Monday, February 10, 2014

A smug feeling of superiority on a swell

The Passing Parade. ('grarph by Glistening Dave)
Sitting at the Farncy Fish place over the road from North Bondi beach after yesterday's swim, we spotted a bloke on a motorbike with a milk crate strapped to the carrier behind him. In the milk crate was a beautiful border collie, a black one, with a happy face, shining hair, a tongue panting out the side of his mouth in the summer afternoon heat.

The bloke stopped at the crossing that links the beach to the stairs heading up to Military Road while beautiful people crossed the road to and from the beach. Around him swirled the colour and the pageantry of Bondi on a summer Sundee: the pretty, delicate, sun-tanned girls in their evocative finery, less of it all the time; the aging butch body builders finding difficulty walking, their thighs rubbing uncomfortably together, setting out for a promenade along the beachfront, both shirtless, one of them shoeless, soon not chappless, either; the stylish yummy mummies and daddies with exhausted toddlers schlepping up the hill after a morning building sandcastles; the C-listers taking a break from the paps, or perhaps hoping the paps might still be looking; the tv stars and the fashionable chefs and vets; the leathery surf clubbers still doing it after a lifetime in the sun, filling in time between bouts of melanoma.

 Farncy Fish and its environs were full of colourful people yesterday. Particularly notable was the surge in celebrity chefs taking up ocean swimming. We were there with our cobber, celebrity chef David Tsirekas, of the Greek persuasion, on his weekly morning off from Xanthi in the city. A few tables in was apparently recent convert to ocean swimming, Miguel Maestre, of the Spanish persuasion, whom we see on the telly on Fridee nights on the living room couch sitting next to celebrity vet Dr Chris, a regular ocean swimmer. And there he was, on Sundee at Farncy Fish, sitting next to celebrity vet Dr Chris. 

Once more unto the sea, dear chaps. ('grarph by Glistening Dave)
Bondi is a colourful place at the best of times, but on a summer Sundee, it's particularly special. A noice place to be any time, on a good swim day, it's special. As it was yesterday.

North Bondi is a good swim venue for a range of reasons. The surf club there has been running ocean swims for decades, and they know how to do it. The template doesn't need to change that much; it's honed from years and years of swims, changing subtley as experience mellows. For example the water safety lads and lasses are much softer now than they were at North Bondi a few years back, when it was their way or no way.

The venue lends itself to mass swims. With Bondi facing a little east of south, North Bondi is protected in many conditions, such as yesterday's when the east-sou'-easterly swell ran into South Bondi, leaving North Bondi as the proverbial Lake Bondi. The Backpacker Express in the corner is an invaluable tool, matching Avalon for glory in swim starts, if the organisers allow its use. The start at North Bondi yesterday was a little farther sarth (west) of the runout than it usually is, making the run north (east) into the corner a little too far to make it worthwhile. The Almighty was watching over us, however, as the easterly sweep on the nadiring tide picked us up on entering the water and took us east, anyway, so the effect was pretty much the same. We can't recall a sweep that strong that far along the beach at North Bondi, but then we don't swim at Bondi more than a couple of times per season.

The water was coolish, perhaps 19C, and a bit lower than reports from the day before. Nothing like, what, four years back, when the day was similar, cloudless, warmer, hotter, and the mug punters dashed gaily into the surf only to find it had dropped from early 20sC the day before to 16C overnight. They danced on the water. No warning from Him upstairs about that one. We don't mind a bit of cool. As we've said before, we have our wettie built in. That gives us a luxury that some other ocean swimmers don't enjoy (although most ocean swimmers swim with built-in wettie). We find the cool invigorating, refreshing. You last longer in cooler water.

The water appeared to clarify between swims, too. It was noice during the 1km, albeit not the clearest we've seen it at Bondi. But by the time the 2km started at 10:30, the tide continuing to suck out over the shallowing bank, it was clearer.
('grarph by Glistening Dave)

The real joy, though, was the sea as you neared South Bondi, which really is West Bondi, or Sou'-Sou'-West-by-South Bondi (we're drawing this from our days in the Sea Scouts in the late '60s. 1st Swansea). We expected this, given the swell direction: east-sou'-east. We'd been hoping to find it wrapping noicely around Ben Buckler, leaving the corner calm with the run out into an increasingly undulating break over the rounded boulders that line the bottom off Bondi's northerly (easterly) point. But it wasn't. The direction and the size weren't quite right for that.

