Tag Archive: ocean


I’m not going to get tooooo ambitious and start making proclamations about summer having arrived. I will, however, go out on a limb and say that it looks as though winter is definitely over.

10 signs winter is over at Bondi:

  1. The car park is full.
  2. There are 2 sets of flags – Bondi and North Bondi
  3. Bikinis everywhere (winter tends to seem wetsuits and one-pieces)
  4. Ditto on the Budgie-smugglers
  5. The queue for coffee gets out of control
  6. We have to fight for a table at the coffee shop
  7. The Cyclists come out to play – you can tell by the full bike-racks.
  8. The tour buses get out of control. On the upside, less people taking our photos as there are other people swimming, not just us.
  9. You have to fight for your body-surfing waves
  10. It’s hard to avoid mowing down tourists in the shallows when you do catch a wave in. Not on purpose of course, but once you’re on that wave…..

The set consisted of getting away from the crowds a bit, with a swim to the south end point and back. The faster swimmers went via the north end as well, and there was a shorter option as well for the swimmers who are just coming back after a winter hiatus (*cough* *chad!*), but the focus was on trying to swim in a straight line.

I don’t think we did toooo badly…

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I did the shorter course, not out of laziness, but because I may have had some very special sisterly duties to perform after training….assistant wedding-dress-shopper! Squee!

I’ve been doing a bit of house-hunting lately. Sadly that seems to involve Saturdays which is a horrible clash with training. Someone should do something about that!

This weekend I wanted to attend an auction. I was cutting things a little fine, but figured I could still train…until my bike battery went flat and I had to do a tricky jump start to get me to see the helpful guys at Battery World Tempe instead. With that out of the way, and an unsuccessful auction behind me, my friend Steph and I decided there was nothing for it but a trip to the beach. She’s moving back to the States this week (despite me not so subtle hints that she should stay) and this was a last-for-a-while visit to Bondi.

Wowee! Bondi beach on a hot day on a long weekend is crazy-town! Let’s just say that there were a lot of people there. And all their friends and family.

The main Bondi flags section was particularly packed and there were no waves at all, so we headed for the North end. There was a cute little break running off the bank. Perfect for catching a long ride into the shore!

After a while, we retired to do the tourist thing and lay on our towels and read for a bit. It was different for me. As much time as I spend at the beach I really tend to send it in the water (or at the coffee shop afterwards), so lying on the sand to dry off is a bit of a novelty. Of course I realised the implications of this afterwards, in the locker room, when trying to dry off after a shower with a soggy sandy towel!

Anyway, it was a fabulous day, wrapped up with raw vegan cakes and icecream and a fitting farewell to my scuba buddy and all-round top-chick….

Super-Steph!

Super-Steph! Not actually from the October Long weekend….

See you in San Francisco!

This week was the latest in a line of gloriously sunny Saturdays. Sadly my camera is still out of action (probably dead) and I discovered after I arrived at the beach that my Garmin had a completely flat battery.

I love a good gadget, but Saturday’s swim was gadget free and technologically unfettered. I have to admit it was kind of nice to swim it out and not have to worry about fiddling with the camera or remembering to start the timer.

There were two choices for a swim today….point to point, or half of that and then some time back at the beach body-surfing. It was a tough call, as the water looked gorgeous out the back, but I’m pretty much always going to choose the latter if there are waves there worth surfing.

We’ve had a few days like this recently, and I really like the way they really show me one of the best things about this crazy bunch of people I swim with. We really love being in the water. We don’t have to be great athletes or super competitive (although that’s OK too) because even being out there enjoying the day, enjoying the waves, the water, the sunshine and being outside is enough.

How many other sporting groups out there hang around after training is finished, just for the sheer joy of doing some more?

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!

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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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!

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!

 

Well, that was quite a cliffhanger, wasn’t it? Sorry – the post was getting out of hand and I wanted to give you all something to read around here!

