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What a different a week can make. Last week it seemed the water was warming up, and winter (what there was of it this year) was a distant memory.

This week it was foam sweet foam.

DSCN1059There was a lot happening at the beach. Some sort of surf lifesaving competition, helicopters and banners. And a lot of foamy, foamy waves.

We did an initial swim to acclimatise (side note – the water has dropped a couple of degrees!) and found it was pretty hard work, but the waves were catchable, although not easily.

We tried the north end, and then split into two groups. Thos who weren’t as comfortable with the waves stayed further north, and the brave/foolhardy souls headed back to the middle of the beach to tackle the surf. I’m usually one to err on the side of the foolhardy, so I headed back south, and am glad to report I didn’t come to regret it.

The waves were messy. It was foam galore out there like I’ve never seen. It was definitely hard work, the kind that takes your mind off everything else in the world and keeps you completely present in the moment. Well, it’s that or cop a mouthful of salt water.

Sadly, I’ve somehow managed to have my 4th “waterproof” camera in 2 years leak on me. I at least had the forethought to go with the extended warranty (consider this lesson learned). Apologies in advance if the posts are photo-challenged for a couple of weeks while I tackle the red tape of a warranty claim. Sigh. I guess waterproof doesn’t necessarily mean as waterproof as it takes for someone like me to use a camera as often as I do the way that I do. I bloody loved that camera, so i’m going to have a go with a third incarnation, but feel free to add to the comments if anyone has a better suggestion.

In the mean time, get ready for the next best thing: Garmin maps!

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So, the other day this happened.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 11.47.06 PMYes, you read that right. Probably the second time as you may have wondered what the hell it was you were looking at.

I’m equal parts petrified and excited (hint: a cr@pload of both) about this. I’ve been contemplating it for quite some time, and decided I needed to get in while the limited entries were open before I could back down or change my mind.

I’m unbelievably amazed by the fact that this is going to happen (and questioning my sanity in entering the non-wesuit category), and then trying to reassure myself with the fact that it’s not actually that cold (around 15 degrees Celsius) or actually that far (2.4km), It’s just the combination of those things that’s kind of freaking me out. And the jetlag. And the sharks (a myth to scare the prisoners, right?). My recent research Google search suggests that there are sharks in the bay, but not man-eating ones, and that there has never been a recorded attack on a person by a shark there. Whew!

So why would i do this to myself?

Well, apart from the California holiday I’m planning for myself after the event is done (assuming I survive!) I’m doing it as my goal swim. This year I’ll be mentoring a new long swim program for that brilliant bunch of crazies, Can Too.

If you happen to be in a position to join me, you can sign up on the Can Too website now.

If you’re not interested in swimming (very hard for me to believe!), you can still get on board and support my fundraising efforts via my Can Too Fundraising Link.

And wish me luck…escaping from Alcatraz!

Birthday Bliss

It was my birthday this week, and it was sensational. I wouldn’t normally mention it on here, but this year I’m hoping the Easter Claus Fairy (hedging my bets) brings me my latest object of lust, the recently announced Nikon 1 mirrorless waterproof.

I’m not sure exactly how I’d fit it down the front of my swimmers/wetsuit, but both my latest waterproof point and shoot and my DSLR are Nikons, and I love them both dearly, and the new release looks pretty damn awesome.

But seriously, the real reason I thought I’d mention it is that I took a couple of days off work to have myself a little “staycation” for my birthday this year. The day of my birthday was reasonably busy, but the day after I had to scoot over to Coogee to drop something off for a friend.

So what’a a girl to do? Pack the togs and go for a swim of course!

My brag text to my friends stuck at work.

My brag text to my friends stuck at work.

I have to admit, the water was a touch chilly, I was on my own, and pretty much nobody knew where I was, plus the waves were a touch on the wild side. So I played it safe. Well, safe-ish. I headed out just to the edge of the break and spent an hour or so body-surfing. Have to admit I was a little proud of being the only woman out there with the one serious body-surfer, the half-a-dozen late-teens daring each other to catch a wave (standing in the wrong spot and squealing like girls at the cold water), and a couple of surfers I suspect took a wrong turn and ended up at the wrong beach.

