Category: sh1t day swims

This Saturday’s training session at Bondi was a particularly special one for me.

My little Sister Pia has featured on here a couple of times with the odd cameo. But did you know I have another sister? You wouldn’t have seen her on here before because she lives all the way over the other side of the country. On a farm. Inland from the ocean. And she has never been ocean swimming.

Well this weekend the little one had her engagement party and the bigger one came over…and I somehow convinced them BOTH to come along for a swim!!!!

I love those girls! I love that they came along and gave it a go because I asked them to. I love that they loved it, and I loved spending that extra time with them!

It was  a fantastic day. The water is still warm, we had a great crew of people (who didn’t even get too overwhelmed by the family reunion contingent), and the conditions were great. Mel was initially apprehensive…swimming on the West coast is a little more hazardous as there are more sharks…but the most dangerous thing on the beach was the risk of getting too carried away! Then to top off a magical swim, there was body surfing! Right off the shallow bank and straight onto the waves…brilliant!

What a way to start the winter…and the new IceBreaker Challenge!

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With a bit of stiffness from the South Head swim, and ongoing issues with my bike, I’ve given myself 2 weeks off from training.

That being said, Saturday swims are generally so much fun that I can’t bear to miss at least an hour’s swim to start my weekend on a good note!

It was a bit of a rough one again (although it’s always easier when it’s sunny), with waves and one hell of a sweep (making swimming straight almost impossible) and some decent waves to catch into the beach. It was rough enough that I decided not to take my camera with me. Ms Priceless, however, won a spanking new Olympus recently at a swim event and had it with her. She took a few great shots…including this one of me in the water that’s not actually a selfie!

Jacki_surfYep, that’s me. Wearing the South Head Rough Water flouro pink cap. Believe it or not it’s not actually just to show off. I’ve been such a slacker I haven’t picked up the bag I took on the support boat for that event yet…and it has a bunch of my extra swim gear!


Yes, the weather was rubbish. Yes, I swam. I know this is confounding to a lot of people..but unless there’s a really good reason, I NEVER miss a Saturday session. Even when it looks like this:

Fact is, it was one of the craziest sessions I’ve been to. I had an [R]Adeladian friend staying and a fancy dinner the night before. Luckily my grown-up side prevailed and I refrained from excessive wine to accompany the over-the-top carbs…as did Ronene who was both out to dinner and made training in the morning. Seems that’s not a terrible combination for swimming…until you turn up and are the only people who have turned up for that particular session!

It was so bad, the unheard-of happened…Sejuiced coffee shop was closed!

Because of the previous night’s dinner, we had turned up for the late session…not my usual choice. And coach Kingy had done one of her usual impressive pre-swim performances of running farther than I will probably ever do in my life… as a warm-up to training, so was feeling a little unenthusiastic about changing out of rain-soaked clothes to swim and then get back into the rain-soaked clothes to run all the way home. I was thinking about some sarcastic sentence here, but knowing how awesome she is, I thing “fair enough” is the only appropriate response.

Coach Zoe was to the rescue, though and agreed to go out for a second session…for our part we suggested a short session would be just fine.

We braved the rain…the fun type of rain that’s like needles on your skin…and ran down to the waterline.

After that, despite of that, and even if that wasn’t the case, the ocean was like a warm bath. The temperature was divine. I think one of the big revelations for me when I started this sport was the temperature lag with the water…and realising that sometimes the crazy-looking days are the ones that give you the warmest water and the most fun.

I’m not going to lie to you, though. conditions were challenging. The surf was a bit rough and messy. Above all though, there were a hell of a current running from South to North. So much so that even wading in the medium shallows was a pretty decent workout and my legs were aching by the end of the session.

We stayed pretty shallow, and joined maybe half a dozen other swimmers out there. It’s kind of sad to really see the end of summer, but out of season swimming has it’s own joys and having a small beach not be crowded is a luxury of its own.

The session may not have been the longest ever…we wrapped it up at about 45 minutes, but true to form, it was a lot of fun and proved once again that it’s pretty much never a bad day for a swim.

There’s a bit of a long story about the night before the Freshwater swim. It involves a photography course cancelled at the last minute (for the second time) and ends with a few more wines than was probably a good idea (especially given my pre-race routine usually involves none at all).

But what can you do?

It’s been ages since I raced due to the stupid weather and 100 million* reschedules and what would be an insignificant number of personal alternative commitments any other season. So a bit of a gee-up from a once-upon-a-time kind-of colleague (in that we worked for the same company and had mutual friends there but never actually worked together…is there a name for that?), had me signing up the day before.

