Category: rips

Despite my best intentions, the ongoing home renovation saga and the inevitable post-public holiday workload, I missed training all week this week.

Thanks god for Saturday mornings, and training this week did not disappoint!

The water temperature at the moment is so stunning. It really makes swimming such a pleasure.

The session was my second favourite thing (after body surfing!) to do…a swim safari!

Today we headed to the South end, which we do less commonly than the North. I think it’s a little more technically challenging (Wikipedia just told me that ” While the northern end has been rated a gentle 4 (with 10 as the most hazardous), the southern side is rated as a 7″), and the south end is where the surfers tend to be, and that can be a challenge for us (nobody wants to get hit in the head by a surfboard).

Like the North end, there is a famous rip that can give you a sweet ride out if you know what you’re doing. It’s known as the “backpacker express” because of the Backpacker’s hostel across the road. Or the numbers unwary backpackers who have taken a ride on it! If you look closely at the first picture of us getting our briefing on the beach below, you can see the “Dangerous Currents” sign in the background…and if you look even harder at the second picture you can actually see the rip itself…the deceptively calm looking spot where the waves aren’t breaking.

The joy of a rip, though , for ocean swimming, is that if it’s going in the same direction you are, it gives you a significant boost in speed. And if you know not to swim against the rip, when you’re coming back in, that’s a significant gain.

Once we were out in the rip, we did a swimming tour of the reef along the edge of Bondi Icebergs. There were loads of fish around. Schools of surface-swimming silvery garfish parting around the swimmers, tiny stripy things darting around, a massive blue groper darting out from under a rock to give me a bit of a start, and all manner of speckled and coloured fishies sharing the warm waters. Glorious! (I tried taking photos, but the sky was a bit overcast and they were moving pretty fast…not sure my blurry shots add anything so I’ve left them off).

We did our swim, into the “boot” (a boot-shaped rock), and out and around to the point, back again, and then were faced with two options…

First option was to swim out to the other side of the rip to get back in. Benefits: Safe, flatter swim, chance of catching a wave in. Risks: Surfers!

Second option was to shave along the very edge of the reef inside the rip. Benefits: Shorter distance, lots of fish, more to see. Risks: Running into rocks.

The group split. I had a think about the high tide and caught a flash of Zoe’s orange rashie heading down along the reef, and decided on that option. And it was completely worth it.

I swam with Fiona (I think everyone else took the surf option) and we skirted the reef pretty easily most of the way, surrounded by fish. There is one kind of hairy bit, it’s a narrow channel between two shallow rocks, where we had to swim in single file. It was pretty fun, though, as coming out the other side there was a massive school of fish right underneath you.

The risky option paid off, as well, as we were back on the beach well before all but the fastest swimmers who took the other option.

Ah, such a good session. Good for the soul!

The Warm Up

Every swim, no matter whether it’s in the pool or the ocean, we start with a warm-up.
I usually tend to skip over that part of training when I write about my sessions, as, honestly, it’s not the most exciting bit. That definitely doesn’t mean that the warm-up isn’t an important part of training (and races, for that matter).

In the ocean, the warm-up serves multiple purposes:

  1. Acclimitisation. Getting you actually into the water, especially if it’s a touch on the chilly side! Many people find themselves a bit breathless when they first dive into cold water, but it does pass. So it’s better to get that over and done with before a race or taking off into deep water for training.
  2. Getting the lay of the land (or the sand). The problem with the beach is that it’s always changing. Banks build up, holes and channels constantly move and reinvent themselves. It’d be super easy to turn an ankle if you charge straight in without doing a quick check of what’s really in front of you.
  3. Other reconnaissance. You can tell a lot by looking at the conditions before you swim, but not everything. Rips, sweeps, fast-flowing channels, waves dumping harder than they look…it’s worth taking it easy at first to figure out if any of these are present and where, then you can adjust your entry and exit from the water, and your choice of where to swim accordingly. In race conditions if you can find a rip either side of the start line it can be well worth running to where that is and riding it out…it can save a lot of time and energy!
  4. Getting your body warmed up and ready to go. I’m no expert on these things, but it does seem to me that starting off a little slower and getting the muscles worked up to intensity gradually would be less likely to cause an injury that going gung-ho straight off the bat.
  5. Get the nerves out of the way. I can get quite nervous before the start of a race…mostly just excitement and build-up of energy, but it can make me a bit jittery. There’s nothing like diving under that first wave of the day to make everything feel suddenly quiet and calm and focussed on the water and the swim instead of the nerves.

The warm-up may not be the most exciting part of your swim, but it’s still something that you should do every swim, training or racing, no matter what.

Saturday training marked the end of the winter, and more importantly the end of the Icebreaker season!

