Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A non-champ’s ocean race at Manly

  I’m not an ace swimmer. I wasn’t a swimming champ in my teens and I’m not one in my middle age. I tell everyone that I’m a distance swimmer, that I’m not fast and that I don’t worry about competition. But in the ocean swims I sometimes find myself placed in my age group. This is so thrilling!  It gives me a taste of what it would feel like to really be an elite swimmer. It only happens when the ace swimmers are off competing somewhere else or have something more important on. The Manly LSC Blue Dolphins is one such swim. For some reason a lot of the top-draw swimmers stay away. So, despite my lack of race preparation - missed squads because of visitors and a week of boozy late nights to celebrate my daughter’s Christmas visit - I dared imagine victory.

This ocean swim was 2km from Manly round a course in Cabbage Tree Bay. The day was perfect: small waves, no wind and clear water. I was in the 50+ category, men and women. After a rather poor start my vision of victory faded a little. ‘Not to worry, I’m pretty consistent,’ I thought, ‘I’ll catch up.’ I lost the bunch I’d been swimming with just before the last buoy and the vision of victory dimmed. On to the finish. I didn’t catch a wave in, (I never do). I staggered a bit when I tried to move from the horizontal to the vertical. ‘Never mind. A big chestful of air, head up and belt up the beach as fast as possible.’ It was at this point a fellow non-champ* competitor in my category started to overtake. ‘NO WAY!’ With a mammoth effort I changed into top gear and gave it absolutely everything I had. My come-uppance was nigh. I stumbled, fell flat on my face, just short of the finish line. Non-champ sailed past and took third position.  Defeat. I came fourth in my age group and spent the rest of the day sulking.
*apologies to non-champ swimming chum (really)

Saturday, 30 November 2013

First swim of summer

Today was the first day of summer, December 1. What better way to welcome advent than a swim with the Bold and the Beautiful at Manly. It was a perfect swimming day, except for one little (wobbly) thing. The water was 19.5 degrees, clear and sparkly, the sun was out, the ocean was flat, and the fish were out in force:  Little ones, fluorescent ones, camouflaged ones (I missed them), cat-fishy ones and wobbly ones like this chappie here. Him and a bunch of his gelatinous chums had quite a lark wishing the simmers a happy Christmas in the only way they know,  the stingy way. Nothing too bad but I can still feel mine seven hours later.


Thank you to Snorkles, B&B blogger for the picture


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A mid-week swimming treat (or two)

This week Sid and I decided to have some time in the lieu and set off on a mid-week, afternoon truant. We decided to go for a swim at the Drummoyne Olympic Pool, or Crummy Drummy as labelled by Mr Ocean Swims Paul Ellercamp. To me it’s not at all Crummy, more Scrummy in fact. However my vision impairment means I don’t notice the reputed low cleanliness standards of the changing rooms!  The Drummy is set against the bay in Drummoyne and has a lovely vista. The 50 metre heated pool is saltwater which provides a great swimming boost. So I can feel pleased with my swimming with thoughts like:  “I was swimming well today” and “I’m really fit at the moment,” conveniently forgetting the saltwater factor. 

We went on Tuesday afternoon. The pool was almost deserted and we had a lane each, what luxury. I had a modest swim trying to be nice to my swimmer’s shoulder. I used some toys to take the strain off my shoulder, nice light bendy flippers and a miracle kickboard that purports to do wonders for the core. Sid managed to do his whole swim freestyle. Well done Sid! We had a lovely swim, peaceful, warm and tranquil. On arriving home we discovered I had left aforementioned miracle kickboard on the poolside. “Oh no! this means we have to go back tomorrow” (I’ll remember this trick!). So, on the following day we had another mid-week truant to retrieve the miracle kickboard. It wasn’t there. Somebody had obviously recognised its supersonic core developing properties unparalleled by other kickboards, and snaffled it. Oh well, might as well have a swim then. This time we swam in the morning and it was a lot busier with the local kiddies having their learn-to-swim classes. It was still uncrowded though with around two swimmers per lane. Today Sid’s progress continues and he completed a longer session freestyle. I put in a 2.7 km swim and emerged brimming with endomorphs and happy feelings.
I am savouring these wonderful Sydney outdoor 50 metre pools. These swimming delights will be replaced by different swimming experiences next year with summer swimming in the UK. I’m also enjoying the truanting!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Delightfully Damp Dawny Cockatoo Island Challenge