I woke up on Good Friday. On the upside, the traffic to get over there was pretty much non-existent. And the weather was stunning. I really enjoyed the ride OTB and arrived to a beautiful day. As usual on the bike, I scored a primo parking position. and wandered up over the dunes….to find a nasty, nasty choppy angry-looking washing machine of an ocean out over the “always” calm Freshwater.

Pre-race I was feeling a little nervous. It’s been too long between races and I wasn’t sure I was in the right headspace.

And intra-race…well, I was also pretty sure it was a bad idea to be out there. It was as rough as it looked and choppy the whole way.

Around the last can, though, things started to look up. I spotted the signature flouro swimmers of the lovely Bel M….I thought it might be possible so sucked it up and put on a bit of a surge to swim with her. The last leg of the race was looking up. It’s a bit hard to explain how much you can actually communicate with people in a race in the water, but it’s a very powerful thing to find yourself alongside someone you know and have trained with and consider a friend, and in this case it really lifted my (somewhat queasy) spirits.

As we headed in, the waves were helpful..and not. they were good for catching in to shore, but they were also just a touch on the scary side.

Short story –

  1. Cleaned up by a massive wave
  2. Lost goggles. Finished event without goggles.
  3. Evil calf cramp. Bad one. Bad enough to stick with me for a while Baaaaaad one.
  4. Bel, who if she was uber-competitive could have left me and kicked my butt, hanging around to check I was alright. Highlight of my race. And making me remember, yet again, why I do this particular sport, with these particular people.
  5. Bel and Jacki crossing the finish line together! Finishing on a high note!

So, in the end I finished. Probably not my finest hour and certainly not my most impressive race. Lessons learned: 2. First, alcohol and ocean swimming are not a good combination. And second, never take for granted what the conditions will be like. Mother nature will throw you a backhand every time…especially if you tempt fate by ignoring lesson 1!

*not actual number

Freshwater 1.5km 2013

Freshwater 1.5km 2013

God, I feel a bit like this blog, and my swimming, and the weather and everything else are all over the place at the moment?

What’s it all about? Well, a couple of things. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love a list, so here goes:

  1. The freaking weather. it’s messed with way too many races this season. I haven’t raced in a month, and although a little of that is due to other commitments, the weather this year has been very inconvenient! Mostly on the weekends. It’s messed with a number of races I’ve been entered in. Bondi to Bronte and Bilgola were pretty hard work. Palmy to Whale was the worst I’ve ever seen it. Caves Beach was postponed and the Bondi double postponed til Easter. Freshwater just called things off cos the forecast was too scary and there were no days left free in the season.
  2. On top of that….Tamarama to Clovelly (my favourite race last year) told us early on they were going on hiatus for this year.
  3. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely.
  4. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.
  5. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely. Do they have any idea how long and hard I trained for this event?
  6. It’s not all bad news. I’ve been doing my advanced dive training. Pity the freaking weather got in the way so that I had to do it over two weekends instead of one!
  7. Work is just mental. One of those big corporate things that I wish didn’t affect my work/life balance but does at the moment.
  8. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely. How bloody hard is it to keep motivated when they take away your goals?
  9. There’s quite a lot going on with me this year. There was the camping holiday, I’m flying to Tassie in a couple of days (and again later in the year), I’m getting together the world’s most awesome team for the MS Megaswim (remember how cool last year was? think that multiplied by 4!)
  10. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely. Far out. Not happy, Jan!
  11. other stuff going on on the home front…just sold a house I’ve had in Tassie for a million years (or a decade of so. I forget which is longer), and we’re doing some reno work on the place we have here in Sydney, looking to sell up and move into something more aligned with our lifestyles. Negotiations are underway on exactly what that meansI can tell you right now that I am not a contender for the block. I’m OK with doing the work, I’m just really not gonna love it like some people do. Swimming on the other hand…..
  12. Phew, that’s a long list. Embarrassing much?
  13. Oh, OK. 5 points were pretty much the same thing. Probably time to move onto plan B, I guess. Watch this space!

So, the point is? Besides a bit of self-pity? I’ll be back on track shortly…I always get there. With my little hiatus down South to my hometown I’ll even have a go at getting up to date with the posts. In the meantime, 4SEASons is getting bigger and better so talk amongst yourselves. And if the weather would like to get its shot together…well that’d be just fine too!

