripes, targets, perhaps, so she could find him?

We've said it before, and we shall keep saying it: heel-wafting -- drafting -- is cheating; it's bludging. There is only one reason to draft, and that is to get around the course under someone else's steam. The leader effectively drags the heel-wafter along behind. There's only one person really trying: the leader. The heel-wafter is bludging, using the lead swimmer's effort to get much of their speed. They do it in triathlon, but they're an eccentric bunch in that sport, spending thousands just to be a part of it in the first place. They do it in elite open water swimming, but they also generally take turns leading at the elite level, so that everyone does their bit, much like cyclistes.

Genuine, honest ocean swimmers don't draft; they don't bludge on their comrades; they don't steal someone else's effort.

Otherwise, we're told, Coogee was a lovely day. We heard noice reports from the Killer Swim in Mur'bah, too, and from Redcliffe, where the Great Australian Swim Series had another outing. Whom of you swam where? Tell us abart it...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Response to gratuitous comments

We're not big ones for being sucked into a debate with "Anonymous", and it's always disappointing when punters submit blobs to us which don't include their names. Why should we have to say, "If you're game enough to express an opinion, then you should be game enough -- and decent enough -- to put your name to it"?

The blob below came in a couple of days back. We posted it as is, but overnight it nagged at us. Our idea originally was to respond to it ourselves, to leave our own comment. But the problem with that is that it loses context. We decided instead to run it as "Anonymous" submitted it, but in a way that allows us to set its context. Unfair? Well, it's our blob, as Kerry Packer would have said, and did.

Here's the original blob -
There doesn't seem to be anywhere sensible to put a general comment for this blog - but in case this gets through to the esteemed keepers of the keys, here are a couple of gratuitous remarks:
1. All those surveys.
I've filled out a lot of response forms for you, and sometimes made the effort to add comments, not just give you numbers. Has anything happened with that data? Was there much difference between swims on the dimensions you assessed? What did people put in the suggestion box? Were there any common themes? It'd be really great to know - even if it's not all beautifully statistically crunched.
2. Bondi to Bronte.
I appreciate your site a lot. I also love the B2B. Your entry "privately run event for Bronte SLSC" seems a bit pointed. How are the other events not 'privately run'? Is there any difference between the way Bronte runs this event to the way other SLSCs run theirs? It's a really fantastic and iconic swim. Is there a reason for not at least putting a link to their site? Or providing some details of the swim? I am sorry if I am wide of the mark, but it does appear a bit churlish or spiteful. Which is a shame for a site that's generally way above any suggestion of pettiness.
best wishes for the season
Best wishes to you, too, Anonymous. We appreciate your positive, constructive and generous comments, and we even appreciate your negative comments as part of the overall yarn.

To respond to your points:

1. The surveys

We, too, feel guilty -- we feel guilty about everything, although we were raised Anglicans -- that we haven't reported to you comprehensively on the results of those post-swim surveys from last season. We did report progressively in our weekly email newsletters as the season went on, of course. Perhaps Anonymous doesn't see these. The surveys were a fascinating exercise and we gathered considerable data on individual swims. All winter, we planned to write a report bringing all that data together. But we travelled much in Concord… er, around swim spots over winter, and we haven't yet managed to get to it. We apologise. But we will. We know the most important point is not our failure to divulge the information gathered; it's our failure to honour our duty to all you mugs who filled in those surveys. It's coming. We're about to have a couple of weeks of relative inactivity, and it's one of the things we're planning to get to then.

2. Bondi-Bronte

This event is described as being privately run because it is. Bronte SLSC uses a private organiser to run its swim. We know of no other surf life saving club which does this, although two other clubs last season used the same private organiser: Coogee, which retook control of their swims later in the season, and Tama-Cloey, which is not running this season. A few years back, Manly used Craig Riddington's company to revamp their swim, but they, too, took the event back after a couple of years. (That said, Riddington and his business partner, Scott Wood, both Manly members, made some excellent changes to revamp that swim.) Many surf clubs have benefited enormously from an influx of new, mature members in recent years, many of them driven by initial exposure to the movement through ocean swimming. It's ironic, however, that many of these members are time poor: city workers, professionals, people running their own businesses. So many numbers don't necessarily equal many new members with the time to devote to running an ocean swim for their club. It's difficult for the clubs, and it's one of the reasons why some of them have turned to private organisers. Given the amount, whatever it is, that surf clubs might pay private organisers, however, swimmers are entitled to wonder how much the club needs the money from their fundraising, and how much of their entry fees goes to the club that's the cause of the fundraising.

Links to events

On the point about links to the Bondi-Bronte website, we have a policy, stated clearly on our website (see swims/event services), that... cannot provide links to (NSW or Queensland) events which take on-line entries through 3rd parties. also cannot provide links to private (commercial) events unless they take Featured Swim status.
We won't provide links to events that use 3rd parties -- groups outside the sport -- for online entries because we won't support the leeching of funds to outside groups whose only interest is in taking the sport's revenue. We earn little enough revenue ourselves from our activities within the sport; we're certainly not going to assist outside groups to leech that revenue. One of the things of which we're proud is that, while providing online entry services to swims, we also bring swimmers to those swims. Outside groups don't do that.

