Tag Archive: ocean swimming


The Bondi Bluewater seems to have been a long time coming this year.

Originally it was slated to be the 1km and 2km Can Too goal swim in February. There was some sort of problem with the council so it was rescheduled for later, only to have it postponed again due to poor weather and conditions.

The thing is, this race is to support the Bondi surf club (as opposed to the North Bondi Surf club who run other Bondi events). So this is to support the amazing men and women who volunteer their Saturdays all summer to provide the all-important water safety for the Can Too swim program. So even though the Easter Sunday swim wasn’t the most convenient, I was still very keen to do this event.

Since there was a combo entry to this with a previous event, I have also been entered forever to double up. However, when Sunday actually rolled around, I was (due to an insane number of things packed into my Easter) kind of exhausted. I did manage to drag myself out of bed, but took an executive decision with myself to bail out of the earlier 1km event, and show up for the 2.1km long course.

Once I arrived at the beach, it was, well, a little somber. The usual buzz and atmosphere of an ocean swim event was a bit lacking, and numbers were definitely down. To add to that, it was a little overcast and grey.

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But you know, it was home turf and once in the water, all was right with the world.:-)

I’ll start with the water temperature….it was just perfect!

The water was clear, and there were a few little rolling waves into the shore for a nudge at the end, but no sign of chop or anything too tricky at all.

The race was well organised and the course was clearly marked, and the fruit and water set-up at the end of the race was excellent.

I raced, well, OK. Not bad, and last season I would have been happy with my time. this year, however, a little quicker might have been possible, but there are a few events left on the calendar for me to see what I can do about finishing the season with a PB.

A very good effort from Bondi surf club, though, despite all the challenges…well done!!

 

There was bad news and good news on Saturday. the bad news was that there’s no more Can Too training for the season. The good news was that lots of Can Too swimmers showed up to do the 4SEASons swim on Saturday morning. I’m certain the 9am start, and the title sleep-in it allow for helped! As did the looming goal event for those doing the 1km and/or 2km the next day at the North Bondi Classic.

Above all, the good weather stuck around, giving us a glorious day for getting in the water. The sun was shining and there were even pods of dolphins swimming in the bay! I was hoping they might come over for a bit of a closer look at the crazy humans thinking they could swim (it’s happened once before), but for today we had to be satisfied with watching them from a distance.

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We swam a medium distance, with a slightly shorter session. This was for the benefit of those really wanting to save their best for tomorrow’s race. There is benefit to a bit of a taper in training if you have a big event you want to do your best at. It means you’re going into the event at your peak, not tired or sore from training. As a general rule, you don’t gain any extra fitness in your last two weeks of training, and hopefully by then any tweaks to technique are well and truly embedded, so it’s a matter of eating well, not drinking too much, and doing any last emotional and psychological preparation you need to. Keeping up your presence in the water is part of that, and I have to say, it was a pretty easy task on a day as lovely as Saturday. Especially with the return to beach training of the truly-inspiring Fiona!

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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.

Saturday was Australia Day. Regardless on where you stand on the politics of the day, everyone pretty much agrees that if it’s at all possible, the thing to do on Australia Day is head to the beach. Unsurprisingly, Bondi is a popular choice and even early the beach was full of punters.

There was no Can Too session because of the public holiday, and just the one 4SEASons session….but we had invited along a bunch of our friends in orange and it was a pretty massive group that weaved its way between the sunbathers down the to the edge of the water.

After last Saturday’s run in with big waves, a few people were keen to work a bit more on that aspect of their swimming, and the weather helped out by providing some reasonable surf.

At the end of the session, quite a lot of people hung around. My friend Steph and sister had come down again, and we were joined by a few extras as we played in the waves and generally had a bit of fun. Such a nice thing to be able to do to celebrate a holiday!

I did a couple of wave-catching 1-on-1 sessions with Steph and Sonja who were still getting the hang of it. Seems they were both struggling with the same sorts of things.

My advice if you’re struggling with catching waves is that there are 2 key things.

  1. Timing. Get some practice somewhere you can stand, and watch the waves coming in towards you. Try a fraction earlier or later. See if you can pick how fast the waves are coming and get a feel for how the undertow tugs back just before the wave hits. These are all cues you can use to figure out the right timing to get on the wave. To early and you lose momentum, too late and you’ve missed it. Just right and you’ll be smiling all the way to the sand!
  2. Speed. Ideally you want to be going about the same speed as the wave. No point lifting your feet at the last second and hoping it’s going to be a sweet ride straight in. You need to really throw yourself into it. Dive horizontally as you jump on the wave. Push-off hard. And keep kicking, and stroking (one-handed works for me) while you’re on that wave to really make the most of it.

There are plenty of other tips and tricks once you’re on a wave, but if you’re really struggling I’d start with these. Getting there is a good part of the battle! Once you get it right, you can feel it working and running you all the way to the shore. It’s pretty amazing….for me pretty much always followed by wanting to do it all over again!

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