After writing the post about Jessie’s experiences at Saturday’s training, I checked in with Jessie before publishing to make sure I had it right and that she was ok with her experience being put out there into the universe (OK, the internet, but it’s kind of the same).
Her response was so great I thought it deserved its own post! So here it is…..
[I’m] happy for others to learn from my experience!
Thanks for being so nice about it, and thanks again for your help!!
If you want to add something from me I think the main thing I learnt is was to swim to how you’re feeling in the day.
I got pretty cocky with the big waves given that I grew up swimming on the surf coast in winter. I figured nothing Bondi could throw at me would be worse than Bells Beach in July.
BUT, I wasn’t feeling 100% on Saturday [and]wasn’t as comfortable in the water as I am normally, in hindsight I should have played it safer.
Did milk it for all it was worth on Saturday night though, by the end of the night the waves where 30ft, I was under for 2 minutes and you were aided in my rescue by some pro surfers paddling past.

It was a Saturday morning and the sea was angry. I wasn’t even supposed to be swimming today…it was supposed to be the first day of my advanced dive training, but the weather was so bad they pushed that back! So apparently, if the weather is too bad to dive, you go swimming instead! It was slightly better than last week – less stinging rain, for a start. We did a similar training session…swimming the channel from the Bondi flags to the new North Bondi Tower (pictured below on a better day a couple of weeks ago).

Not in any way indicative of the conditions on the day of training!

Not in any way indicative of the conditions on the day of training!

It was tough, but as usual on rough days it was actually a lot of fun and nowhere near as bad as it looked. We did have one go at getting out the back. I was swimming along and using all my best rough day swimming techniques. I was very focussed on getting under the big waves about the back (and it was pretty dark and scary underneath them!). I’d assumed that I was following someone as usual, and was swimming Nicole who has swum the last 2 winters with me. At some point I stopped and turned to Nicole to check….was there anyone actually ahead of us??? As the waves were pretty big, it took a few sets for us to get a clear view up ahead and we realised that there actually wasn’t. For the first time, we were int he lead and responsible for deciding when was a good point to turn around…everyone was following us! At that point, an extra big set came in and the waves were looking really big! the first couple were OK and we turned and started making our way in. Then a really nasty one came along. I jumped on it, to catch a bit of a ride in, and realised it was a bit rough and tumble…and that there were a few people being knocked around in there.

When we came up for air, one of our swimmers, Jessie…who was one of my mentees this year so it’s her first year swimming, had taken a bit of a knock. Nothing major, just been thrown around enough to give her a bit of a fright. We were still a fair way out so it was a bit of work to get back to the shore. Jessie, despite being a newer swimmer, did all the right things for the situation, and so did the swimmers around her.

Firstly, Jessie didn’t panic. Well, she might have a little…but didn’t go into that panicky behaviour that can get you into worse trouble out there. Second, she let people know that she wasn’t feeling great…and gave them the opportunity to help her out. a bunch of swimmers stuck around to make sure she was comfortable and supported as we slowly swum in, and to give plenty of warning as new waves approached…there’s nothing worse, when you’re already still a bit shaky from a wave, than to get slammed all over again!

The last thing Jessie did was to just keep swimming, She’s been doing this long enough now and is a good enough swimmer, to get herself out of trouble so long as she simply does what she’s been doing all along….swimming!

It’s really that simple. I loved that when we got back to shore, I asked Jessie how she was and she shrugged it off…and pointed out where she’d gone wrong. She’s taken it on board as another experience and learned from her mistake.

We all have the odd moment when we get a little frightened or unexpectedly knocked around. It’s your attitude and how you react, that  determine how that works out in the end.

The weather on Saturday was rough. Really rough. Oceanswims had made an early call on Friday afternoon to call off Sunday’s Bondi race. Very sad as they’d already postponed once before (meaning they weren’t able to be the Can Too Goal swim) due to issues with the council. A lot of us Can Too swimmers were very keen to support this race, too, as funds go to Bondi Surf Club and it’s their volunteers who provide all those hours of water safety that are so essential to the program.

So it was rough. And raining. That kind of rain that feels like needles on your skin. Of course we went swimming anyway. I did concede to the weather by driving instead of riding over in the morning, so it’s not like I completely ignored the inclement weather.

It’s just that rough days are like a lot of  things that seem hard until you actually do them. The water was a balmy 26 degrees and we did channel swims…not even trying to get out the back…which would have been a bit tricky since there really wasn’t any proper “out the back” to get to since there were waves and whitewater all the way out.

these sorts of days are actually great…if you prepare, front up and give it a go, the big secret is that these can be some of the most fun days you’ll have swimming (especially as you’ll likely have the beach to yourself!). You should definitely know your limits, but feel free to push them a bit.

And next time there’s a bit of chop in a race situation, you’ll be well and truly prepared!

email from the organisers:

“Ocean Swimmers,

After careful consideration of forecast ocean conditions for this week end
the Homeloans Caves Beach Ocean Swim organising committee has made a
decision to postpone the event to Sunday March 10th.

