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