(We draw a distinction between NSW and Queensland events, on the one hand, and those in other parts of Stra'a, on the other hand, because NSW and Queensland are our primary areas of commercial activity, where we have worked most to build the sport. Swims in other states generally had relationships extant when we came along. We have not been commercially active in those states, and we're not about to take such a position in relation to them. It would be nice if swims in other states decided to use our services, and we are working towards that.)

With regard to the second policy, on links to privately organised swims, we reckon that, if an event is privately organised, and if they want us to support them to make their profits, then a private/commercial swim should pay for that support. Bondi-Bronte falls into a grey category: it's run by a commercial organisation in the name of a surf club, and that's why we use that descriptor on our calendar. Swimmers have a right to know: When you enter an event that uses a private organiser, you're not just supporting the club, worthy as it is, you're also supporting its commercial organiser. In Bronte's case, the irony is that, while the club uses a commercial organiser, the club still provides the water safety and race day volunteers.

Bondi-Bronte runs over a magnificent course. Before Bronte ran its first swim, the original organiser, the then club president, Graham Ford, phoned us to discuss the proposed event. Graham said they planned to run a swim inside the bay between Bronte and Tamarama. We responded, "If (Bronte is) going to run a swim, you must go around Mackenzies Point". That was the obvious course, we reckoned. Someone had to do it. Ford took that advice, and the iconic event we have today is the result. The swim's first outing drew around 850 swimmers, for goodness sake. That's all about the course itself.

Open slather on wetties 

Now, don't get us started on Bondi-Bronte's wetsuit policy... It offers three options for different wettie stati: if the water temp is greater than 20C and the air temp is over 25C (no wettie allowed), if the water is warmer than 20C but the air is less than 25C (wetties allowed), and if the water is cooler than 20C and the air cooler than 25C (wetties allowed). You'll notice that the 2nd and 3rd options produce the same result.

The event's website says that, in such circumstances:
Any type of wetsuit or speed suit is approved in all categories and WILL qualify for age group prizes.
One swimmer pointed out to us that the mean maximum temperature in December in Sydney is 25.1C, so there's a very strong chance that that condition will be met and it will be open slather on wetties. Some people feel the cold, of course, and they should always be allowed to wear a wettie if they wish. But wetties should never be allowed in open company in a NSW swim. They should have their own divisions.

North Bondi's wettie policy is far more sensible: if the water is below 18 deg C on swim day, as measured by Bondi lifeguards, then you can wear a wettie. Otherwise, you're Back of the Pack or you're newd. Full Spot! (Thanks to Moose Moore for that last witticism.)


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wussie at Wamberal

Great day at Wamberal (Forresters Beach). Disappointing no ocean swim at Forries but Wamberal Lagoon swim was far better than expected.

No encounters with eels only some weed when my tow lead me off course. Just returned from holiday where I did a swim in the warm Mediterranean 29 degrees water and air same temperature. Not acclimatised to the cold waters. I was a wise woosie old lady and wore a wet suit. Well done to all who braved the cold water.

GPS showed 1.65 kms for short and 2.54 for long swims.

Great collecting hand carved wooden awards. They work well as bookends.
Rozanne Green

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tough day at Northcliffe

Northcliffe’s Dolphin Ocean Classic day is designed to help get ready for the surf lifesaving season, especially the Coolangatta Gold and the Kellogg’s series. So there’s lots of people around who’ve been on TV. There are five and 10km races for boards and skis – and for fine ocean swimmers, a 1km swim.

Which for the first time, is the first leg of the Fine Ocean Swimmers series. But it seems most people have missed the opportunity to grab early points. Except Killer, who chanced his arm on a limited preparation to pull off third place in the over 50s narrowly in front of fellow Tweed River swim organiser Marc Vining (without putting the shoulder in). A few years ago, Killer announced proudly he felt he had arrived as an ocean swimmer because someone had dragged off him. Now he has the final brick in the wall ‑ a podium finish. I imagine his hard-won drink bottle prize is going straight to the pool room.

And it was a tough day despite a relatively short course by ocean swimming standards. A howling north westerly in the morning hard turned into a tough north easterly by the 1pm start time for the swims, coinciding with the bottom of the tide. The course is like a giant surf race: out, along and back to shore. In these conditions, the toughest part of the race is the leg out to sea into the teeth of the wind-blown swell. The key is to be very aggressive and lift your head just about every stroke so that you can see the oncoming swell and adjust your stroke – shorter to get under a chop or longer when you can. You can afford to push hard on the first leg because when you turn at the first can and head downwind, it’s all a little easier.

