Posts Tagged ‘open water swimming’


I’d been told that this was a fantastic swim so there was no doubt that I would do it. The logistics were a little complicated but it gave us an excuse for a long weekend in Byron Bay and that is always an incentive to deal with the minor complications of travelling over a few States. We left a wet and miserable day at home and landed a few hours later in a warm and sunny land. Just the change of weather meant that this was going to be good.

We spent the pervious two days swimming parts of the route as part of the regular group that meets at the surf club. This was a vital part of our preparation as it allowed us to acclimatise to the warmer water and gave us access to the vital local knowledge. More importantly we had the opportunity to stop and look at the myriad wildlife in these waters. There is something lovely about swimming with dolphins and turtles that requires time and idleness to appreciate.

After registration we were bussed round the head to the start of the race. It was only a 20-minute walk but I opted for the bus as I’m lazy. We gathered on the beach and watched the waves. I have never started a race by running into waves that usually used for surfing. I found the prospect a little daunting even though I’d practiced the day before.


I watched the first few age groups set off into the waves. It became obvious that running into the water was a complete waste of time as the first wave they hit tended to even everything up. Wading the next couple of waves looked like the best tactic. Those that dived too early seemed to get washed back towards the shore. The time to dive in was when the water was at about mid-thigh and the next wave was bearing down. The first buoy was about 200 meters out and signalled a left-hand turn. Those that started too far to the right had to struggle against the current whilst those that started on the left were just carried round. I decided to start on the left.

It wasn’t long until I had to put the theory into practice. I lined up with people in my age group and watched the starter count down. A few charged down the beach whilst I strolled to the waters edge and into the water. I felt like I was last into the water but the next wave sorted that out. I carried on wading until a large wave loomed in front of me. It was now or never. I dived and prayed at the same time. The water washed over me and I came out unscathed on the other side. I took a quick glance behind to see that a few hadn’t. It was time to start swimming. As I had expected the current washed me towards the buoy, I was glad that I’d spent the time watching the previous starts.

After the turn things started to settle down, the frenetic start moved into a more relaxed swim. People started to spread out and there was much more space to just get on with the whole process of moving forward without getting tangled in other swimmers. A few fish flashed by underneath me just to prove that I was swimming like a fish out of water.

Up to now I’d be surrounded by people wearing green hats but as we rounded the point hats of different colours started to appear. This raised my heart as it meant that I would not be the slowest on the swim. These were the hats of the waves that had started before us. I could feel like a fast swimmer for a while as I passed these guys. The feeling didn’t last long, the fast ones from the younger age groups made short work of catching up with me.


I got into a small tussle with a man that wasn’t wearing a swim cap. I first noticed him as he bumped into me. He then matched me stroke for stroke. It suddenly dawned on me that I could ease off slightly and benefit from the draft. I have a feeling that he had the same thought at the same time. The only difference was that he was able to act on the thought. He was really starting to annoying me now. My thoughts turned to how to get rid of him. The key was a slower swimmer in front. I used them to cleave him from my side by passing them as closely as I dare on the side of the hat-less swimmer. He had a choice, break off or drop back. He broke off. I put in a massive effort and pulled away. I quick glance back confirmed that I’d left him trailing in my wake. This made me happy.

Getting into the water through the waves was something I had practiced. I should have practiced getting out through the waves as well but I didn’t. That’s why I managed to get pushed over by a wave at the very end of the race. It wasn’t the most dignified way to leave the water but I didn’t care, I’d just had a fantastic swim.




What a lovely beach

I’d been told a lot about this swim so I was quite looking forward to it. I’ve not swum off this beach before and a new venue is always a good thing. It was also the last event of the open water swimming season and that made me a little sad.

We arrived early, as usual, to deal with the registration formalities and to gather in the lee of the surf club so that we could chat and look out to sea. We watched as the surf live savers put out the buoys. Then we watched as one of the buoys slowly bobbed its way underneath the jetty. A few minutes later the life savers returned in a little rubber boat to put the buoy in the right place and to anchor it more securely.

The course appealed to me. It was one loop, it started on the beach and headed out to the reef, after a quick left turn it followed the line of the reef to the buoy at the far end and then it returned to the start. I’d heard tales of people accidentally swimming through the reef to be greeted by large fish. Luckily a boat had been posted at the gap to stop this happening. That made me happy.


