After I made a fuss and wrote a dramatic post  about dangerous conditions on Saturday, I guess I should probably post an update to let you all know how it went.

So the answer is good. And then not so good. But not because of what you’d think.

The weather was a rough as expected. The waves were pretty big, although not as big as forecast.

The sweep of the undertow, though, had some serious power to it. We didn’t go out far because of the weather, as you really couldn’t get out behind the break anyway, so we did ins and outs. Lots of wading through water between knee and waist height.

That was hard enough work, let me tell you. More than once I was literally knocked off my feet and there were time we would be swept backwards instead of the way we were trying to swim (well, I was, anyway).

It was definitely time to fall back on all the things I talked about in my post on tips for rough day swims.

The other thing that was really important in the conditions we had on Saturday is the ability to porpoise.

This is a manoeuvre we use in ocean swimming when it’s shallow enough, where we channel our inner porpoise-spirit-animal and push off the bottom, dive under, pull our feet up under us to spring off the bottom and repeat. It’s a really efficient way to cut through the water and move forward even when there’s a current pulling you back (or sideways for that matter).

Go Swim has a post on the mechanics of how to do this in race conditions:

“1. When the gun goes off, run to the point where you are about knee deep in the water.
2. Bend your knees, lean forward, and do a shallow porpoise dive, with arms and hands extended, into the water. Send your hands and body FORWARD, not down. Keep your head tucked between your shoulders. You can peek up a bit with your eyes (not your whole head!) to see where you�re going. Let your body glide in streamline until your hands hit the sand or bottom. STREAMLINE is the key word here. Let your body sail through the water and think about how much less RESISTANCE you are encountering than your competitors who are RUNNING!
3. Use your hands and arms to support your body as you gather your legs up, plant your feet, and get ready for another porpoise dive. You might need to balance on one knee before you can get both feet planted for a new dive. You�ll be in deeper water this time, so dive up and over the water, sending your body FORWARD.
4. Glide in streamline as your hands head down to the sand to catch yourself and prepare for another dive.
5. When you reach water that is about chest deep, take a last, strong porpoise dive and START SWIMMING. You�ll probably find that you got to deep water slightly ahead of the RUNNERS, that you had MORE FUN getting there, and that you started swimming with a BIG BOOST OF POWER from your final porpoise dive. Cool.

You can get the same advantages on your way to the finish line. Here’s what to do in reverse

At the finish

1. Swim until you are about waist deep in the water. CAUTION: Water depth is deceptive when you�re horizontal. Your tendency will be to start porpoising too soon, when the water is too deep. This is NOT fun or fast, so swim till your fingertips can almost touch the bottom on your pull or until you think you can easily stand up and sweep your arms out over the water.
2. Stand up, plant your feet, and dive up and over the water.
3. Glide in streamline till your hands hit the sand.
4. Get your feet up under you and porpoise again.
5. Continue until the water is about calf deep, then stand up and run high step through the water to the swim finish.”

Unfortunately, the session wasn’t without incident. Ronene managed to damage her calf muscle. Ironically (in the Alanis Morisette way, ok) running up the beach and not swimming in the rough conditions, while we were doing a few show-off shots out of the big surf for a newspaper photographer taking a few snaps.

No sign of the publicity shots in the social pages yet, but poor Ronene had to get carried off the beach and helped out by the wonderful Bondi Rescue lifeguards. A bit shout out to those guys – they really went above and beyond! Looks like she’s on crutches and potentially out of action for a bit. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery.

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