The final homeward leg is also with the conditions but it gets tough. You increase your stroke rate to maximise the lift from each swell. Then you get dropped off the back and have to work hard to pick up speed again. It’s a relief to finally hit the wave area and properly catch a wave.

In terms of overall numbers, even with all the craft competitors, it’s not a very big day despite boards and skis being up for grabs in the random draws as well as the Fine Ocean Swimmers series underwater camera. But be warned. Parking is a nightmare. Northcliffe has only a very small parking area at the clubhouse which is reserved for gear trailers. The rest have to make do with the narrow streets and a fairly long walk. In the past, I’ve ridden my push bike over from Broadbeach but if you have to bring a car, I don’t really have a solution.

Northcliffe run a barbecue all day and there’s plenty of shade tents. But upstairs in the club is pretty swish with recent renovations.

Roger Muspratt

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pretty in pink...

Swims run by surf life saving clubs in Queensland this coming season will require all swimmers to wear high visibility singlets. Fluoro pink high visibility singlets. The requirement comes under a rule adopted by Surf Life Saving Queensland which comes into force in September, intended to enhance competitor safety in events run by surf clubs. Not just ocean swims, but other events, too, such as surf carnivals.

The rule will have a significant impact on the finances of ocean swims run by surf clubs, with the organising club providing the singlets which, presumably, will be returnable after the swim. Clubs will be seeking sponsors just for the singlets. They'll also be guessing at how many they'll need and the mix of sizes, and working out ways to ensure they get them all back.

We understand the SLSA in Victoria also is bringing in the rule, although we're not sure whether it will extend to ocean swims as well as to internal SLSA events, such as surf carnivals.

In NSW, we understand the NSW SLSA State Centre will introduce it for surf carnivals,  but not for ocean swims, and that requirement will become compulsory only after another year.

A trifle over the top? Seems so to us. Sure, there have been tragic deaths at the SLSA national championships over past years -- and we don't dismiss them at all -- but nothing has ever happened in ocean swims in Australia, to our knowledge, to justify such an extreme step.

A more effective policy, and a more constructive step for the SLSA, would be to stipulate cap colours. Fluoro pink, for example, along with fluoro yellow, green... bright colours that stand out in the rolling, restless sea, would be a far more effective safety measure than something that's going to be below the surface anyway. And certainly far more effective than the "lost at sea" range of colours that many swim organisers dispense to us -- charcoal, light grey, navy blue, dark purple, black, etc.

This new rule doubtless is inspired by the deaths at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships. However, the rule applied to the most recent championships, we believe, and they still couldn't find the unfortunate competitor who was lost.

Turn your attention to caps, SLSA. That's where you can make a difference.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A swim to remember

Many will have varying views of the Byron Bay swim in 2012. It was called off on the beach, at the start at Wategos, just a couple of minutes before the first wave was to leave the beach. We reckon few would argue about it being called off. The start was difficult, but the finish, with a rising swell dumping onto a shallowing bank, was a nightmare. There was no doubt that the organisers had to make that decision the way they did. But why leave it until punters were waiting on the beach ready to start? Anyone watching at Byron main beach could see what the swell was doing on that bank as the tide dropped. It was a decision that could have been made a couple of hours earlier. Mind you, had they called it before we schlepped around to Wategos, we wouldn't have got to swim the course at all.

It is one of the great traditions of ocean swimming that, if a swim is called off, we swim the course anyway, conditions permitting. And so it was today. Indeed, it was a glorious swim, rolling through the swells over the bomboras as we were sucked from east to west in a ferocious sweep.

But there were three little issues along the way. At the start, those who tried to crimp the distance by starting at the western end of Wategos found themselves swept back into the rocks by the sideways sweep. Some were pulled out by lifesavers (which points to the other issue in organisers' minds when they call a swim: the safety of their own volunteers, particularly life savers on water safety duty). What you had to do, and what experienced swimmers did, was to head straight out from the lighthouse end of the beach for 50-100 metres until finding clear water, then head west towards main beach. Indeed, you had to follow the course set by the booees. If you did that, the sweep took you around The Pass into main beach, not into the rocks before The Pass.

Then, half way across the bay, there was the little issue of the bomboras. On the dropped tide, one of those bomboras was exciting but benign. But the other, shallower bombora, was boiling. One very good swimmer told us afterwards how he helped to rescue a punter who'd been caught on the shallower bombora. He'd gone under twice. Probably didn't know himself the danger he was in. The swells were rolling through, but out the back there, they were big and they packed a punch. This punter was lucky there was a strong swimmer close by with the presence of mind to support him.

Then the dump at the finish... The tide was dropping, the sweep was ferocious, the swells were standing higher in the dropping tide, and crashing onto the bank. The unwary or inexperienced would have been mushed like overcooked peas in that break, so easy it was to break your back or your neck.

So it was right that the organisers called off the swim. No argument there.