I know it’s actually a couple of weeks into spring here, but for reasons one can only assume were to do with being in tune with the natural seasons rather than subscribing to the unnatural calendar construct devised by an egotistical emperor (or something like that) our winter season went from equinox to equinox.

Winter, spring, or any season, it was a cracker of a day! Sunshine and surfable waves and clear water and not too much wind. In celebration of the end of the winter season (and perhaps to gain a final few extra icebreaker points) there were a few more newd swimmers than usual, despite the water being a touch colder than it has bene the last couple of weeks….definitely a shock getting in!!!

Our session was quite similar to last week’s, with squares and a couple of rip swims. It was definitely a different experience to last week, though. The weather and the waves for a start. I firmly believe that, even swimming at the same beach at the same time every week, the ocean always gives you something new. Occasionally it’s a lesson in humility, but more often it’s a pleasant surprise.

This week it was a wolverine. Yes, you heard me correctly. Luckily I’m not referring to this kind of wolverine:








so much as this kind of Wolverine….









Yes, that’s right. Mr Hugh Jackman was at the beach, in all his beardy muscly glory. It’s just possible a couple of our beach briefings were a little more giggly, and a touch longer than they usually are while all the ladies may have indulged in anything from a few furtive looks to outright staring (or in Leanne’s case, obliviousness!)

So there you have it – winter swimming….whales to wolverines!

We went off and had a lovely lunch with certificates and awards and new timetables and new challenges now the icebreaker is over (and perhaps a little bit of champagne!). Watch this space for all sorts of new adventures….as the weather warms up the fun really begins!

Saturday morning was sunny and beautiful. I was packing up my swim bag and getting ready when I looked at my wetsuit. It’s so bulky and hard to get on and off and I really enjoyed swimming without it last week. A quick check of a couple of weather apps confirmed that there wouldn’t be much in the way of waves, and the water temperature wasn’t too crazy-cold.

Snap decision…left the wetsuit out of the bag.

I headed down and met up with Fiona and Ronene. We were talking about the weather and how nice it was on the way. The conversation moved on to how lucky we’ve really been this inter, with hardly any really cold, rainy horrible days.

And as we headed closer to the beach, we started noticing some dark and ominous looking clouds forming off the coast.

We had jinxed ourselves! By the time we got to the beach it was dark and overcast and starting to rain. And I had foolishly and prematurely decided not to bring my wetsuit! The waves, of course, had also picked up with the wind.

Ah well, there was nothing for it but to forge ahead and swim anyway,. It was a chilly entry, but really not too bad. We did some squares out, across and back to the beach, but with a bit of a twist where we had to watch for coach Zoe to turn, and turn at whatever point we were at (ie faster swimmers further out, slower ones not so much). Sometimes she was at the back of the pack, and sometimes out deeper. With the bigger swell it was hard work and at least once I had to actually stop swimming and look around…only to find her nowhere near where I thought she was!

This is actually a great activity for ocean swimmers. In a race swimming in a straight line towards a particular point, regardless of conditions, can mean huge gains, so this is a fun but important exercise.

For some of the circuits (square circuits…I hope this makes sense!) we caught the North Bondi rip out, and man that thing was FLYING!!! It also had a rare visitor in the shallows….a well camouflaged little wobbegong shark, who I caught a glimpse of (only as he moved) and who was no doubt startled and perplexed by the sudden influx of legs and splashes above him!

By the end of the session I was pretty stuffed. Those sets in the bigger conditions were definitely in the cardio vascular zone!

And then, wouldn’t you know it, after a quick shower and lining up for coffee…the rain stopped and the clouds cleared and it was a beautiful day again!

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.

Yep, this post is a week late. The week somehow got away from me and all of a sudden I find myself a couple of training posts behind.

To make it easier on myself I thought I’d catch up by skipping training this weekend.

Ok, that’s a lie. Total fib. I did skip training, but it was nothing to do with keeping up with my posts. It was far more erm…self-inflicted. The truth is I had a work function on Friday night, and more than a glass or two of red were consumed. I have a strict rule about not alcohol and swimming not mixing, so I made a sensible decision (following a number of the less-sensible variety the night before) and skipped training.

I followed up with a boxing class on Sunday morning – I have boxed pretty regularly for the last couple of years as the group I train with operate in the park across the road from my house. Last semester they didn’t run a Sunday class, and the previous I was recovering from an injury, so it’s been a little while since I’ve been. We ended with a pretty brutal abs session, so karmically, the serious pain in my abs feels like ample punishment for skipping my Saturday swim.

Anyway, it does give me a chance to catch up on a post or two. I didn’t post anything about training on the 7th.