On November 17 I did the Dawn Fraser Cockatoo Island Challenge, a 2.4 km swim around Cockatoo Island. The island serves as an industrial museum and swimmers were treated to visions of cranes and warehouses en route.  Many in Sydney won’t swim in the harbour believing it dirty and full of dead things. Not true! It may be a bit murky but the water quality is good. Definitely no corpse encounters. Today it was warmer in than out with the water temperature at 20 degrees. We had a rain squall on the way around. What fun! 

This is my third Dawny swim and I am afraid my last. We are heading back to the North of England next year. I guess next summer will also see me swimming in squally rain (but very cold water) in the Lake District in Cumbria.

This is my first swim of the season and it was great to see my ocean swimming chums again. I have missed them over the winter.  This swim was also special because husband Sid participated in the 1km event. But he was still there at the end to cheers us in.

As usual the swim started in the water. The waves of swimmers were large and close together as the swim needs to be completed before the Sydney Harbour ferries start. We sighted on a “bloody big crane” as the course marshal described it, to take us around to the back of the island, then swam single file under a bridge at the ferry landing and along the back of the island. As we came around the other side the squall descended upon us. The sea got choppy and visibility was poor. As usual I lost my bearings swimming back from the island. Added to this there was a pull from the tide which added a bit of distance to my swim. Arriving at the jetty there were plenty on hand to help us out of the water. Then it was a quick massage from one of the sponsors and some fruit before heading off to a café for breakfast number two. Coffee and a doughnut, a right nice treat!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) story about the Bold and Beautiful by Sid Astbury

Sydney (dpa) - The rest of the breakfast crowd at the Bluewater café this chilly Sunday morning in Sydney are puzzling over the boisterousness of those at the trestle tables at the back.

A clue to the wide grins is the wet hair, the salty tang and the shivering: these are members of the Bold and the Beautiful and have just completed a 1.5-kilometre dawn swim in numbingly cold water from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach and back.

The club has been going since 2008 when a few friends anxious at the prospect of being alone in the Pacific Ocean prevailed on experienced swimming instructor Julie Isbill to shepherd them on an early morning dip.

Over 3,000 people have since filled out the B&B pack. Three have been on enough swims to clock up 1,000 kilometres.

There are newbies almost every day for the 7.00 am start outside Manly surf lifesaving club.

"It's just stayed exactly as it was the day it started," said Jenny Menzies.

Beyond registering and having your photo taken for the B&B album, there are no other formalities. There is no cost, no timing, no results, no starting gun. There are no rules about wetsuits, snorkels, flippers or whether you take a direct line or wander.

The tradition has grown up of breakfasting together afterwards.

Some, like Ian Forster, turn up most days. Indeed, Forster has swum every single day this southern hemisphere winter, 92 consecutive days, and without a wetsuit too.

"Every day is different," said Menzies. "You see a different fish or a different weed. Or the sand will be shaped slightly differently. I've never tired of doing it. I'll swim until the day I die."

Mortality - or, at least, remaining mortal - is on the minds of some swimmers.

Kari Baynes, a first-timer in August, swam with pool-swimming chum Lindy Woodrow, a veteran of lots of competitive ocean swims.

"I've a fear of sharks and surf," Baynes admitted. "I thought that if I do it with an experienced group, with a large number of people, I'd feel much safer. I like the fact that I felt people around me all the time."

Sharks are spotted off all Sydney beaches. Some have shark nets to deter attacks and some do not. The crossing to Shelley Beach is unprotected but while there are frequent sightings of really big fish, there have been no incidents.

In winter the ocean is calmer than in summer. Manly is a surfing beach and there can be big surf, big waves, currents and rips.

"You don't want to be swimming off the coast of Sydney on your own," Woodrow said. "Kari enjoyed it. I swam with her. She swam with other people. She's desensitizing herself to the fear of large ocean life like sharks and big surf."