But as we approached the sarth (west), below the 'Bergs, we found the swell picking up, making this swim an absolute glory. Sitting on the verandah of Farncy Fish afterwards, we pointed out to a new American cobber -- in the knowledgeable way in which we all point out to recent arrivistes who, we assume, just don't know, only to find that he used to live in Sydney and probably knew more about Bondee than we did -- how the swell increased as your gaze drifted from north (east) to sarth (west) and the 'Bergs. Still gentle and benign in the northern (eastern) corner, it was pumping in the sarth (west).
You'd think Lochie Hinds had never done an ocean swim in his life, judging by his colour. (Pic by Mark Ellis)
 And we felt it more, the farther we swam sarth (west) from Ben Buckler. You know that feeling, when you're swimming along in a fresh sea, and suddenly you feel your feet being picked up by the onrush of a following swell, running through you from toe to brow. Rolling you in a supple wave as it thrusts you down its face, you lengthen your stroke, you keep that leading arm out there just that little bit longer, to make yourself like the torpedo that we tell the little kiddies about at the pool, to make yourself more streamlined. You maximise your streamline and you minimise your drag, and you accelerate past rank-and-file hackers with insouciant ease, smugly assuming that only you know how to do this, because only you have grown up on beaches and take this swell surfing as a natural and private gift only to yourself.
Bondi life. ('grarph not by Glistening Dave)
That's the kind of feeling it gives you, of course, swell surfing. Not breaker surfing, where you swim hard to catch a wave that breaks and dumps you onto a sandbank. Swell surfing is when you run with the swells, feeling the gentle lift in your toes, lengthening and suppling your body (words can mean whatever we want them to mean) as it melds to take the shape of the swell, to be part of it, rushing through your body, shooting you ahead, then dropping you off the back, where you slip back into hackbeat, your bow-wave off your brow breaking ahead of you... Until the next swell, gently lifts your toes...

Even better, it didn't stop when we rounded the far-out booee off the 'Bergs to head in towards the beach. More swell, bouncier now because of the backwash from the rocks along Mackenzies Point, but thrusting and undulating and rolling nonetheless.

Gee whiz, it was nice.
Rozanne Green's 2km schlepp around Bondi.
Another lesson for our American arriviste, which we omitted to point out to him... but he might be reading this now... you never know... Someone must read it. Apart from us... Although Peppermint Pattie isn't around any more, so that rules out mum as a regular... Another observation from the verandah of Farncy Fish (from where our elevated perspective showed us stuff that you don't get to see from sea level) and that's to do with the topography of Mackenzies Point. We've talked about this in the past, comparing Mackenzies with Little Head between Palm Beach and Whale Beach, about the bottom dropping off Little Head immediately, so you can round that bluff close in to the rocks even in swell. But from Mackenzies Point, there's a rock shelf running to sea, so when the sea is running you need to skirt it by a hundred metres or more, depending on the size of the swell and the state of the tide. From Farncy Fish, that east-sou'-easterly swell bashed into Mackenzies then back art again when the sets coom in. It was a melee in the sea for 75 metres. Everyone should be made to look at that, as part of their education as ocean swimmers.
It was a noice day at Bondi.

North Bondi Classic 9/2/14 - Images by Paul Ellercamp


  1. dose boyz in da 40-44 orang caps very ruff on Sunday at Classic Bondi. I report hem to leadership at Ocean Swums for disrespect to older swummers. They swum over many girls and older bald men at outer cans. They have too much nrl peptides in system and need banning. One with bruises all over legs was lagging behind leaders like big flower and did helped me. I thank him strongly with man hug. Damir.

  2. Grant McMah, swim organiserFebruary 11, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    North Bondi SLSC prides ourselves on the water safety we provide for our Ocean Swims. As part of the Waverley Council approval to operate the swims we must engage and pay for 2 jet skis that are provided by the Council Lifeguards.

    North Bondi SLSC is aware of some complaints re the Lifeguard on a jet ski and have referred the matter back to the Council department for investigation and resolution.

  3. there are some mighty swimmers in the 40-44's and they also complain about each other (except Sean Daly who quietly goes about the business of making some really big guys look ordinary)bondi races rank up there equal best in all respects including water safety-I remember how quickly we were cleared from the water the day the blueys came round the corner.One little winge about Bondi is that the waves could be separated by 5 minutes to let folk spread out because Peter Thiel had practically caught the two waves in front of him before the first bouy and first time swimmers must be told to swim wide and NOT breast stroke in tight traffic.Otherwise a great day was had by all.

  4. Us 40/44's have plan for tittle sean dally in nex swum. He be scared of us for sure. We treach hime not to draft badly. He train very hard to win free goggle towls but we plan remove him form podum in next swum. He sure be read this and take not. Peter have magnificent arms and we help him get back on top of sean and catch waves in front not almost. Damir.

  5. I sometimes fine Pauls words a lil tricky to understand but you Damir take the biscuit :-)


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