It was one of those nasty days. Dark and windy and the waves were pretty big and pretty messy. nasty enough to get all attendees an extra Icebreaker point. We did a good long winter set. nothing I haven’t written about on here before, so instead, I thought rather than repeat myself I’d wind this up and spend a little time on my tips for rough condition swimming.

Back to normal programming soon!

You know how after last week’s Saturday training post, (and the week before for that matter)I may have gone on a bit about how gloriously clear the water was and how beautiful winter swims can be?

Well this week’s session blew them all out of the water!

I should do a bit of a build up, but it’s too exciting to wait….we swam with WHALES!!!

We were on a bit of a swim safari down the south end near Icebergs. We’d stopped to regroup when Jules got a bit excited and told us she’d seen a whale!

There was a bit of swell, and whales do spend time under the water in between breaching, so it was a minute or two before anyone believed her (and there may have been the odd implication that she was hallucinating). We were all treading water and looking out to sea.

I’ve seen whales off Bondi before (from the shore) so was looking out towards the horizon and looking for splashes.

And then, about 400m away a whale breached. All I saw was this massive whale belly. It was un. be. liev. a. ble.

There may have been some squeals of delight….and that was just the boys! We stopped swimming and just watched as it made its way across the bay.

It was a truly awe-inspiring and breathtaking experience, one I won’t forget in a hurry.

It was almost enough to make me forget how cold the water was…still sans wetsuit!

Whales at Bondi

Credit to Coach Zoe

It was raining and cold and dark (not because the sun wasn’t up, but because of the rain clouds) when I woke up this morning to get ready for swimming. It’s been quite a week at work and I admit I may have been tempted, just for a moment, to stay in bed where it was warm and cosy and sleepy.

Just for a moment.

Instead I was up and about and getting ready.  My usual carpooling buddies Ronene and Fiona were depending on me to drive. Plus another swimming buddy Vanessa (who lives in the same apartment complex as me) had asked the night before if she could have a seat in the car. She hasn’t been swimming for a little while, but she was at the charity trivia night last week and we may have put a bit of peer pressure on her to come join us for a swim. In my experience, no matter how much you love an activity, whether it’s ocean swimming or extreme ironing, it’s always good to do it with a friend (or two, or three or more) as there are always going to be days when you aren’t 100% sure you want to get out of bed. Having someone else relying on you being there can sometimes just be enough to get you over the line.

So off to the beach we went. It rained even more as we headed off, but the swimming gods were with us and it cleared by the time we got there.

Last week I discovered a hole in my wetsuit. Luckily it was pretty discrete, like right on the butt. *Cue all sorts of jokes that I’m sure you’re capable of imagining all on your own*. So, I was swimming sans-wettie again. *Cue cold shivers!* It may have stopped raining when we arrived, but the air was colder than it’s been so far this winter, and it was pretty breezy.

I maaay have even had a few misgivings as we walked down the beach towards the water. And then a few more as we walked out to our acclimatisation/warm-up to find that the water was pretty damn refreshing!

After a few minutes of procrastination and whingeing, I managed to get my goose-bumpy body under the waves and finally started swimming, Within moments I was past that stinging and tingling cold and had started going nicely numb. Initially when the water is cold like that I find that I get a bit short of breath while my body adjusts. Unfortunately this tends to be right about the point where you generally start having to get under the biggest of the waves to get out the back. Ronene hadn’t been particularly well during the week and I knew she had also been a little apprehensive about the swim. As we were heading out on the warm-up I looked over at her and she commented on the same thing. Ronene and I have been friends for years, but for various reasons she started swimming a year later than I did and this is her first winter season. Although she’s now generally faster than me, on the odd occasion I still have a word or two of advice to offer and I suggested that she relax, that it’s normal to feel short of breath and to just slow down and swim through it. Then I decided to take my own advice, relax, slow down and swim through it.

Before long I was acclimatised and having a ball. The sky may still have had some dark clouds over the horizon, but the water was crystal clear and green and amazing. The conditions were pretty much exactly what I dream of…waves with a bit of power, rolling sets in one direction that drive along into the shore (without smashing you down into the bank). With all the movement of the surf up top, and the clear water I could not believe the way it looked under the surface: it was truly amazing. There were shifting sands and currents and fish…all looking like it could be trapped on the inside of an emerald. I don’t even know how to describe how gorgeous it was.

The set was a good one too – some longer swims interspersed with a bit of wave-catching action. We also had a go at catching the backpacker special: the nice quick rip up the North end of the beach. Rips often get a bad name, but if you know what you’re doing they can be a lot of fun….we jumped in at the start and took a nice quick ride out the back, then swam parallel across the beach and safely back in further south of the rip. It can be quite exhilarating getting zipped along like that…and there are sea grasses and lots of schools of fish to look at along the rocks there….too much fun!

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