But they said it was a postponement, not a cancellation. Normal policy for the Byron Bay swim is that any postponement is for a month, with the rescheduled date a month after the original date. This would make it June 3. Indeed, that's what the event's downloadable entry form says and what is reported the following day, Mondee, in the Northern Star, the local newspaper. For many, if not most visiting swimmers, however, it is a cancellation since they can't get back to the Bay for the re-run.

Most cancelled swims provoke some complaints, but most swims are clear in their entry conditions that if seas force cancellation, there are no refunds. Even the cheapest swims provoke whinges from some -- Warriewood at $20 provoked two punters in particular to whinge to us to high heaven. Byron Bay at $65 would be expected to prompt more complaints.

Many, if not most visiting swimmers will not be able to make the postponement date. Many shape their ocean swimming season around a finishing swim in Byron Bay, planning the air travel, the local accommodation, etc, around it. Most cannot come back from Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, even Perth at such short notice. At least there is a postponement date. Most swims in Sydney, for example, don't have such luxury because the season is so jam-packed that no other dates are available, not to mention the difficulty in re-assembling their volunteers for another, unexpected day.

That said, now the Byron organisers are saying their "midweek" meeting will consider whether to re-run the swim at all. So much for the long-standing one-month postponement policy. The swim has raised a lot of money for local charities. We reckon, by a quick calculation, around $130,000 in entry fees alone, without taking into account sponsorships. Swimmers would appreciate knowing where these funds go. Who gets them? What charities benefit? What are the swim's overheads? This should be something all swims are only too happy to disclose.

The Byron swim 2012 will go down in folklore.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A swim of two days

South Curl Curl was a swim of two days: glorious, light autumn offshore breeze early holding up a sprightly swell, then changing rapidly to a brooding, blown out sou'-easterly that hit between the third and fourth waves leaving the beach. As we swam out, with the third wave, we still were diving under swells held up by the breeze. But by the time we reached the first turner, behind the break, it was blowing into our faces from down past South Head.

"That was a real ocean swim," said one punter, leaving the water at Freshwater.

"That was my favourite ocean swim of the year," said sometime os.c correspondent, Glenn Muir.

How was your swim?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Coogee-Bondi - A swim for Anzac Day

We marched on Anzac Day, but Coogee-Bondi had record numbers. Online entries alone were up around 42 per cent on last year's earlier record. And it was a lovely day for this kind of swim - flat sea, offshore breeze, clear air...

How did you enjoy this swim... Leave your comments below...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Murray Rose

Good to hear that the The Rainbow Club, who run the Malabar Magic swim in Sydney on the 3rd Sundee in February, will rename the event the Murray Rose Malabar Magic, after their patron and swim organiser who died last Sundee.

Murray was no longer a young bloke -- 73 -- but that doesn't make his loss any easier. We were one of that generation who grew up revering Murray Rose. His celebrity from the mid-50s was all-embracing, and it proved to be enduring because it was based on substance of character. He was no passing, sporting fad. He was every boy's role model, a man with dignity, bearing, a grace, a presence that inspired respect and admiration, and he remained himself throughout those years of adulation. When we were littlies in the '50s in Newcastle, we never dreamt that, one day, we'd meet Murray Rose, that we'd come to know him and to regard him as a friend. One of the glories of life, for us, was that that's what happened.

Murray was a very private fellow. He'd suffered for a year or so with a troublesome foot that had interfered with his swimming and his capacity to get about comfortably. When he received his diagnosis of leukaemia around the beginning of this year, he set about carefully making arrangements, but discreetly. He called us and asked us to remove reference to him leading this year's tour to the Dardanelles in August. He wouldn't tell us why, apart from saying he wasn't well. When we altered one section of the website but we'd neglected also to amend the downloadable information document, Murray called back and drew our attention to it. "I won't be going to the Dardanelles," Murray told us. "And I won't be at the Malabar Magic, either." That's what alarmed us. At that point, the Malabar Magic was only a couple of weeks away, yet he already knew that he couldn't be there.

We heard he also headed down, about that time, to North Bondi surf club, where he was a member, and cleared out his locker. He swam regularly from North Bondi, several times a week, point to point, with cobbers.

Which raises the other thing, at least, that we reckon should happen now: Murray loved North Bondi; he was an eastern suburbs lad and a North Bondi man. North Bondi has two swims, The Roughwater in January and the North Bondi Classic, in February. We'd love to see North Bondi SLSC rename its second swim to The Murray Rose Classic. And maybe as a further tribute to Murray, they should team up with The Rainbow Club and offer combo entries to the Murray Rose Classic on the second Sunday in February, and to the Murray Rose Malabar Magic, on the third Sunday in February, offering a special prize to someone who does both, The Murray Rose Memorial Award. It should go to an ocean swimmer of any age who exemplifies the character, the values that made Murray Rose such a special person.