Noarlunga jetty without a buoy going through it

The sea looked a little lumpy today. The pool swimmers would not be too happy but the ocean swimmers were visibly looking forward to getting into the waves. Waves that give them an advantage over the pool swimmers. We all knew that going along the reef was going to be challenging today.

We started just off the beach and headed for the buoy next to the reef. I’d decided that this time I was going to hang back a bit and take the buoy wide. I was fed up of the constant first buoy fight and felt that taking it wider would avoid it. For once I was right. Whilst the people on my left seemed to be involved in a boxing match I was left free to glide round the wide line.

Then the struggle started. The waves were determined to make life hard. I found it almost impossible to see the buoys or for that matter any other swimmers. There were points when I worried that I was going in the wrong direction. I saw someone to my right and hoped that they had a clue where they were going as my plan was to follow them. The plan failed as I was a slightly faster swimmer. It’s hard to follow someone behind me. Luckily, I spotted a group up ahead and stared trying to catch them. It dawned on me that I had just reached the point where I was warmed up and ready to go. It takes a while. It occurred to me that I really should warm up before these events but I quickly assigned that thought to the stupid bin.

A few meters before the turning buoy I spotted the trunks that Roman wears. The game was on, could I sneak past him without him noticing to take this one from him and redeem the loss of the last time we raced? I drew level but to my dismay he started to speed up. He had noticed me. The next plan was to draft him but he was going a bit faster than normal. This was a bit of a surprise. He slowly pulled away. I hoped that I’d get a second wind or that he would fade but the hope was groundless. He stayed ahead

The swim back was lovely. Now that the waves were pushing me to the finish I could pretend that I was actually a good swimmer moving swiftly through the water. The illusion was heightened by passing some slower swimmers from a shorter event. I felt good as I approached the finish. I would be coming back to this beach.


The finish line and the reef 

During the post-race chat over water melon pieces I found that Roman had drafted a faster swimmer almost all the way round the course. That explained his unusual turn of speed. I took heart in the fast that he may have beaten me in this race but I had won the series.

The rivalry will be rekindled next season.


Such tempting waters

The open water swimming events seem to be coming fast and furious at the moment. This week I was down in Port Elliot for the event there. This one was a little different to the other swims. Firstly, it started in the afternoon and secondly it wasn’t based along the same stretch of coast line that most of the other area.

There was a big throng of people in front of the surf club. All the usual people were there, including Roman my pretend arch rival in swimming. The topic of conversation seemed to centre around the sea conditions and the placement of the buoys, the sea looked deceptively calm and flat but it wasn’t, that much was obvious from the water splashing over the breakwater at the edge of the bay. The buoys were pitching about in the swell and seemed to be further apart that was necessary for the distance. It didn’t matter we would all be swimming the same distance, just not the exact distance advertised.

After the briefing we headed to the water to do the sea entry dance, the movements of which are dictated where on your body the water hits. Eventually the dance and ritual complaining gives way to a dive into the water and a few practice strokes. It wasn’t long before we were lining up between the buoy and the jetty. Instead of hanging to the side I tried starting behind the fast boys. I was hoping that they would disappear in a splash of foam and I would be left to make progress unmolested.


A buoy on the beach

The first part of the swim was a short dash to the first buoy. The convergence of everyone on the first buoy completely ruined my strategy of starting behind the fast boys. Rounding the buoy was a crowded and confused experience.

Now we were on a long straight down to the second buoy. It seemed like a very long way, the swell made it seem even further. I enjoyed fighting against the wobbly bits but it made sighting interesting. If I timed it wrong all I saw was water. There could have been people within meters of me and I wouldn’t have seen them. Timing it right and I got a panoramic view from the top of a swell.


The pre swim throng

I rounded the far buoy and looked back down the course to the third and final buoy. It looked even a very long way away. Luckily, the melee had sorted its self out and I was more or less on my own. This is when I start to enjoy the swim. I set off down the course at a nice steady pace happily working my way up the swells and sliding down the side. It was a surprise to see other people as I approached the next buoy.

Rounding the buoy, I started the second lap of this triangular course. This should make it familiar territory but for some reason it felt a lot different. The short leg seemed shorter and the long legs seemed to be much longer. The swell was the only constant.

