Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Warriewood wonders

Many moons ago Warriewood to Mona Vale was one of my first ocean swims. I well remember the panic that sprang in my breast as I surfaced for the 18th time (or so it seemed) to face yet another wall of surf roaring towards me. Nor the sense of relief and exhaustion that I felt when I finally got out past Warriewood's challenging break.

Oceanswims states  "The break at Warriewood at the start can be difficult, with rips, undertoads, gutters and shifting banks." and Paul is right (although I'm not 100% sure what an undertoad is - just spotted that in my cut and paste from the website) - it can be very challenging.

So in line with my new philosophy of avoiding swims that make me feel in imminent danger of drowning I checked the conditions on Saturday and decided - sadly too late for the on-line entry deadline - that my enhanced sense of self preservation wouldn't be challenged by a small swell at close to high tide. Foolish boy.

In fact, the waves weren't particularly powerful and not too big - but gosh, there was a lot of them to navigate. Luckily many of them were weak enough to swim over, but I still had to dive under four of five before hitting clear water - or as clear as it got.

Warriewood is a lovely beach and from the nicely positioned cafe - the only spot of shade near the beach on a hot and sunny day - Mona Vale seems just a hop, skip and splash away. Which indeed it is if you walk; less so if you have to swim out to the final tunring buoy positioned close to the headland.

So after forking out $40 including the $10 "missed on-line deadline" fee, enjoying a leisurely bacon sandwich and long black, watching the first couple of waves go out and doing a perfunctory warm up swim, I plunged in with the final wave of green-hatted wrinklies (it's strange how everyone in my age group looks so much older than me) to brave the pounding seas.

As mentioned it was a bit of a challenge getting out - not as scarifying as my first swim there some aeons ago, but hard work. Once I got into my stroke in the pleasantly warm ocean the medium swell from the north east was not particularly distrubing but somewhat less than helpful - on a scale of "flat as a tack" to "a perfect storm" it was around a "noticeable enough to be slightly annoying" level.

Prior to the swim I'd asked a local if the right line from the first buoy was to aim for the headland and had been answered in the affirmative. I'd also, rather unusually, listened to the pre-race briefing that stated all the buoys apart from the first and last were for navigation only and could be passed either side.

So I'm not sure why, when I was happily slogging into the wind and aiming for the rather large and easy to see headland, and a helpful water safety person told me I was heading too far right, I didn't just stick to my line. (It may have been that on the aforementioned swim years ago I did veer a little far out to sea, only realising it when I saw the high rise buildings of Aukland).

Whatever, I did listen and follow the new line with the result I swam too close to shore and had to readjust my line once I saw the final pink buoy far out to sea. I swear it cost me at least 60 seconds, not that my adjusted time would have improved my ranking just inside the top 90% of swimmers.

(This doesn't include a fair number of DNFs - I presume people who found the break a bit too challenging to get past. They have my sympathy and understanding.)

What looks not far from the shore can seem an awful long way in the water and such was the case getting to the final pink buoy. The run in from there to home, however, was relatively short and thankfully dump free.

For a comparatively short 1.6k it was quite hard but, waves and misdirections notwithstanding, rather enjoyable.

The respective surf clubs do an excellent job, the Harris Farm fruit was plentiful, the water safety (my tormentor excluded) excellent and it was a lovely day at two very pleasant beaches.

I don't normally have time to stay for the presentations but there were so many prizes available in the free lottery that I felt compelled to stay - needless to say I didn't win anything, unlike what seemed like 75% of the people there. Many thanks to the organisers for another great event.

It's also worth mentioning Pittwater Council. It's easy to knock councils - particularly Waverly Council, where they seem to think Bondi swims are put on to attract more ionospheric parking fines for their velociraptor-like parking fiends/inspectors - so many thanks and kudos to Pittwater Council for waiving parking fees when their various ocean swims are on.

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