The waves were great, but unforgiving. If you hopped on in the wrong spot or didn’t quite catch it right…well, let’s just say I got dumped once, and tumbled even getting under waves a couple of times. You know what, though, the more time I spend swimming in the ocean, the more I’m convinced that one of the main differences between a good swimmer and one who struggles (not necessarily talking about fast and slow here) is their ability to not panic. It’s totally the worst thing you can do but totally the first thing you turn to if you rely entirely on instinct and not experience. A couple of winters swimming through have really shown me that every time I’ve been dumped and found myself a little anxious, within a second or so (if I’m really unlucky it might get up to 5 seconds or so) that pesky wave has broken, the white water passes, and you figure out which way is up. The air in your lungs pops you up like a cork, whether you’re thinking about it or not, and you fill your lungs with sweet, free air. Easy!

No guarantees you'll have glamorous hair afterwards, though!

No guarantees you’ll have glamorous hair afterwards, though!

Saturday lunch with the successful Icebreakers was lovely, but the day wasn’t entirely beer and skittles. Or wine and pasta, as it were.

Seems there was another horribly atrocious difficult, challenging, bad-wather swim beforehand.

Or not!

OK,  it may not have been the most challenging session ever, but we did do enough to earn our lunch, nonetheless. The set consisted of ins and outs. These sorts of sets are great for a number of things. They’re pretty good cardio workouts, they’re great when the conditions aren’t suitable for longer swims, and they are fantastic for developing the skills you need at the start and the finish of an ocean swim race.

At their simplest, they involve just what you’d expect…in the water, out of the water. Repeat.

I think my Garmin map for Saturday shows we did a pretty good job of that. What do you reckon?

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This year, with the whole broken ankle thing, I didn’t make the icebreaker challenge. Luckily, that doesn’t mean I had to miss out on the lovely lunch and celebrations yesterday!

Such a lovely time in the sun with such lovely swimming friends!

A big congratulations to all the 2013 Icebreakers! I’ll be up there with you next year!

Full photo set over on Flikr

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Party Wave!

God, I LOVE bodysurfing. It is my absolute favourite thing about ocean swimming. Saturday’s training was all about catching some sweet, sweet waves. They were bloody amazing….picking up around chest high so you could jump straight off the bank and ride them right up until the sand starts exfoliating your forehead.

We may have peer-pressured coach Tamera into deviating from her recent hardcore ramps sessions (using the ramps from the boardwalk to the sand as markers for ins and outs up and down the beach – lots of sand running and cardio) and taking us for a journey swim. Really, the weather was glorious, the water was stunningly clear, and the day was crying out for a swim safari to see some fish!

Ignore the bit where I forget to stop the GPS until I'm in the Bondi Surf Club change rooms!

Ignore the bit where I forget to stop the GPS until I’m in the Bondi Surf Club change rooms!

It was pretty glorious. And then we started catching waves. They were perfect! The conditions are a big part of catching a decent wave, but there are a few tips that have helped improve my enjoyment and the distance I manage to surf a wave. So I thought I’d share my top tips.

  1. You need to be in the right spot. Watch the waves. It is possible to catch a wave that’s not yet about to break, or one that is already broken, but ideally, the best waves are the ones you catch just as they’re about to break and the top is just starting to spill over.
  2. Speed. You want to be going as close as possible to the speed of the wave when you catch it. That means springing and diving forward if you’re catching a wave from a bank, or swimming hard if you’re deeper.
  3. Timing. Too early you’ll miss the momentum of point 2, too late and you’ll miss the wave. I can’t 100% explain this with words. It’s partially watching the wave (and the other sets on the day) come at you, partially hearing it, partially feeling the tug ahead of it, part luck and a lot of practice.
  4. Head position. Most of the time you want your head tucked down with your chin against your chest. this puts your body and legs higher in the water, on top of the wave instead of dragging inside it. The exception of this is if you’re on the face of a wave where you want to pull up so you don’t end up with your legs pushed up into a somersault and a spectacular dumping.
  5. Kick! A lot of people get caught up in the excitement when they catch a wave. If you keep kicking, and possibly even some one-armed swimming strokes, you’ll stay on that wave a lot longer.
  6. Don’t panic, and hang in there. The longer you can avoid lifting your head to breathe, the longer you’re going to stay on that wave.

You’ll absolutely know when you get it right, and I promise you it’s one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world!

Vote 1 Bondi Beach

It’s Election Day today, and Bondi Surf club has turned poll booth.

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If you’re eligible, don’t forget to vote. And if you’re a reader here because you love the ocean, think about voting for a party that has a sound policy for looking after the environment.