We -- by "we", we mean "us more mature Australians" -- we won't need awards to remember Murray Rose, but it will help our kids and their kids to know of Murray and the contribution he made to us all, by his achievements and by his example. A lot of younger swimmers may not have heard of Murray, or may not appreciate the role he played in Stra'an swimming. We recall a story Murray told of a swim a few years back. Murray entered this swim online (not through, and the organisers, apparently not knowing him, figured he was a lady who'd entered his name the wrong way around. So they changed him from Murray Rose, in the Male Codgers division, to Rose Murray, a lady. Murray said later, "I won both the Male and Female divisions that day".

A wonderful, wonderful man of grace, style, culture and substance. Our thoughts are with Murray's wife, Jodi, and their son, Trevor.

The best piece we read about Murray in the meeja over the past few days -- there's been an awful lot of dashed-off guff -- was the Herald's obituary, run on Tuesday, April 17. But while it stood out from the other pieces we read, it still skated all too glibly over that vast bulk of Murray's life between his swimming career and his return to Australia in 1994. Apart from his swimming, Murray had a career in TV in the US and played roles in a couple of movies. He also was a senior marketing executive (we thought he'd been Marketing Director) of the LA Lakers, one of the two biggest sporting franchises in the world (the other being Manchester United). Maybe someone, one day, will write a definitive piece. For the Herald's obit... click here

We ran a story in our email newsletter when we knew Murray wasn't well, indeed was seriously unwell, but it wasn't for us to announce this to the world. We just reckon all Australians should know how wonderful a person Murray was. A bit out of left field, perhaps, but it's not surprising that Murray married a ballerina. He was, as they say, a fine style of a bloke.

(A version of this story appeared in our email newsletter of Thursday, April 19. We've had a few responses to it, so we figured we should post it as a blob, too, so that y'all can have your say, too. If you want to add your thoughts, click the Comments link, below.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

A busy weekend, indeed...

Here it is, Mondee night, and we're just back from Mollymook, which is why our reports will be up later than normal. Everything's behind by a day or so. We stayed down at Mollymook an extra night, and we're so glad we did. Mondee morn, we swam the golf course reef at Mollymook, in some of the season's best water, and some of the season's calmest conditions. It was soporific, gliding through the sea, watching the weed wafting back and forth below us in the swell, surging left, sucking right...

Then we had a cuppa at the Table of Knowledge - Mollymook's version of it, anyway, at the beach cafe overlooking the beach, basking in the gentle autumn, early morning sun, yarning with the locals. This is what we love about ocean swimming: it's the unstructured, informal swimming, the stuff that goes on every morning on every beach in a community, and the culcha afterwards over a cuppa.

How was your weekend? Where did you swim? How was it?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Luvverly autumn swimming...

We've had a luvverly couple of days over Easter. Pacific Palms on Easter Sundee, then Bondi on Easter Mondee (we apologise again to the folk at Nowra Culburra because we didn't, after all, get to their swim on Easter Sat'dee), and on both occasions we swam in the clearest water all season, and warm! Oh, but it was warm. Not just in comparison with the air, which was cool at Bondi early, later warming as the sun rose higher and the clouds cleared. It was some of the warmest water all season.

There was a little swell at both beaches to make the swims more interesting. Pacific Palms is a gentle beach as a rule, but it always has an abrupt dump which, as the swell rises, can become quite nasty. It's not a great beach for body surfing unless the tide is high.

There were just a couple of little blueys at both Pacific Palms and Bondi to add a zing to the swims, but they weren't great issues. Indeed, it was the first time in three years that we've been stung by blueys.

They were glorious swims.

A downer at Pacific Palms, however, was the tragedy after the swim, when the Pacific Palms surf club's Treasurer, Sandra Wilson (right), collapsed suddenly and died. Our thoughts are with Sandra's family and friends, and her club colleagues. They all are devastated by the loss.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Two towering escarpments...

 Two luvverly swims for us this weekend... Caves Beach on Sat'dee, Stanwell Park on Sundee. They're much alike in a way, in that both start beneath towering escarpments, then follow the cliff along a reef or reefs to beach finishes. Both spectacular swims, both in gentle, rolling swell.

Stanwell was notable for the wonderful sensation of surfing from Coalcliff to Stanwell Park, with the swell, the chop, the wind, and a very strong current all getting behind us and pushing us north. It was easily the most exciting and enjoyable swim of the season for us, running with that swell, feeling it pick us up and push us along. And every time we passed a booee, we really got a sense of how strong that push was: it was like we went past them in a car.

What did you think of your swims this weekend?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shark Island, DY, Bonbeach...

Mixed day in Sydney for Shark Island and DY, but it looked glorious in Melbourne, where Aquagirl swam at Bonbeach. Where did you swim? Tell us about it... click the comments button below...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Another luvverly day on the harbour... Broulee, Tangalooma...