So here goes the rest of the story.

I hopped in the water straight off the boat…Bel swam in and we did a high-five to tag half way and then I started swimming.

First thing I noticed was that the water was a great temperature. It was pretty windy and cold on the boat, but it was beautiful in the water…I’d say a touch above 20 degrees or so, which I think is perfect for racing in.

I did find the boat entry a little strange. Probably just because I’ve never done it before in a race. I didn’t think too much about it beforehand, as I’ve spent a bit of time on boats and dived off them, but I think it was really just a bit of a psychological thing. I’m used to entering and getting a feel for the water…usually with a warm up to acclimatise and calm the nerves, and and settled in  then the actual beach start. I did find myself feeling a little anxious as I struggled to find my pace. I think jsut not having that other stuff to think about and having to get straight into it.

Soon enough, though, I found my rhythm and settled in for a long swim.

The water was cloudy and deep, so there wasn’t much to see at all under the surface. the view to the left, though, was another story. Words really don’t do justice how gorgeous this course is. The cliffs are stunning and there are two picturesque lighthouses.

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After I settled into a rhythm following those few inital anxious moments, the next 4kms or so were just great. I felt good and strong and  happy with my pace. I was sneaking peeks to the left checking out the view and to the right making sure the boat and I were still inseparable friends. I found myself in a bit of a zone, actually, of just me and the swim, thinking about technique and trying to keep it on track, making small adjustments to the course and to my swim, and trying to keep up a consistent pace.

At about the 4km mark my shoulders started feeling a little tired. I’d made it to the heads, and the currents meant I had to swim harder to stay on track, and that lovely southerly swell that had so generously pushed me along up the coast now deserted me. I also suspected I had swum a little wide out around the heads. I could see a bit of chop and swell and waves breaking at the point, and had deliberately planned on swimming a little wide, but I felt like I had overdone it (and the GPS later confirmed this to be true).

As we rounded the headland I had an initial surge of (false) hope as I spotted camp cove and thought I was nearly done. It didn’t last long as I realised that I still have further to swim.

It was becoming increasingly obvious, too, that the swim was going to be longer than the 5km I had signed up for…and trained for.

I was pretty right up to about 5.5km. Things started to get quite stressful for our little team. There was a lot of boat traffic around that area and they were all oblivious to a swimmer in the water. I couldn’t see any of this, but the team on the boat saw some vessels heading right towards me in the water. they then tried to wrangle me in closer to the shore to keep me safe.

I, on the other hand, could see under the water that we were getting into shallows territory and that there were some big rocks that could have caused some problems, so I was trying to head out deeper.

A few hairy moments there, but luckily nothing went wrong on either count.

After about the 5.5km mark I definitely started feeling it.  hadn’t trained for this distance and it was the furthest I’d ever swum. My shoulders were aching and I was feeling dead tired.

then we passed the point and suddenly we were in the bay! Bel hopped back in the water to swim into the sailing club together. we stopped and got clearance from water safety to cross the ferry path, and negotiated the two buoys, and then the finish line was in sight!

I normally get a little sprint up at this point in a race. Any fuel left in the tank should be used to put the pedal to the metal. Today though, I was (to continue the metaphor) running on fumes. I kept pace but couldn’t find it in me to sprint to the end.

As we got closer to the slipway and the finish line banner we could start to hear the cheers. One awesome thing about this type of finish was that we could actually see people to either side on the jetty to the right and on either side of the slipway. I spotted some familiar faces amongst the cheers and it made my heart glad.

Then finally, 4 hours and 12 minutes from Bel’s strong start from the beach at Bondi, we crossed the finish line together at Watsons Bay.

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I may have been tired and sore, but all the supporters  there, their cheers and smiles, coach Kingy who I squarely credit for teaching me all the decent stuff I do when I swim looking proud as punch, and Mr Nemo taking photos at the finish line, and the sense of achievement…well…I can’t remember ever being happier!

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