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November 17, 2016

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Any time, any place is just right for the ocean swimmers' salute. In this case, it's bobbing ararnd in the Celebes Sea off northern Sulawesi.

Swims this weekend...

The never-ending controversy

Collaroy last Sundee saw something unusual: the starter sent the codgers off first.

"It was terrific," said retired Herald compositor Norm McIntyre. "I had clear water all the way around."

"Why can't the other swims do this?"

Norm's clear water might have been as much to do with the five-minute gaps between waves as with the wave order.

But he was not joined by all in their enthusiasm.

Voracious Can-Tooer Anna Lewis, designer of the groovy Can-Too cossies (as distinct from the official cossies), reported afterwards that she'd been run over.

"My swim in the 800m was marred by an incredibly rough group of '40-something' blokes," said Anna later, in an 'ave a chat contribution that you can see at the bottom of our report page.

"I'm pretty used to swimming in a pack and am not fussed when I get the occasional bump and scratch, but rarely have I swum in a race and been hit and thumped so hard as Collaroy on Sunday.

"On two occasions, I was hit on the head so hard that my goggles came off, and at one point the bloke swimming beside me said, 'Oh, I didn't see you there. I was in my own world'.

"Please, please," pleaded Anna, "is it possible to send off the blokes a couple of minutes before the ladies or vice versa?"

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The pristinity of dawn, Sulawesi.

You will never get universal agreement on the ideal starting order in an ocean swim. Some punters want youngies and fasties first; others, like Norm, appreciated the chance to swim with others, instead of being stranded at the back of the pack with other hackers like himself. Some want laydees separated from boofheads, but others have told us the toughest wave they've ever swum in was laydees-only.

About the only thing on which you get some semblance of universal agreement is the practice of some swims - we can think of Lorne and Byron Bay – who send off the rank-and-file, then hold back at the end before sending starting the "Ayleet", as Malcolm Turnbull calls them. At both those events, mug punters can get their fumbling and thrashing over with and generally be on the beach to see those come through who actually know what they're doing.

We'll never forget the sight at Byron a few years back of a tubby, cherubic 50+ boofhead, waddling and wobbling over the corrugations in the break, hearing the crowd roar and turning to see Ky Hurst hurtling out of the break behind him. He broke into a trot, desperate, no doubt, to get bragging rights at the pub afterwards if he could beat Ky over the line.

There is something special about ocean swimming, that eejits like us can swim alongside the best in the world. It was wonderful that that bloke had the opportunity to race Ky to the line. That doesn't happen in every sport indeed, in most sports.

That said, it's novel and special that we can be on the beach to watch the good swimmers do it.

But it doesn't resolve the problem of starting orders.

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Along the Big Bay in Tonga.

A few months back, we published a suggestion from a laydee punter who, as we recall, preferred to remain incognito. It was that start waves should be based on speed, with entrants nominating a time when they enter with waves organised to group swimmers of comparable times together. That way, swimmers of comparable speed could swim together without testosterone-fuelled swim Nazis riding over the top of them, and without being kicked in the face by breaststrokers blocking the course in front of them.

There could be something in it, although we couldn't imagine much worse than swimming in a peloton where no-one could get away from anyone else.

Controversy Corner...

But what do you reckon? Send us your thoughts and we'll publish them... Click here

Ocean swims calendar 2017

Order now

calendar dhd 17 banner 250Xmas is looming, and so is 2017. So it’s time to order your ocean swims calendar for the New Year from our staff snapper, Glistening Dave.

The calendar includes every swim date we can find in Strãa, New Zealand and the Sarth Pacific, and a few more besides that we deem worthwhile. Pin it on your notice board at work, behind the door in the loo, on the wall in the kitchen, in your home office, your men's shed out the back, your sewing and knitting room, the wall in your hallway, so that you can check swim dates each time you leave home or return. Stick it on your garage door to remind you where you're going when you get in the car. Or get multiples and mount one in each of those places, so that you're constantly surrounded by images of ocean swimming. Or Dave's perceptions of them, anyway.

Your friends would like them for Xmas, too. They would love you even more if you gave them an ocean swims calendar from Glistening Dave.

Order yours now for Xmas (delivery in December)... Click here

Selenes go mirrored

A special for Xmas

view selene mirror 05We’re celebrating. Mrs Sparkle’s fave goggle, the View Selene, has been reinvented with mirrored lenses. They’re very groovy and offer an extra mirror protection from the sun’s glare.