 Despite this week's rain, it was a luvvely day at the Harbour, yet again. How does this swim score so well? In 11 years, we recall only one day of rain -- it pelted down -- but otherwise, even if there were clouds around, the day would clear to give us Sydney in its glorious, autumn best. Gee, it was noice. Water wasn't the clearest, but it wasn't too bad considering the downfall on Thursdee.

Seemed noice down at Broulee, too. Tacoma Jim was our agent down there -- and took out the M40-49 category in the process: Good boy, yourself, Jim! -- and smsed us a couple of pics, which we tweeted. He couldn't tweet himself.

Results for both are on now.

Tangalooma had stingers, we see from Twitter.

And please complete our ocean swimmers feedback surveys... links on the home page.

But tell us here what you thought, too...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Freshie, Coffs, Phillip Is...

After all that rain and otherwise bad weather, it was a surprise to see what a lovely day it was in Sydney. We were at Freshwater for the Barney Mullins Classic. Where were you? And how was your swim?

We have our ocean swimmer feedback surveys opens to Freshwater and Coffs Harbour... Fill out the surveys and let us know what you thought of those swims. See the home page for links to the surveys.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Potpourri of swims...

We had a lovely day at Long Reef, but then we usually do. From all accounts, punters had lovely days, too, at Tama-Cloey, Lake Macquarie, Half Moon Bay, and we know the Tweetybirds had a lovely time swimming to Rottnest Island.

Only discordant note was, yet again, the mean-spirited Warringah Council, who offer no support to their surf clubs by waiving parking fees during ocean swims. Worse, whilst we were swimming, the council rangers hit the carpark booking people. And this whilst one of their parking ticket dispensers wasn't working properly, making it harder to buy tickets at $5 per hour. We'll have more to say about the unpleasant Warringah Council in our report, which we'll post tomorrow.

Sorry it introduced a sour note to what is one of the friendliest, warmest (in terms of hospitality) ocean swims of the season at Long Reef. Otherwise, what a beautiful course over the reef out towards Long Reef headland and back.

Tell us about your swims...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Magic at Malabar, bubbly in the Bay

This is becoming exhausting... It's that part of the season after all The Big Ones, but there are so many swims on, quite largish ones, that it's exhausting keeping up with them. That may be due partly to the party we had after Malabar today, celebrating the birthday's of our staff photo drunk, Glistening Dave, and Rotto-bound transformer, RealDeal_Cat. Dave turned 60 yesterday and today was his first outing in the sub-Codger age group. It wasn't a milestone birthday for Cat, but this was her last swim in Sydney before heading to Perf for Rottnest next weekend, where she's swimming as part of the Tweetybirds quad team, four laydee swimmers who know each other largely only through Twitter. That's Cat above, on the left, with sibling Tweetybird Liz Hill (@SwimBikeKnit).

Heard good reports from the Pier to Perignon, which is one of the glorious swims on the calendar. So sad we couldn't be there ourselves. And Malabar, while a little mucky in close, was such clear water from 150m off the beach, although some punters reported some lice, and one even tweeted that he'd been stung by a bluey. Musta been the only bluey in the bay.

We'll have our report up tomorrow. In the meantime, our swimmer feedback surveys are open for both those swims... Pier to Perignon... Malabar... We shot some video and plan to post an essay on different strokes, also tomorrow. Provided that blob we discovered on the outside of the lens wasn't there all day.

Anyway, what did you think?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Drag racing an 82-year-old

We did a terrible thing at North Bondi - we drag-raced an 82-year-old. It wasn't just any 82-year-old, mind you. It was John Kelso, whom we reckon is perhaps the world's best ocean swimmer. To be swimming as fast and as regular as Kelso does at his age truly is phenomenal.

Anyway, when we turned the close in booee off the Icebergs at Bondi, we stopped, took some pitchers, mooched around, shot some video, then set off back up to the finish at North Bondi. Shortly after we began swimming, we saw out of the corner of our eye, a yellow-cap hoving into view to our left and behind. No idea whom it was, but we noticed this yellow-cap was gaining on us quite easily. They also seemed to be sitting pretty close behind us, and the thought flitted across our minds that perhaps they were trying to draft on us; to heel-waft. The impertinence, we thought. No-one's ever tried to heel-waft us, with good reason. We remember at Byron Bay a few years back when our idiosyncratic cobber, Killer, boasted around the pub post-swim that someone had drafted on him. He was so proud...

Anyway, they weren't trying to draft on us, and they weren't really swimming behind us. They were minding their own business. We had no idea whom it was, but we could tell they were a bit older, slight of build, and, as they drew closer, we realised they were goggless. And we realised suddenly whom it was: John Kelso. Kelso swims pretty well every week, is one of the faster swimmers on the Sydney circuit in terms of deciles, and rarely wears goggles. We were just ambling along ourselves, at our normal cruising pace, but we thought, this was a great opportunity to watch him closely to try to discern his secret. What is it about Kelso's swimming that makes him, at 82, so fast.