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Winter swimming. Even in this conducive climate, most people think us ocean swimmers are nutters for heading out there every weekend (at least), rain, hail, shine and frosty water temperatures.

Well, there are a whole lot of reasons we do it (hint: it’s awesome!) but for me, one of the most stunning things about winter swimming is the water clarity.

A lot of it comes down to a couple of reasons:

  • Hardly any tourists out there stirring up sand etc
  • Hardly any tourists on the beach leaving their rubbish and crap to be washed into the water
  • Non-breeding season for all our ocean-dweeling friends like jellyfish and fish and sea grasses etc

It’s a bit hard to describe just how beautiful it is to swim in that water. Especially on those crisp, clear, sunny winter days. It’s also pretty hard to photograph faithfully, although I know I’ve certainly tried.

Luckily for everyone, there are better photographers out there than me. One of the best, in my opinion, is the talented Bondi resident eugene Tan of Aquabumps. On top of taking the kind of photos I’d possibly trade a limb or a family member to take, he has some great techniques he uses to great advantage. Like taking aerial photos of Bondi to stunning effect. I’m a bit of an addict of his daily email, but Wednesday’s really struck me as a brilliant example of just how clear that water is out there.

Do yourself  a favour and head over to check it out.

Stuff like this:

AquaBumps – one of my photography idols

Now tell me that doesn’t make you want to jump in for a swim.

After operation return to swimming got me back into the pool, and back to 4SEASons, part 3 consisted of a couple of Tuesday night regular 4SEASons session in the pool.

I continued to swim with the pull-buoy and band and with a bit of an assist to get in and out of the pool. Stock standard.

Then finally, after 7 weeks a follow-up x-ray and yet another visit to the fracture clinic…the good news was in: I could take the bloody orthopaedic boot off!

Unfortunately, there was still much work to be done to get enough strength, flexibility and stability back. The idea of walking on soft sand was pretty unthinkable for a while yet. I would have to be patient.

Then finally 2 weeks ago, after lots and lots of physio and exercise, it was time!

Part 4 of my return to swimming has involved getting back to my beloved Bondi beach and swimming in the ocean!

I have to admit I’ve chickened out and worn my wetsuit – the extra buoyancy (in my mind, at least) reduces the chance of coming down hard on the ankle. I’m still not up to running, let alone running on soft sand, and I lean on my lovely swimming friends as we head down the beach, just in case….

I’m not quite there yet, and I’ve obviously lost a bit of condition and fitness, but I’m back at the beach, baby, and loving it!

I had a friend contact me yesterday to ask advice on waterproof cameras. I immediately started looking up the blog post where I’d reviewed mine…only to find it gathering dust amongst some old drafts! Seems it’s well overdue that I should review the camera I’ve had for months and months.

After my Pentax camera leaked, I decided I really couldn’t live without a waterproof camera. There were a few things I didn’t particularly like about the Pentax, so I decided to do a bit of research.

I ended up going with the Nikon Coolpix AW100.

I have to say up front, I LOVE this little camera. For beach and underwater shooting it takes a consistently great photo. They always have nice sharp focus and pretty faithful representation of colours.

One thing the steered me towards this camera is that it goes to a depth of 10m. Most of the other waterproof cameras on the market tend to go to 5m, which is fine if you just want to use it for swimming or on boats, but I was hoping for something I could use when diving as well.

It’s the small things that count sometimes. I love that the shutter button is big and textured, which makes it really easy to snap off shots in the water, even with cold hands. With my old Pentax you had to press down quite hard on a small button and I missed a lot of shots that way. This isn’t a problem with the Nikon, and it’s easy to feel when you’ve taken the photo. I’ve taken it diving and found it really easy to use in that environment as well.

The screen is also easy to use in full sun and glare. I know I’ve played with the Sony equivalent and the screen is very difficult to use in bright light.

The battery/SD card housing is pretty secure with a twist and unlock set-up that’s still easy to use. I’m pretty careful about rinsing the camera off and drying it again before opening, though, as I’ve tried opening it straight from the beach and felt grittiness from sand in the mechanism. I don’t think that would be a good think to keep doing at all…a recipe for a leaky camera.

If you want to check out some of my photos taken with this camera, you can have a look over on my Flikr account.

Basically, I couldn’t be happier with this camera. It’s a keeper. 🙂 Plus it comes in plenty of cool colours. I have the orange one like in the picture above, but I believe it also comes in blue, black, white and camouflage pattern (I couldn’t be trusted with that one…I’d probably lose it!)

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