The Selene is the most comfortable gog you will ever wear, and the best all-round gog we’ve ever come across, and we’ve worn a few gogs in our time: it’s made with a soft, wide, silicone seal that doesn’t leave rocky-raccoon marks around your eyes, and it offers a wide field of view and a low profile.

Designed originally for laydees, we probably sell more to blokes these days. We’ve long loved the View Fully Sicks, which also offer a mirrored lens, and now the same look and glare protection is available in the Selenes.

They come in three colour combinations – Pearl Black/Blue, Aquamarine Ice Blue/Yellow (with a glitter frame), and Lavender/Pink.

How are we celebrating? It’s our 2016 Xmas Special: order a pair of View Selene Mirrored gogs and get a pair of Selene non-mirrored gogs for $9 off: that’s almost 30 per cent off the non-mirrored pair. Total $63 + p/h.

Order yours now... Click here

Re-Cap at swims this season

Cap Amnesty at Dawny

swim capsAt a rough estimate, around 20,000 swimming caps are handed out at NSW ocean swims each summer. Some may be reused, but the overwhelming majority are used only once, kept in the bottom of a swimming bag for the summer, then thrown out. This seems like a needless waste, as well as creating unnecessary landfill.

Accordingly, Re-cap aims to find sources for reusing and repurposing swimming caps, and will be collecting over summer at Sydney ocean swims. The first beneficiary is Swim Viet Nam, a charity based in Central Viet Nam which provides free swimming and water safety lessons to children and trains local adults as swimming teachers.

We're talking to some other charities and beneficiaries at the moment, and in the past have given to artists and local pools, so stay tuned!

If you would like to receive some caps, or if you have a whole stack that you would like to give away, get in touch!

Re-Cap collected at Collaroy last Sunday, and will be at Dawny this coming Sunday. At Collaroy, Re-Cap collected 136 caps of 329 handed out at registration. Most responsive age group was the 50+ with 44 per cent of distributed caps returned, proving that some Baby Boomers do care.

Look for the bins on the boardwalk at Dawny on Sunday.

There is currently no way to recycle caps (that I know of) hence the focus on reuse and repurpose. However, maybe it is not too far away - wetsuit recycling is now available in various places (, and you can recycle all sorts of plastics and rubber if you are willing to make the effort - there's a gap in the market for an entrepreneurial ocean swimmer...

Marc West

Oceanswimsafaris 2017

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Joined by a cobber in Sulawesi.

We've posted package details for two of our oceanswimsafaris in 2017 on our sibling site, You can find details for both Sulawesi (June 11-19) and for Tonga (three oceanswimsafaris between July 25 and August 16). We have a few spots still available on our Sulawesi tour, and three spots available on Tonga. We've been inundated with interest for both

Dates of our oceanswimsafaris in 2017 –

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

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. We've received already submissions from swim groups from as far afield as Scotland and Hong Kong. We expect to have the first online in the next week or so. 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

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Hi-de-hi from an ocean swimmer at Collaroy last Sundee.. For our report... Click here

Get swim ready at Newport

A message from the awgies of the Newport Pool to Peak Swim...

Newport Surf Club will be conducting an ocean swim training session at Newport Beach on Saturday 26 November 2016 from 7.30am in association with our Pool to Peak Ocean Swims which as you know will be on Sunday 8 January 2017.

The ocean swim training session is intended for swimmers who are thinking of trying ocean swimming for the first time as well as those who would like to pick up a few tips.

We will be covering:

  • Training for an ocean swim
  • Preparation for the day of the swim
  • Observing surf conditions before you swim
  • How to get out through the break (Practical if conditions allow)
  • Finishing a swim.

We will be emphasising the fun aspect as well as safety.

More info, contact John Guthrie... Click here

Swims open to online entry...

We have entries online open to a string of new season swims...

Coming soon... Plenty.


