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October 27, 2016

telegraph swimming 

What's the point?

So we were trawling through Twitter, working hard, a few days back and we came across a report in the London meeja that reckoned that swimming for most punters is a complete waste of time. There's this doctor, see, and he was telling a conference that most swimmers efforts are pointless because they can't swim properly and have rubbish technique. And, they succumb too readily to vending machines selling rubbish food.

That narrows it to most of us.

"Dr Dane Vishnubala, the GP physical exercise champion for Public Health England, said many people who are sent to the pool to get in shape simply splash around using a 'doggy paddle hybrid' and pass the time chatting with friends", reported The Telegraph of London (see for yourself... Click here)

While the health benefits for people with a sound technique are tangible, those who are less able would be better off going for a run, a walk, or taking dancing classes, the doctor said.

Even worse, the Tele reported, "A trip to the local leisure centre risks yielding a 'net calorie gain', other GPs warned the conference, because of the prominence of money-making vending machines in the foyers."

This contribution, no doubt well intended, provoked a bit of a response. Perhaps this chappie was talking in the context of pure physical fitness, in which case he probably has a point. But the point of swimming, we reckon, is much more than getting fit and losing weight. Hey, if our main purpose was getting fit and losing weight, we'd be runners. Running strips the flabby bits off you much more quickly than schlepping up and down a pool. Sure, good technique is a big help to faster swimming, but if good technique was an entry level qualification, then less than two per cent of us would be doing it. The point isn't always faster swimming: the point is more enjoyable swimming. Coach Sandra used to say, "The point of training is to swim faster with less effort."

tonga peloton 160816
Peloton searches for whales in Tonga.

It also ignores the other benefits of swimming that apply irrespective of skill. We allude to the mental benefits. The great joy of swimming, we reckon, is that culcha: the chatting and yarning, the boasting and the retelling of experiences, sometimes swimming-related but many times not, that takes place as part of the overall swimming effort. The swim is simply the precursor to the culcha. The swim grants you entrée to the culcha. If you don't swim first, you're not entitled to the culcha. The swim sets you up, endorphins running through your body, irrespective of whether you drop your shoulder or cross your hands on entry, or twist your body or cross-over your legs in the kick, for the joy of the shared culchural experience that follows, generally over a cuppa at the beach café.

That's where the real benefits kick in. You can go to the beach or to the pool feeling down, but you emerge again two hours later feeling triffic. That's partly a function of the swimming, partly a function of the culchural interaction, and overall a function of the combination of the two.

These benefits are not exclusive to smarty-pants lane nazis who've swum with Olympic-level coaches as kids. They are available to all of us, irrespective of technique, body shape, age or wealth. That's what Dr Vishnubala is missing. (Mind you, all we have to go on is a newspaper report of his comments. But we have to trust the meeja, don't we.)

But what do you think? Use the comments function at the bottom to tell us... Let's get a yarn going...


Burleigh this weekend

End of October this weekend, and one of the big ones in Queensland is running on Sunday, at Burleigh Heads, one of Strãa's truly iconic beaches. This is one of the few Queensland swims that's run by a surf life saving club, as distinct from a private organiser. It deserves the support of swimmers everywhere.

Two distances on offer at Burleigh: 1km and 2km. There's an elite division in both offering prizemoney. Event t-shirt comes with entry.

Online entries to the Burleigh Heads swims close at noon on Sat'dee, October 29. Enter now... Click here

Last chance to enter – Shire Ocean Swim 

cronulla fitzgibbons pairgirls
Pic: Mark Evans

A message from the organisers of the Shire Ocean Swim...

10 days to go! Join Rio Olympians Keesja Gofers and Lea Yanitsas as they dive in for one of the first swims of the season with the Shire Ocean Swim presented by the Daily Telegraph at Cronulla. Starting and finishing outside Elouera Surf Club the Shire Ocean Swim has something for all abilities with a 1km and 2km distance on offer. Back of the pack start groups means you can swim with family and friends if you are out for a fun day and there are age category groups for those looking to give it a serious nudge. So grab your family, friends, colleagues and enter now to receive your free event singlet.

Tell us about your swim group

The vast bulk of ocean swimming takes place not in formal races on the weekend. It happens in the myriad informal swim groups that meet on beaches, at pools, in lakes, rivers, dams, ponds and billabongs all around Strãa, New Zealand and the South Pacific, every day. Locals know their groups, but what if you're travelling? You're in an unfamiliar place, you'd like a swim, but where? With whom? aims to offer the most comprehensive list of informal swim groups and locations in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Wherever you are, you should never be without a suggestion of where to swim and with whom. lists swim groups free of charge. Just complete the short form we've posted on our website and click the Submit button. You'll get a copy of your info straightbackatcha, and we'll slot it into our listings. Look under Swims on, or... Click here

Sulawesi 2017 oceanswimsafari packages released

We're your next adventure

sulawesi swimmers jump from boatWe've released travel packages to our oceanswimsafari on Sulawesi, in northern Indonesia, next June. Our cobber, Glistening Dave, came with us on our first inaugural Sulawesi oceanswimsafari in July 2016. He was so taken with the place that he published a book about it... Click here 

oceanswimsafarists have fun in Sulawesi, July, 2016

It was, without doubt, one of the best oceanswimsafaris we've done: we've never done such a trip before where the perfection of the water, the weather, the food, and the frills came into confluence so well.

