Sunday, 27 February 2011

Long Reef 2011: seagrass and sandbars

This time last year the citizens of Chile were recovering from an earthquake. It's darkly ironic that 12 months later, the earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand, on Tuesday has so far claimed the lives of 147 people with more than 50 still missing.

It makes my heart heavy.

Driving out to Long Reef today, I recalled that sunny day last February when all the beaches along Australia's eastern seaboard were closed because of fears that a tsunami was heading our way. The Long Reef swim was cancelled. When I arrived at the beach it was as flat as a tack and, being an eejit , I went for a swim half expecting to be sucked out to sea. But nothing happened.

Today, the weather was muggy and overcast and the swell was mild at less than a metre. 

A sandbar that stretched for a good 50 metres greeted swimmers at the start and end of the swim.  

The nice thing about this swim is that it never gets too deep so you can see the ocean floor. For a lot of the course, you're swimming over the reef. If I'd had the time I would've slowed down (it could be argued that I was already slowed down) but I didn't get a chance to appreciate the view of wafting seagrass because I was busy trying not to finish last. 

As I swam to the shore, the timing-chip's velcro band loosened and fell of my ankle. By the time I reported it lost I was probably coming last!

Ya gotta laugh. It's better than crying.

Photos: Top - swimmers in the 1 km swim wading in over the sandbar; Bottom - a dedicated ocean swimmer

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Malabar Magic Ocean Swim: a nice swim on a sweltering day in Sydney

I feel like I'm entering a different country when I head along Anzac Parade to the eastern suburb of Malabar. Unlike much of Sydney, the terrain is flat - with a moderate hill as you enter Malabar. And then there's the huge median strips that divide the left and right sides of the road, turning it into more of an avenue. I'm sure property developers have eyed the median strips off. And I bet it kills the RTA bigwigs to see so much unused land. It could never happen today.

It appears the developers have sized up and made a claim on every other piece of available land. The sponsor of today's swim, Charter Hall, is developing a massive swatch of land in an area near Little Bay, around the corner from Malabar. Little Bay is also being developed.

Just an aside - I recall that back in the olden days when my Aunty Merle and Uncle Vic lived in Malabar, it wasn't such a desirable suburb because the sewerage plant spewed out effluent close to the shore. I remember the smell. Peeeuuuw. But that's all changed now the crap is pumped further out to sea.

Back to my points about Malabar's points of difference - the other thing is a lack of big shady trees and trees in general. I guess the environment was originally shrubby and windswept. Still is. 

I guess you get used to where you live in Sydney - we all have our tribes and familiar places. I've never been an eastern suburbs girl, except for two years in my 20s when I shared houses in Paddington and Rushcutters Bay. Other than that, I've spent my life in the inner west and the hillier and leafier northern suburbs. When I was growing up we surfed at Narrabeen, Dee Why and Bilgola.

Today I got that weird feeling again of being somewhere alien as I parked and strolled to the beach to register for the Malabar Magic Ocean Swim, with all proceeds going to the Rainbow Club, a charity that helps disabled kids. Actually, before I got to the beach I took a wrong turn and ended up at a rifle range (more land for the developers to ogle). Strange place.

But Malabar Beach is pretty and Long Bay is just that - a long bay. It must be about 1 kilometre in length, because the swim was 2.37 kilometres out and back in to the beach.

When I arrived the 1 km swim was in full swing. The weather was muggy and stinking hot, so many people seeked shelter under the few low spreading trees on the grassy picnic area that runs down to the beach.

Radio announcer and comedian HG Nelson was commentating on the event, as he did in 2010 when the course ran from Malabar around to Little Bay. As I walked to the late registrations tent I heard him announce that the winner of the 1 km event completed the swim in 10 minutes! As the results aren't up on yet I can't give you his name or the exact time, but I do know he's from Japan. He went on to win the 2.37 km event. Incredible. The other elite swimmers finished in around 11 minutes.

While I was getting ready for the 2.37 km swim (applying sunblock) I met a lovely man who'd just done the 1 km swim. He told me that almost every day he and his friends swim across the bay and back - with their dogs! Is that sharkbait or what?

Unlike last year, when the conditions were stomach-churning choppy, this year there was barely a bump on the water's surface. All was calm as the starter gun went off for my age group (we were the second last group to go - the elite swimmers were already half way around the course when I dived into the water).

For me, the nice thing about this swim was the short run into the water at the start and the short run to the finish line at the end of the swim. Malabar Beach is a narrow strip of sand, so swimmers could almost swim to the finish line - that's how close it was to the water. This suited me down to the ground because I tend to lose precious seconds in the runs to and from the water. And I need every second I can get!

I agree with Mr Oceanswims who, on his website described the swim as one for those who like swimming in pools, but I still think the new course is superior to last year's difficult trek from one beach to another.

The Southerly change was meant to kick in this afternoon, but it's still sweltering in Sydney tonight. We didn't get a summer over December, but we're sure getting it in February. YUCK. I'M SWEATY. WHERE'S THE WIND? 

I forgot to take my camera to the swim, so the photo is from
Go there and have a look. There's video of the swim and a blog.

Monday, 14 February 2011

I'm doing writing stuff over at wordpress

Hi everyone.

This is the link to my new blog that is dedicated to my writing. As I've mentioned before, I don't think ocean swimmers are that interested in my other hobby and vice versa. Just an educated guess.