As the end loomed I noticed that someone was pulling level with me. He looked into my eyes and I looked into his. We both understood, up to here had been the warm up, the race was about to start. We matched each other stroke for stroke to within ten meters of the beach. I was just about to give up and let him go when he cracked and fell behind, two more strokes and that would have been me.

I left the water happy, until I found that Roman had left the water 12 seconds before me. For the first time this season he had finished in front. Grudging praise was due.


It’s a Jetty not a Yetti


The buoys we needed to swim round: it looked a long way

It had taken me a long time to decide which distance to do in this race. I would have liked to have done the 10k but I didn’t feel that I was fit enough. I wasn’t organised enough to be in a relay team and I felt that I should do something longer than the 2k. This left the 4k so I entered that. It sounds easy when I write it down but that process took about a week.

I wasn’t feeling the love when I turned up for registration. I’d been out the night before and had drunk a little more than I should. It was probably not the most sensible thing to do but at the time it seemed harmless. I toyed with the idea of downgrading to the 2k but my principles rallied against it.

There was a long time between registration and the swim start. I felt hungry but didn’t want to eat something that I would later empty into the sea. In the end I relented and had half of a cheese and tomato sandwich. I hoped I wouldn’t be seeing it later.


Heading out to collect swimmers from the jaws of death

The swim was two loops of a two-kilometre course. Southwards was against the wind and current. I knew that that would be the fun bit where I could fight against the sea and drag myself through the waves. Going northwards I would be pushed back to the start.

I always start slowly and today was no different, I watched the faster ones disappear forward and got knocked around a bit by some of the other swimmers. I’m never happy at the beginning of a race, I like it more once it has settled down and I have a little more space. I passed the half way buoy and I was happy. I’d relaxed into the swim and I was enjoying the waves, all except the one that forcibly filled my ear. It was almost a shame to turn round and start heading back.

The elements started pushing me north. It made me feel like a good swimmer moving many meters in one stroke. My only thought was to make sure that I was aiming for the buoy down near the jetty. I am notorious for veering to the left. I saw the water cover guys start gesturing to me. I didn’t think I was off line but then I never do. They kept waving. I looked round, people were heading to the shore. This could only mean one thing: Shark. I turned to the shore and swam in. It was race abandoned


The sadly underused finish arch

Later we found that a shark had been spotted a few kilometers away and heading in our direction. Unfortunately, the helicopter had to be refueled so it couldn’t monitor its movements. Based on this surf live saving felt it wasn’t safe to have over one hundred people in the water so took the decision to pull us out. Although a lot of us were disappointed no one felt it was an unwarranted decision.


The fire boat display because we were HOT!

Normally I enter races where there are the fast people thrashing it out at the front and the rest of us plodding along in their wake, waging our personal battles. This time it was different. This was a charity swim and any mention of race had been removed. In fact, the only competition that was discussed at the beginning was who was going to swim the slowest. Somehow all the competitive juices had been removed and everyone had turned up for a nice swim.


Still HOT!

The weather was lovely, warm but not too warm and the sea was kind, flat and motionless. I joined the one-kilometre swimmers and walked up the beach to the start. Out to sea there were a line of buoys marking out route and the start points of the various distances on offer. Once we reached out start point we had the usual safety briefing and then we set off.


Being briefed, even the pink flamingo

Unlike a race we just wandered into the sea and started swimming. I felt no urge to go fast. A goo steady pace was all that was needed. I relaxed into the swimming very quickly and treated it as a Sunday swim. I passed people, people passed me. I wasn’t overly bothered by that. The thing that did bother me was my complete inability to swim in a straight line. At one point I was on the far right of the human shoal of fish and then a minute or two later I was on the far left. I have no idea how it happened. I carried on with my drunken route for the entire kilometre and wondered if anyone will ever let me into the secret of swimming in a straight line.


Happy people at the end


I hadn’t intended to do this swim but a few days before my Loved One received a mysterious phone call imploring her to enter. Whilst she was booking her place she asked me if I wanted to do it as well. I was sitting on the sofa at the time, feeling relaxed and happy with the world so I agreed. She entered me for the three-kilometre race. She mentioned a while later that she had entered the one-kilometre race. I wasn’t sure what to think about that.