Baynes, who plans to go on to competitive ocean swimming, was delighted to be in what some have said is Sydney's premiere nursery for ocean swimmers.

"That's how it felt: in a nursery," she said. "I don't mind looking at a bit of sea life, but not the sea life with the big teeth. I swam close to people. My theory is to be in the middle.

"Navigating the surf, the waves, that's going to be my next challenge."

Menzies was brought up on Sydney's northern beaches. The ocean does not scare her. What gets her out of bed for the B&B swims is the camaraderie.
"You get up, you get down there and you know you're going to see a friendly face," she said. "Doesn't it make you feel good to be alive! There's something about it that gets into every cell of your body. You can be exhausted but when you come out you feel fantastic."
Every day of the year there is a swim. Some can be really memorable. One Tuesday in July last year the group of 48 who braved the cold and the rain got to swim with a 15-metre southern right whale.
The gentle giant was so inquisitive it came close enough to some swimmers they could hear it breathe, even touch it.
Back in the Bluewater café that day the group on the trestles at the back were likely noisier, more euphoric, more boisterous and less shivery than usual.
## Internet - [Bold and the Beautiful]( - [Video of playful whale]( - [Images of playful whale]( - [Shelly Beach](
Sid Astbury
Australia correspondent
●●● English Services GmbH

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The not so Bold and Beautiful

Today saw a few firsts for me. The first open water swim since my swimming haircut, the first of the  Sydney season without a wetsuit, the first in a bikini and the first frisson of surf with the Bold and Beautiful. The haircut is brilliant, no need for large swim hats, precariously balanced goggles and no need to wrestle with tangled rats’ tails aprez swim. The water today was a refreshing 19 degrees. The two piece stayed in place. But the surf … I hang my head in shame!  There was no boldness about this B&B swimmer today. Once I clapped eyes on the big wave sets coming in I wimped out and joined the walk of shame to the ocean steps conveniently located beyond the break. I had a relaxed and pleasurable, if foreshortened, swim. So even though I was not a bold swimmer I was a happy one with no broken bones.  A new approach to the ocean is emerging I think. I wish all ocean swims had stair options!

After the swim we had our customary Bluewater brekkie tainted by a smidgeon of guilt at not having completed the full mileage. To assuage this guilt I persuaded husband Sid to take me to Clovelly where, with the millions, I plied up and down the breaker-free inlet a few times. I got a tan mark where the new two-piece sits and returned home happy with my topped-up mileage.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Swimming the Grand Canyon: What larks!

Late September saw a posse of Wett Ones on a Strel Swimming tour to Lake Powell in the US state of Arizona. Lake Powell is younger than this writer, the result of damming the Colorado River to create a 658-square-kilometre aquatic paradise in the Grand Canyon. Lake Powell defines the border between Utah and Arizona – or, as Americans say, the state line.

Before the trip I was a bit anxious; Would I  be able to keep up? Would my wonky shoulder last the trip? Was the swimming going to be good enough to justify flying to the other side of the world? Would we all get on?

Wett Ones had swimsuits made in hues inspired by the red earth and blue sky of Arizona. Squabbling over the designs – colours, cuts, sizes – didn’t bode well for us getting along on the holiday itself.

No worries! The experience was wonderful, far beyond my expectations. I kept up and my shoulder held out. I made new friends and strengthened old friendships. We all got on like a log cabin on fire.  

The holiday was arranged by Borut Strel. We were lucky enough to have his dad, Martin, with us too. Martin is known as the River Man, having swum the entire length of the Amazon. After that, splashing about in Lake Powell is like having a bath.

Our group numbered 12: seven Wettones (Lindy, Kari, Scott, Matt, Rowan, Nori and Nick), a couple from Canada (John and Francis) and from San Francisco, Mariam and Mohammad. Rounding out the group was Patty, an industrial-strength open-water swimmer from Galveston, Texas.