Be warned: we've already sold half the available spots on our Sulawesi oceanswimsafari in June, 2017, so if you're interested, get in now... Click here

Dates of our oceanswimsafaris in 2017 –

  • Vanuatu - Port Vila (May 24-29 Dates TBC)
  • Vanuatu - Santo (May 31-June 5 Dates TBC)
  • Sulawesi (Indonesia, June 11-19)
  • Tonga - Swim with Whales 1 (July 25-Aug 2) - 4 spots available
  • Tonga - Swim with Whales 2 (Aug 1-9) - 2 spots available
  • Tonga - Swim with Whales 3 (Aug 8-16) - Sold out!
  • San Sebastián (Spain, Aug 23-29)
  • Costa Brava (Spain, Aug 31-Sep 8)
  • Greece (Sep 12-21 TBC)
  • Yasawas Fiji (Oct 16-23)
  • Mana Fiji (Oct 24-29)
  • Heron Island (Nov 4-8 TBC)

We've had a lot of interest in our oceanswimsafaris in 2017, so we have set up a system by which you can secure your spot on your favoured oceanswimsafari with a refundable deposit. Then, when we finalise the tour costs, you will have a week to decide whether to proceed or pull out. We've taken quite a few deposits already for Tonga, Sulawesi, the Costa Brava and Mana Island.

If you'd like to take advantage of this opportunity, send us a (no obligation) Enquiry form... Click here

 mana fiji swims 1610 15 10k
Sofia Jenson nears the end of the 10km swim at Mana Island in Fiji. After 10km, look at the stroke.

Caveat swimmer

As ocean swimming grows, so it becomes more attractive to more commercially-driven operators. We like to think that ocean swimmers are insightful enough to spot the commercial from the authentic, but some may slip through.

There are two recently arrived websites, for example, that hold themselves out as being the centre of the ocean swimming community. They purport to offer a calendar and swim entry online. Most of their calendar material appears to be taken from, and when you click the Registration buttons, the links bring you through to It seems to us that they're intent on pretending that they're us. One of them even claims to have raised over $400,000 for surf life saving clubs last season, by virtue of attracting entries to ocean swims. This from a website that takes no entries itself. Pepi and Rotten ol' Herbie taught us as youngsters that this kind of talk is a lie.

Show us your mailing list

The common thread through all of this is the quest to build mailing lists. Commercial success relies to a large extent these days on the size of your mailing list. Ocean swimmers would be aware that whenever they interact with a commercial group, they will be added to a mailing list. One of these website, in pretending to offer entries to swims, actually clicks through to, but on the way it attempts to harvest your email address. Be aware, you don't have to provide your email address in order to proceed. You can skip the email field, choose Skip and just go through.

Perhaps we should be flattered when others pretend to be us. Bear in mind, though, that they are just that: pretenders.

mana fiji swims 1610 18
Ollie Signorini was one of the talent in our oceanswimsafaris clinic on Mana Island. It's a chance for rank-and-file punters to see how it should be done.

Swims open to online entry

The season hasn't even opened, but already we have entries online open to a string of new season swims...

Coming soon... Coogee-Bondi (5 Beaches Swim, Dec 10), North Bondi (Jan 8 & Feb 12)


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  • Robin Barker Comment Link
    Robin Barker
    Thursday, 27 October 2016 02:36
    Re: wasting time swimming

    I couldn't find the comments button but had to write something in response to the good Doctor. Sure, he's on about fitness programs not fun but his disdainful, even ignorant, view of swimming did make me think, yeah a pommy doctor who's never experienced the sheer joy of doing something as frivolous and pointless as lying on a wide expanse of sand and falling into water as clear as the sky over his head.
    Or ever found the deep calm that comes after an energetic tussle to get out through the waves, a solitary point-to-point swim out back, the exhilaration of sweeping in on a fast-running current expertly dodging the sharp juts and jags of the rocky shelf on the way in.
    Or felt the triumph of a sharp edge of a wave across the soles of his feet after getting there in time to glide over a massive wave instead of getting smashed by a wild medley of foam.
    Robin Barker

The real and original home of ocean swimming since 1999

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