I wasn’t feeling the love on the day of the race. I felt that I’d been yanked out of my happy and comfortable world of sleep far too early. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and fall asleep. This was not the ideal preparation. I think it’s called sleep inertia but I’m not sure it’s meant to last quite as long as it did.


Send out the bouys

We arrived at west beach in time to secure a parking space close to the surf club. The sea was looking a bit lumpy. I felt that this was a good thing as I like swimming into the waves and current. It’s normally where I can gain an insignificant advantage. The pool swimmers around me had a different opinion.

The race started promptly at ten, I started a few seconds later as I had no intention of getting in the way of the fast people contending for the title of state champion. I really wasn’t feeling good on the first lap. Everything was hard work. I started contemplating at which point I could legitimately pull out of the race. I lined up a myriad of excuses that I could deploy as I dragged my sorry body onto the beach. I decided that the end of the second lap would be a good point, that way I was close to the changing rooms.


Through choppy seas and against the current to the bouys

Things changed on the second lap. Once I started into the waves the old feeling of really enjoying it came over me. Just ahead was a small pod of swimmers and I was gaining on them. My competitive instincts kicked in. Now I was really enjoying it. I started to gain on them. This was good. I pulled past then. This was better. There was someone else ahead, I was gaining on them as well. I managed to overhaul them as I rounded the buoy.

The current took me down the course and the waves meant that I always felt like I was swimming downhill. About half way down I started passing the slower one-kilometre swimmers. They had started ten minutes after us. This raised by morale and took any thoughts of packing it in at the end of the second lap out of my head. I was now looking forward to fighting the current and waves on the next lap.

As I rounded that last buoy I noticed that I had someone beside me. They had noticed me too. Our steady strokes built up quickly into an all-out sprint. He definitely had white line fever and a much faster finishing sprint. I gave up with about twenty meters to go. He just wanted it more than I did.

The mystery of the phone call was solved at the presentation. My loved one was awarded with a trophy for her on going commitment to the local open water scene.


Contemplating how well it could have gone

PubToPub (2)

From this pub…

I like handicap events as there is always a chance that I might actually win. It is a very small chance but a chance nether the less. I try to be reasonably honest when I give my times but there may be a slight stretching of the truth to give myself a slight advantage. I don’t think that I’m unique in that respect.

The first part of any handicap race is to complain about the handicap. This was the main topic of conversation whilst waiting to start. I didn’t join in too much but I was amused by one swimmer telling anyone who asked a different time up to the point where he forgot his own time.

PubToPub (3)

Registration and source of all handicaps

We were sent off at 30 second intervals, I needed to get wet before the start or else it would have been a very slow start. I went for a splash around at one side whilst the slower swimmers started off down the course. The one thing I liked about this swim was that in was in a straight line. We got in at one point rounded the buoy and went straight down the beach. We wouldn’t we going around in circles.

I stood with six others waiting for us to be called forward. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. In theory all these people swam at the same pace as me so I should be with them all the way. In practice however in practice one or two of them would be faster and a few would be slower. I decided to enter the water at the back of this pack and see what happens.

Our time came and a few ran forward, I sauntered behind. Once I got in the water all intentions of starting slowly went too the wind. There were people ahead of me that I needed to overtake. I passed a few before the buoy and on rounding the buoy set about reeling in a few others. I spent a long time beside one swimmer trying to get passed. I feel that they were on the same mission.

PubToPub (4)

The end is down there near the jetty

I saw the last buoy coming up and felt that I’d done well. It slowly got larger and larger. I prepared myself to make the turn, right up to the point where I realised no one was heading to the beach. I had got the wrong buoy. The correct buoy was way in the distance but I’d lost the will to carry on racing. It took a long while to get back into the rhythm again.

As I neared the last buoy the sea started to get a bit crowded. I was catching the slower swimmers and the faster swimmers were catching me. I felt that rounding the last buoy was going to be a little troublesome but in the end, it turned out to be relatively easy.

The last part of the swim raised the usual dilemma of when to stand. A few in people in front of me got up and then dived in again. I opted to carry on swimming until it got to shallow. I’ve no idea which method was better.

In the end I came in the middle of the pack both on handicap and on time but more importantly I was ahead of Roman on both.

PubToPub (1)

…to this pub