The tour lasted fou r days with three days swimming. We went out each day on one of two speedboats, one captained by Rusty, who has plied the placid waterway for most of his life and almost all of its life. We buddied up so we never swam alone. We were watched over on our 2-kilometres dips by Bonny on her paddle board and the two boats. Back on the boat and off to swim in another awesomely beautiful spot.  Borut’s pasta-and-salad lunches were perfect. We swam in canyons, through rocky mazes and into caves. We took thousands of photos of each other and the scenery.

 The water was clear and the lake deserted. After Aprez-swimming was a shower at the Holiday Inn hotel and then eating and drinking and having fun. Ranked highly were the Mojitos and the Japanese Chardonnay. The best dessert was the Yum Yum Bombs (Deep friend tempura Oreos with  cream and chocolate sauce). Then it was back to upload our experiences on Facebook

On the last day we had a bit of drama as the National Park was closed due to US Government shut-down. We snuck in anyway, avoiding the rangers, and swam 4 kilometres worth of quiet snaky canyons close to the marina. (As some wag said about the US government: Had Obama tried turning it off and turning it on again? That sometimes works.)

                        The Wetties: (L to R) Nori, Matt, Lindy, Rowan, Nick, Kari and Scott





Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Diana Nyad: Inspiration to dream

On Tuesday, 3 September, Diana Nyad completed her Xtrme Dream, a 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. This was her fifth attempt. She is 64. When she got out of the water after 53 hours she had three things to say about her Xtreme Dream:

Never give up. You are never too old to realise your dream. Swimming is not a solitary sport but a team effort.

Inspirational stuff that many swimmers will relate to.  I certainly can.

I followed Diana’s progress in 2012 during her fourth attempt and shed a few tears when she had to abandon. On her fifth attempt I followed her progress again, checking twitter and her webpage every hour, sending her good luck thoughts across the webosphere. Her success affected me greatly and tears of happiness were shed this time. That evening we cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate her victory.

The event evoked so much emotion in me and in others worldwide. Why is this?  Her success represents triumph over adversity. It refutes the proposition that our capacities inevitably decline of age. And we want to experience the euphoria that such a great achievement must bring.

So, the dream. I want a goal, I want to overcome a challenge and I want that euphoria that comes from success. Like Diana (and Bob Dylan) I want to ‘feel forever young.’

But I think my dream might be extreme with a small x. I have thought about doable dreams but unlike Diana I have a couple of constraints. First, I am not a champion swimmer and second I can’t squander all our superannuation on my dream. So, no costly boat escorted English Channel or Rottnest swims for me.

I’m still looking but I think an open-water marathon (10 km) fits the bill. I’ll do this next year in the UK.  I’m thinking the Dart 10K looks as though it has my dream ticket on it.  But every dream needs preparation so my next little dream is a 5-km swim. It may seem small potatoes but I haven’t done a 5-km open water swim yet. I see the Berry Rickards, Penrith, has a 5km event coming up. Modest, but my dream has begun, Thank you Diana!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Eight and Proud – LoL8

Lane eight, the slowest lane?  Yes, I’m afraid so. The casual lane? Not! At Wett Ones Master’s Swimming the Ladies of Lane Eight (LoL8) are keen and more competitive than you might imagine.

But, first, an explanation: LoL8 is a misnomer because it is not exclusively female. We have several honorary ladies. Sadly (for the girls) the honoraries tend to be the fastest.

Josephine, Kari and Lindy compete for speed in sets. Who will be first to be a Serious Swimmer of Lane Seven (SSLS)?  Lindy, who has been with the squad for four years? The mega-effort and mega-fit Josephine, who has been with the squad for three years? Or super-keen Kari who joined eighteen months ago.

Then there’s Cecily, who has been with Wett Ones for 14 years and has the most elegant swimming style. Of the honoraries, there is Gordy the speedy youngster who would be a SSLS if he didn’t take so many holidays in Scotland or wreck his style with running; Matt, the Tama Tosser, who just needs to tweak his backstroke before qualifying for the Magnificent Seven; Michael who is a Bold and Beautiful swimmer with Bluewater-sustained endurance; Selwyn, who attends  sporadically until the ocean swims come around; and then  there is much-loved Kevin who has been out of the pool for several weeks because of illness. Everyone misses Big Kev.