I hope to one day make a successful move so I'm either all over at wordpress or all over at blogspot. For the moment I'll juggle the two different locations.

I've got to figure out whether I like wordpress more than blogger. I'm used to blogger and I've muddled my way around wordpress - just accidentally deleted one of my pages!

Don't I have anything better to do?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The swim I wasn't going to do: The Cold Power North Bondi Classic 2011

I woke up at 3am and did the usual, where I worried about everything from Egypt to odd socks. I went back to sleep at 6am for an hour.

When I got up, my thoughts first flew to Egypt (power to the people and let's hope it stays that way) and then to Bondi and the important North Bondi Classic ocean swim. This is a key swim on the ocean swimming calendar and one that us serious ocean swimmers like to do "just because". It also comes a week after The Cole Classic, so for those who boycott the Cole it's their first organised swim in a fortnight. Finally, it is one of the six swims on the Fine Ocean Swimmers Series, which has big prizes for winners.    

I'm still not feeling 100 per cent, but I am a determined/ocean-swimming-obsessed woman so at 8.30am I decided to do the swim. Spanner shook his head and gave me his "you're so pathetic" look, which he created especially for me. As usual, he had no opinion about the wisdom of my racing over to Bondi. (I've just recovered from the flu and I'm still dealing with a persistent bulging disc and sore shoulder). 

I arrived at North Bondi expecting mild conditions and the predicted 1 metre swell. Maybe the swell was 2 metres? Dunno. But the surf was messy and there was choppy swell out beyond the numerous sets rolling in. It wasn't a swimming pool. However, the weather was cool and overcast, which was a blessing after the past couple of brain-frying weeks.

As often happens at North Bondi, at the swim's start the mob veers off to the left as there's usually a current closer to the rocks that sucks swimmers out over the reef. The waves were sudsy and sandy with a bit of weed, but not scary. And the lovely reef was a pleasant distraction, so before I knew it I was around the can and heading south-east. 

From then on, the swell was UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN. Imagine being stuck on a rocking boat. That's what it felt like. Ocean swimmers can actually get seasick in conditions like this.

But again, I didn't mind. I stuck with a small group and as we rounded the top can at McKenzies Point to head back to the northern end of the beach, the swell kicked in and gave us a hearty push towards to the next can. I'm sure it made the swim faster for everybody. 

For good body surfers, the getting back in part would've been fine. For me, it was the usual, stop, look behind, keep on going and avoid getting dumped scenario. 


Let's see how I shape up tonight!  

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sick as a dog = no blog

Apologies for disappearing for almost a week, but I was incapacitated by a nasty flu lurgy. I've dragged my wasting body to the computer for the first time since the virus struck to elucidate my loyal followers, obviously devastated by my lengthy absence from the blogosphere.

I missed the Cole Classic - and instead spent last Sunday shivering under a damp sheet as temperatures outside soared into the 40s.

This week has involved sleeping, sleeping, whining, moaning and more sleeping.

I'm not fully recovered, as the thought of wine and caffeine makes me feel queasy. Can't wait to get those toxins back into the system.

I fear though, that because of this slow rehab, I won't be able to do the swim at North Bondi on Sunday. I don't think Davo and I have missed this one for the past four years, so it's rather disappointing.

I'll try the caffeine and wine test tomorrow.

Cheers, and good health to everyone. 

PS: I could easily scoff down the chocolate in this photo, but the coffee and red wine are off the menu for a little while.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Prediction: The Cole Classic is going to be a bun fight as 5000 punters head to Shelly Beach

This weekend The Cole Classic is on at Shelly Beach in Manly. Traditionally, the 2 km swim runs from the sheltered, still-water Shelly Beach around to the ocean beach, South Steyne.

For the past three years, inclement conditions have led organisers to move the course so it starts and finishes at Shelly. This is a nightmare as Shelly is a narrow arc of sand that isn't particularly well suited to a big ocean swim. At any one time there might be a couple of thousand punters squished onto the beach and spilling over onto the promenade that winds its way back to South Steyne.

It looks as though this weekend might have the same surf conditions as 2010, with huge swells predicted for Sydney's beaches on Sunday.

This will pose a major challenge to the Manly surflifesavers and Fairfax, which now runs the event and theoretically gets to take home a hefty profit after the whole shebang is over.

For the first time the swim is sold out, with 5000 entrants at mostly $49 (early bird entrants) and $59 a pop.  I know a lot of the swimmers will be competing in the 1 km event, but that doesn't change the fact that it's gonna be mayhem in the water if organisers don't make the ocean entry points and exit points clear to swimmers. Many of the swimmers are novices and have no idea about ocean swimming etiquette - NO BREASTSTROKE! And a lot are bad swimmers who can barely swim 500 metres in a pool, let alone in the ocean.

Even though the 2 km swim starts at 10am, I don't expect to get into the water until 11.30am (fingers crossed). That's a long wait if the weather is as brutally hot as it has been in Sydney for five days in a row, where temperatures have peaked in the 40s Celcius.

And to make matters worse, I'm without my swimming partner and driver, Davo, so goodness knows how I'm going to get to and from Manly on the day.

I really don't know why I'm doing it. But who knows, I could be wrong. 

Let's hope so.

PS: I am on my way to creating a separate blog for my writing as I find the swimming and writing do not work well together. My writing blog, a work in progress with only two posts, is over at Wordpress. It's at The plan is to eventually move this blog over to Wordpress, too. We'll see what happens. Or what doesn't.