Anyway, we picked up the pace a bit, and we ended up drag-racing Kelso all the way back to the final turning booee off North Bondi, where we stopped again to take pitchers. Along the way, sometimes Kelso was in front, sometimes we were in front. He wasn't racing us; and we weren't really racing him; but we were sticking with him to watch, and to learn. And it was more a case of us keeping up with him rather than swapping the lead, and when we pulled ahead momentarily, it was because we ran into a wall of breaststrokers whom we had to split to get around, or because Kelso ran into one of those North Bondi water safety laddies who sit with their rescue boards across the course, which means the peloton must split widely to get around them.

So what did we learn? Not a lot. We watched his stroke all the way along that 1km reach, particularly the underwater stuff, and there didn't seem anything particularly perfect about it. We thought he could have kept his elbows a bit higher, and his grab could be a bit more effective, and his pull through was nothing to write home about... For a bloke who carries no weight at all, he floated quite well, although his legs were down a bit. But what did strike us was that Kelso seemed relaxed. At 82 and with a wiry frame, it's hard to look relaxed, let alone be relaxed. As you get older, the body tightens. The best swimming, of course, is the slowest, most relaxed swimming. Try it yourself in a a pool. Go flat out and time yourself. Then do the same distance as slow and as relaxed as you can, and you'll probably find there's not that much difference between your times.

Kelso seemed relaxed, and maybe that's his secret. He's 24 years older than us, but he's far more relaxed.

But tell us about your swims this weekend... North Bondi, Geelong, Phillip Island, wherever...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

And a weekend of season classics...

After the weekend of big swims, it was the weekend of season classics and jetty and pier classics... The Cole Classic, which likes to bill itself as "Australia's largest ocean swim", the Brighton Jetty Classic, Sou Stra'a's biggest swim, the Dromana Pier Swim in Victoria, and the Busselton Jetty Swim, which we're told pulled 1,400 mugs in the sou-west of Wesson Stra'a. We'll have reports on three of the four, at least.

Interesting and curious figures from the Cole @ Manly: numbers at this year's Cole Classic were way down on last year: 3,818 over three events, from 4,232 over two events in 2011. Numbers confirm the vacuity of Fairfax Meeja's claim that the Cole is "Australia's largest ocean swim". Lorne's Pier to Pub always -- since Fairfax has been making the claim -- has been the largest, and over one event, not multiple events. One would think a meeja group as sanctimonious and as moralising as Fairfax would be concerned about accuracy.

Whilst we were at Manly, where the Cole organisers shifted the starts and finishes of both swims around the Shelly Beach, this was what Tamarama looked like, on Sydney's south side (thanks to Ralph McLeay for the pic)...

Lots of controversy over the Cole in Sydney, as usual, and particularly, but which swims did you do and what did you think of them?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend of big swims...

Yes, it was a weekend of big swims, indeed - on Sat'dee in Port Phillip Bay, The Bloody Big Swim, and today in Sydney, on the northern beaches, The Big Swim. And yesterday, on the western side of the heads, the Queenscliff Bluewater Challenge. Not so much a big swim but what looks like a lovely swim.

Which swim(s) did you do? And what did you think of them?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

National day for ocean swimming...

Lotsa swims all over the place on Stra'a Day. Much better way to mark the day than draping oneself in a flag and getting off your face. We arrived at Circular Quay railway station at 5:45am for the Sydney Harbour swim this morning, and already there were three youths, two boofheads and a young lady, blocking the stairway, topless -- the girl was clothed -- reeking of grog and wrapping the flag around their shoulders. Such a pity that the national day has to be hijacked and corrupted by this mob.

But we had a lovely swim in the harbour, the final of the four swims in the Great Stra'an Swim Series. Mind you, after all that rain, we came straight home, showered long and hard, gargled with Listerine, and we're about to flood our ears with Ear Clear, such was the state of the harbour.

Swims, too, in Newcastle Harbour, Hervey Bay, Lake Glenbawn, Mt Martha, Wollongong, Scarborough, Kingston Beach, Henley-Grange, Brighton and Williamstown. Burleigh Heads was cancelled. Or, the swim-run was, anyway.

Tell us about your Stra'a Day experiences... Don't restrict it to swimming, although it would be good if swimming was involved there somewhere.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rushing to Portsea and bumping at Mona Vale...

They loved the journey swim at Portsea again this year, and for the second week in a row there was a bump on along Sydney's northern beaches, this time from Warriewood to Mona Vale. But at Tathra, somewhere between the two on the NSW Far South Coast, we hear everything was just hunky dory.

Portsea used its journey course for the second year, after what is suspected to be the bay dredging of Port Phillip Bay robbed the town of its bay beach, eroded mysteriously to nothingness. But punters love the replacement course, this year extended to 1.5km, along the short of the Pt Nepean national park.