The LoL8 each have their own swimming battle. Josephine is addressing the intricacies of butterfly with vengeance.  Lindy works very hard to develop and engage her core. She also tries to remember to  avoid sighting on the end of the pool (well it’s good in the ocean),  Kevin wrestles with tumble turns, Kari changes her stroke with every piece of advice and Matt is working on speeding up his backstroke.

The competition does not rest with swimming.  Kari and Lindy vie for swimming outfits, loud suits with matching goggles and hats.   Cec dons the racier of the Funkita suits and Gordy has a groovy collection of Funkytrunks. LoL8 have a weakness for Funkita and Funky Trunks.

Casual we are not. We keep to the time repeats, try to do as we are told by the coaches and have a high attendance record. We may aspire to join the SSLS and admit we will never become  Heroes of Lane Six but we are very proud to be the Ladies (and gentlemen) of Lane Eight.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Bold and the Beautiful

The Bold and the Beautiful (From Splash-e August, 2013)
The Bold and the Beautiful is an informal ocean swimming squad in Manly. They meet at the south end of Manly Beach every day at 7am to swim around to Shelly Beach and back again. The distance is 1.5 kms. The squad includes swimmers of all abilities. Some swim in wet suits, some with flippers. Some swim to Shelley Beach and walk back while some walk to Shelley  Beach and swim back.  The squad attracts around 150 swimmers.

It’s a friendly and relaxed group that welcomes newcomers. The swim is magnificent.  The marine life in Fairy Bower Bay is gorgeous. Occasionally the squad is accompanied by dolphins. Once a whale joined the lucky 49 swimmers

Newcomers can just turn up a little before 7am outside Manly SLSC. They then register their details and have their photo taken. They are then presented with a B & B pink swimming hat which needs to be worn each swim. There is no water safety with the group. There is no timing. There are no results. There is no water or fruit at the end. After the swim many go to Bluewater Café, one of their sponsors, for a coffee or breakfast.

Swimmers can earn a Cold and Beautiful badge for winter swimming if they complete 20 swims over the 13-week winter season.   During the summer the challenges are 6-km swims and 10-km return swims to Freshwater Beach and Curl Curl.


Great rock baths in Sydney: Wylies Baths, Coogee

Wylies Baths is a 50-yard (45-metre) pool built into the rocks at the southern end of Coogee Beach. Built in 1907 by Henry Alexander Wylie, a champion distance and underwater swimmer, it was renovated 20 years ago. Wylies kept its traditional character after the refurbishment, but gained hot showers, spacious decks and a café.  

The pool is alternately drained and topped up by the tides, ensuring clean, clear water. There are fish too. Sadly, a short time ago the long-term resident octopus died.  

The waves break over the pool at high tide. And when the surf is up, swimming can be very challenging. It’s best to check the website, which is updated every morning, about the temperature and condition of the water. You may get a warning about stingers. There are lifeguards on duty.  

The café serves excellent coffee and the view of Coogee Bay from the deck is gorgeous. The pool is open 365 days a year although on weekends it sometimes closes early because of wedding parties. During the summer the pool is open 7am to 7pm and in the winter 7am to 5pm. Entry is

$4.50 for adults and $2.00 for children and pensioners. Remember a 20 cent coin for a hot shower. Parking is available and the bus routes 313, 314, 353, 370, 372, 373 and 374 will take you to Coogee.


My new blog

Sunday, August 18, 2013
Finally I have got around to starting  my swimming blog.  I love swimming, I love water. All kinds. Pool water, sea water, lake water, river water and even bath water. I belong to Wett Ones, Sydney,  Australian Master's swimming squad and swim with them three times a week. During the summer months I do most of the ocean swims around Sydney. Now it's winter and I have started swimming on Sundays with the Bold and the Beautiful at Manly. Today was my third swim with the group. My husband Sid and daughter Leah came with me today. We swim from Manly SLSC around to Shelly beach. We stop and wait for the whole group, then set off for Manly all together. This happens fro the lucky locals every day, 365 days a year. The swim was beautiful. The water was flat and clear. It's getting a bit lighter as Spring approaches and the sun was peeping around Shelley beach when we arrived. On the swim back ther were pretty reflections through the water.