Ocean swimming is a challenging sport and as an organising committee we need
to define when challenging becomes dangerous.

Our event insurance is based on criteria .The forecast swell and wind this
week end exceeds an acceptable level of risk for the committee.

We appreciate this could be disappointing to some swimmers but also a
welcome relief to others.

In calling the postponement at this time we hope to avoid complications for
those travelling some distance to swim

All current entries will be automatically entered for the March 10th swim.

If you are unable to swim on this day please contact Caves Beach Surf
Lifesaving Club at

Forecast from Bureau of Meteorology

Forecast for Saturday 2 February

Winds: Southeasterly 25 to 30 knots turning southerly early in the morning.
Seas: 2 to 3 metres.

Swell: Easterly 2 to 3 metres. The chance of thunderstorms in the morning.
Large swells breaking dangerously close inshore.

Forecast for Sunday 3 February

Winds: Southerly 20 to 30 knots decreasing to 15 to 20 knots during the
morning then turning southeasterly

10 to 15 knots during the evening. Seas: Up to 3 metres decreasing below 1.5
metres during the afternoon.

Swell: Easterly 2 to 3 metres. Large swells breaking dangerously close

I didn’t pike on the swim. The swim was scared of me

So I had an unexpected Saturday night off and…..

  1. Ro has just had a minor op (she’s fine)
  2. Significant other was working all weekend.
  3. Sister P and Steph were out of town for a wedding
  4. Fiona just had a baby.

So I sat at home and had an early night  on a Saturday. As usual.

Wish I could tell you I enjoyed the unexpected sleep-in. Except apparently my body doesn’t understand the concept any more. So i woke up early on a Sunday morning. As usual,

Sigh. #Swimmerproblems,


On Friday afternoon it started raining. Really raining. I really don’t have a problem with swimming in the rain (see: Palm to Whale swim), but I was at work, travelling on the bike and didn’t have my wet-weather gear with me. It would have been a pretty miserable ride to Bondi and an even more miserable ride home putting on wet clothes…so I bunked off. As did everyone apart from the coach and two other swimmers. Can’t say I’m even sorry…

Saturday morning, however, there was no way I was going to miss. Even though it was still raining. Although it was the final Can Too session, it was definitely the roughest day we’d had this season, and i had plenty of messages and emails asking about whether we were still on. About the point I was heading ot bed, I thought I would head the queries off at the pass and sent of an email to my mentor group letting them know that there’s always training on.

So many people don’t get it, don’t get training in suboptimal weather, cooler water, rain, or anything other than what we grow up with thinking of as “beach” weather.

Well, have I got news for you.

Revelations galore.

  1. Big surf is where you learn to handle…ummm…big surf. Practise makes perfect and all that. I talk a bit about how to deal with rough conditions on here, so it may surprise you to know that it was definitely not something that came easily to me. There was a really lot of hard work and two winters worth of swimming in tough conditions to make me comfortable and confident. then one day you turn around and realise that you have somehow become one of those crazy people who enjoy the rougher conditions. And you’re not entirely sure how that happened!
  2. Once you get in, you pretty much never notice whether it’s raining or not. OK, there have been one or two days I’ve trained where it was raining so hard that I couldn’t see the waves coming at me. but that’s a different thing altogether and I’m really just talking here about the sort of weather that you might think gives you an excuse for a sleep in…not a national emergency!
  3. I know you’re going to be dubious here…but whether you believe it or not, the truth is, those crazy surf days tend to be some of the most fun you will ever have. Overcoming your fears, discovering the joys of surfong a big wave, getting through to the back and realising how beautiful it is out there, and skipping the whole tourist crowds….those are only the beginning. I wouldn’t have believed it from anyone else a couple of years ago….but it’s true, regardless. It just is.
  4. As evidence, there was a particular Can Too person who posted about assuming training would be off and organising an alternative pool session. A certain mentor may have kind of done a bit of a guilt trip. And they came along. AND LOVED IT!!!!
  5. A good coach is never going to do anything crazy or dangerous. Yes it was rough, so we put our efforts into embedding some of those roughwater skills. “Hold the line” was a good example. We spent a good part of the session standing in one spot, well within wading depth, in a long line. the goal was to stay where you were, despite the waves rolling in. We had to learn to dive under those waves, stay down long enough to not get dragged backwards, and get under early enough. I can’t even tell you how many people told me how much they’d learned. Simple focus on one particular skill. It should never be underestimated. *One day I’ll fill you in on how I mastered these skills in detail….but the short version is that it was one little thing at a time.

so…don’t be scared….have a little faith. That’s where things really start to make sense: outside the comfort zone.

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