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Our swim cobbers in Sulawesi

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  • Peter Nickless Comment Link
    Peter Nickless
    Friday, 18 November 2016 00:27
    Send the Elite off first. Then age group waves, youngest to oldest next. Followed by anyone who feels slow or is not confident. The timing bands will take care of times and positions. The safest, kindest and logical to start an event.
    If organisers used a milk crate at the finish for swimmers to place their foot to take off their bands, it would make things easier.
  • Glenn Muir Comment Link
    Glenn Muir
    Thursday, 17 November 2016 11:21
    The best thing an ocean swim could ever do is let the codgers go first. Or maybe second, if there is an elite wave. Thank you Collaroy. You made my day.
    The second best thing an ocean swim could do is adjust the waves to match the number of entries. At nearly every swim there are a bunch of waves with about 3 people, and one or two waves with about 300. No surprises that people get bumped in or by the wave that contains 300. Why not merge some of the waves that contain 3 people and split up some of the waves that contain 300.
    Dividing the waves according to average speed would be the pits. It’s better if the field spreads out a bit. Could think of nothing worse than arriving at every single buouy at exactly the same time as 30 or 40 other people who swim at the same speed. Smells like trouble to me.
    Thank you Collaroy. You made my day.
  • Lynley Brennan Comment Link
    Lynley Brennan
    Wednesday, 16 November 2016 23:40
    I always swim at the back and to the side in an Ocean Swim event so I can swim on my own and not have to bother with anyone else being too close and spoiling my experience. I'm quite prepared to swim a bit further than the others just to maintain my own peace.
    It should be said, though, that I hate swimming in swimming pools, swim alone well out back every day at Newie and therefore find any group swim a bit crowded!
  • Maurie Akenson Comment Link
    Maurie Akenson
    Wednesday, 16 November 2016 23:39
    Yeah re rough swimming in races... After over 18 yrs of reforming my technique coaching by TI swim coach Terry Loughlin (USA), I've come to realise that boofhead in swim technique = boofhead in life ... The water's there to share ... to steal an oldie?
  •  Marion Slattery Comment Link
    Marion Slattery
    Wednesday, 16 November 2016 23:38
    This works in the NZ swim series. The time range for each group is quite wide so you still have a variety of swimmers and the quicker ones can get away! The separation usually happens early on - allowing for a good but competitive swim.
  • Jenny Longstaff Comment Link
    Jenny Longstaff
    Wednesday, 16 November 2016 23:36
    Leave it as is - there is always space to swim on the edge of a group.
    And yes to do Byron: the 'backwards' way is a treat. Great to get in and see the Kys of the world in that one.
  • Elena Nesci Comment Link
    Elena Nesci
    Wednesday, 16 November 2016 23:34
    Just responding to your article on wave starts and who to send off first: I'm Event Coordinator for Australia's oldest open water swim, the Swim Thru Perth, and work closely with a number of other Event Coordinators of the open water swims in Western Australia and here's my take on this little chestnut.
    At open water events in Western Australia, we almost always rank our start waves in terms of nominated race time and send the fastest swimmers off first with approx 2 - 5 minutes between waves depending on the race distance and race environment. At time of entry competitors are asked to nominate a time and some events even have closest to nominated time prizes, but I digress.
    The main reason we collect the nominated time is so that we can ensure that the faster swimmers are grouped together and the "less fast" swimmers (we're all fast here in WA!) don't have to deal with the rough and tumble of the front swimmers. Gender is irrelevant. In the larger events, like the Coogee Jetty to Jetty and Swim Thru Rottnest, there may be as many as 7 or 8 waves to ensure swimmer safety and enjoyment.
    As an Event Coordinator, I can't see how sending off the slower swimmers first would ensure the safety of those competitors as they will surely be swamped en masse by a bunch of faster, stronger swimmers at some point. We're always trying to mitigate the risk of injury not increase it!
  • Stephen Burns Comment Link
    Stephen Burns
    Wednesday, 16 November 2016 23:27
    The Tamarama to Cloey swim had mixed waves based upon speed. In the short number of swims I did, it seemed to work well.
    Alternatively age groups based upon the previous years average speed.
  • John Morris Comment Link
    John Morris
    Wednesday, 16 November 2016 23:26
    Self-seeded wave starts by time are becoming the norm in Ironman triathlon events and it works very well. People who choose to elevate themselves get run over at their own risk. My experience is there remains enough scope for jostling with swimmers around the same pace - a fairer, and hence more genuine, contest in many respects. A slow swimmer like myself suffers the indignity of being well out the back of the field, but you don't need any break between waves so the gap between the first starter and the last starter can be very short.

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