There was a bump on at Warriewood-Mona Vale, with many an inexperienced punter standing ashen on the beach as they watched the sets roll in. We reckon it was smaller than at Avalon the week before, but it was an ugly break, as it is so often at Warriewood. Uglier, certainly, than it was nasty. But that's not to discount the difficulty that many punters encountered as they attempted to get out either over the bank to the south, or through the slightly deeper water to the north.

The wind this year was from just south of east, the swell from the sou'-east, but the water was glorious - warm, clear, and no nasties. As you schlepped from south to north, every now and again you'd feel a following swell pick you up and thrust you forward amongst the bumps.

We heard only good reports from Tathra.

But tell us where you swam, what you experienced, and what you reckon about it all...

Monday, January 16, 2012

A little boy in a turbulent sea at Avalon...

We witnessed a distressing sight at Avalon -- a small boy, who missed his wave, trying to catch up but being knocked around by the shorebreak, and in tears because "I don't know the course".

How old should kids be before they're allowed to take part in ocean swims? There are no rules. What do you think?

See our event report on for more on this.

And tell us about Torquay on Sat'dee, Sorrento and West Beach on Sundee...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A tale of three swims...

It was the biggest of swims; it was the smallest of swims... etc. Sat'dee saw a start contrast between the world's biggest ocean swim in terms of numbers, the Pier to Pub at Lorne in Victoria, and one of the smallest, the new Fingal Mile at Fingal Bay, north of Newcastle in NSW. One of the oldest of swims; and the youngest of swims...

Then today, another classic, the Roughwater at North Bondi, which offered swimming through half-set jelly, given the swarm of non-stinging jelly blubbers in the sea off Bondi. A lovely day, though, with all the colour and pageantry that Bondi does so well.

But what did you think?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ocean beats the bay at Point Lonsdale

2 January 2012


Our annual short break on the coast has been timed around the Point Lonsdale swim for the past few years. We leave the big boys at home to mind the pets and the house and check ourselves into the historic Vue Grand hotel in nearby Queenscliff for a couple of days of ocean swimming, eating, walking and book buying.
Point Lonsdale always seems to put on perfect conditions for its swim. This was their 24th swim, and my 7th and it was hot and sunny with clear water and a very favourable tide.
It was 40 degrees in Melbourne on the day of the swim.
That’s one reason to be pleased not to be there. Another is that my local beach, Brighton bathing box beach, has been unswimmable lately. We had a massive thunder storm on Christmas night and it washed large amounts of the Yarra into the bay. The turbid silt has been making its way down the bay and has now reached Brighton, Hampton and Sandringham. The EPA has rated water quality as only “fair” and advised against swimming there. You’d have to be mad or desperate as the water is all churned up and silt coloured.
So I was pretty keen to swim in water where I could see my toes. Both Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale hit that mark.
It was so hot I decided to abandon my wetsuit. That wetsuit is like a security blanket to me. As a later-in-life ocean swimming adopter, I cling to my wetties promise of buoyancy and warmth like a drowning woman.
I planned to take the swim easy as my shoulder is still recovering from bursitis. It tends to ache a bit after squad, but doesn’t seem to mind ocean swims.
Husband Alan and I strolled down to the starting line in just our bathers feeling cool, calm and collected.
You know how it is when you enter the water and you can tell everything is going to be all right? The course is an easy follow – one big red buoy then large yellow ones all the way home in a gentle curve. The current was great. The water was clear and cool. This is why I ocean swim.
I loved every minute of it. No shoulder pain (though it is making me pay a little the day after).
When you pass the last buoy, helpfully numbered no 1, you swim through a line of junior lifesavers warning you of rocks, telling you not to stand up yet, and cheering you on. It’s good for the ego to come home through a line of clapping kids.
Time? Slower than last year by almost 90 seconds ... but it doesn’t matter. It was a swim I will stick in my memory bank of all time favourites.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Summer at last...

We had swims all over the place on the New Year's Day public holiday, and all of them adhered to a theme: it's summer at last. First time in three outings that we've had a glorious day at Black Head (see HRH Michael Fox dolphining out for the start of the 700m event, above, after which he said to us: "If you ever see us dolphining out at the start again, stop us. We got out the back and we had nothing left". Ah, the joys of ageing.)

Newport, too, had its best day in three years. Yamba was a stark turnaround from last year, when the weather heralded floods. Point Lonsdale was a cracker, Aquagirl says. And Dicky Beach, whilst overcast, was loved by all, it seems.

We were at Black Head, fast becoming one of our favourite days out, since it's a day tour from Sydney, a glorious, largely untouched beach on the Lower North Coast of NSW. And we come back, because of holiday traffic, through Gloucester and over the Col du Dungog and through Dungog, Clarence Town (calling in our our brother), and down the back roads back to Sydney.

We love it.

But tell us what you thought... And don't forget to fill in our ocean swimmer feedback form for the swim which you attended... Links on the home page.

Add your comments through the comments link below.