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July 3, 2018

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2017/18 tallies topper, Jim Donaldson (2nd left), at Bondi with fellow sexagenarian, Clive Dowdell (65, left), mentoring whippersnappers eager to learn from the experience of their elders. (Pic: Daily Telegraph)

This issue...

Swims coming up

Donaldson manages to top tallies

Our apologies, that our initial attempt, on June 12, to bring you our fine ocean swimmers' tallies for season 2017/18 was blighted by getting the leaders wrong. Now, we're confident that we have them right...

Jim Donaldson, who topped the fine ocean swimmers’ tallies for 2017/18, approached his season with the premeditation of a project manager, which he is. Even so, his “plan” bore fruit earlier than he’d planned.

“With the Kiwi ascension (in recent years), I have focused on the Australian tallies,” Jim told us, having topped the Australian tallies for the last two years. “I did, however, have a plan to have a crack at the Kiwis in the near future. Now I can kick back a little.”

Jim Donaldson topped the tallies for 2017/18 by swimming 126.35km over 35 events, averaging 3.61kms per swim.

donaldson jim noosa 1805 250Following were six Kiwis then four from Western Australia. Second and third on the tallies were previous tallist toppers Mike Cochrane on 125.1km also from 35 events (ave 3.57km) and Raewyn Barker on 110.8km from 27 events (4.1kms).

We asked Jim how he’d brought his professional skills to bear on his swimming, bearing in mind the planning that Cochrane, another project manager, applied when he swam 307.8km in season 2014/15.

“Professionally, I develop project schedules and mitigate risk,” Jim said. “When selecting swims, I use these tools at the base level, in particular the likelihood of swims going ahead.”

An interesting insight, particularly given that, it seems to us, Jim just turns up at everything.

Tyranny

“I set personal milestones during the season, kilometres completed by end year/half season, etc.

“A previous tallies winner completed 60kms at the season half way point in his championship year (Duckenfield’s Michael Fox), and I use this as a benchmark.”

Donaldson drives “several thousand (kilometres) per season” in pursuit of his ocean swimming, although not as far as first inaugural tallies topper Andrew Burke, who swam 73km or thereabouts over the course of the season in about 2005/06, but drove over 14,000kms from his home in Bathurst, in the NSW Central West. Not quite the outback, but almost, particularly if you have the perspective of Sydney’s inner city.

“In any year I need to travel interstate or overseas at least once to remain competitive. I have the luxury of living near the M1/M2,” Donaldson says, referring to Sydney’s expressway network.

Donaldson, 62, has been ocean swimming only since 2011, when he did the 1km at The Roughwater at North Bondi. In that first season, he swam a total of 13.5km.

“I enjoyed the challenge of varying conditions,” he said. “I soon realised that there were others who were also cautious around big waves.

“Later the social interaction of meeting new people, creating and maintaining long term friendships became an added benefit.”

Prolific

Worthy of note is that, in many cases when swimmers achieve extraordinary distance tallies over the course of a season, they do so with the help of a few long swims. Wessna Strãan swimmers, for example, benefit from the series of swims up to 10km mounted by WA Swimming, as well as from Rottnest Channel, over 19km. The highest placed swimmer from the West in season 17/18, Nicola Fraschini, for example, swam 83.8km from 13 swims, averaging 6.45km. Hardly in the water compared with Cochrane and Donaldson, but a triffic effort, nonetheless.

Codgers rule

Two more Kiwis are 5th and 6th in the tallies, Jacques de Reuck and Roger Soulsby. We note, too, that Donaldson is 62, de Reuck is 65, and Soulsby is 70.

These are extraordinary efforts from older swimmers, although they illustrate one of the great truths of ocean swimming, and of swimming generally, that it’s the ideal caper for mature punters. When the hips and knees have given out from years of running and cycling, they all come over. It’s just a matter of time.

Parenthetically, we have no idea how long any of these seasoned characters have been swimming, although we do know that Soulsby has been swimming for many years.

The point is that we can keep doing it as we age, and so many mature punters are. Ocean swimming is at the forefront of the wave of fitness activity by older mugs. Because we can.

Well done, all you mugs.

Regional leaders

Region

Whom Age Distance (km) Swims Ave dist.

NSW

 Donaldson, Jim

62

126.35

35

3.61

NZ

 Cochrane, Mike

36

125.1

35

3.57

Qld

 Midolo, Tony

56

76.14

13

5.86

SA

 Astley, Julie

52

44.7

5

8.94

Tas

 Brocklesby, Andrew/Hughson, Douglas

 

24.3

12

2.03

Vic

 Harwood, Michael

 

70.5

20

3.53

WA

 Fraschini, Nicola

 

83.8

13

6.45


Stats, stats, and more stats
  • Swims recorded - 868
  • Total swimmers - 51,290
  • Total distance swum - 196,635.73km
  • Total swims by all swimmers - 92,809
  • Average distance - 2.1km

For all the details... Click here

All the tallies...

Fairfax acquires Sydney Harbour swim

Fairfax Events, which owns the Cole Classic, as well as a stable of running and other events, has acquired Melbourne-based sports event company, SME360, which owns, amongst other events, the Sydney Harbour swim.

The Harbour swim operated formerly on Australia Day as the Great Australian Swim Sydney Harbour, before being sold to SME360 a bit over two years ago. In season 2016/17, SME360 did not run the swim, saying it lacked a sponsor. When it ran again last season, 2017/18, the Australia Day spot had been taken by another event at Rose Bay, so the event ran instead on the weekend ahead of Australia Day.

Mana Fiji rates reduced

Swim with Trent & Codie Grimsey, Brent Foster

mana fiji 1610 06 600

The Mana Fiji SwimFest is the original ocean swimming carnival in Fiji, indeed in the South Pacific. It's the only ocean swimming carnival that take splace completely in pristine reef waters. It offers a range of distances and a complete swimming and holiday package where you can do all your swimming and relaxing at the one location, without having to commute by bus or ferry from place to place each day.

It's also the only ocean swimming carnival in Fiji supported by trained and experienced water safety staff, who've been watching over this event now for eight years, some of them for over ten years.

Mana Fiji is the only ocean swimming carnival that gives you the opportunity to swim with the English Channel record holder, Trent Grimsey, his equally talented brother, Codie, and New Zealand triathlon and ocean swimming legend, Brent Foster. All three are pre-eminent coaches in their fields, and you could come away better ocean swimmers than when you arrived.

If you're setting yourself for Rottnest Channel swim in 2019, you can also use the 10km event at Mana as your qualifying swim. While Mana falls just prior to the official qualifying period, Rotto organisers ask that you keep a training diary to demonstrate that you're kept up your regimen. Best to check with them directly, as well, of course.

There are two days of swimming at Mana: Thursday for the 10km either solo or as part of a 3x swimmer relay, each swimmer doing c. 3.3km; then Saturday, when you have a choice of 5km, 2.5km and 1km.

We have special swimmer packages online now offering free spa treatments, all meals, and 20 per cent off room rates all included. The inclusion of all meals -- a compulsory meal plan, as some other Fijian resorts have been doing for years -- makes the rates a little higher, but then you now don't face the added cost of food once you get there.

Check for info and booking... Click here

Swimmer's Shoulder

Apart from being dumped in the break, or being thumped by an over-zealous rival whilst rounding a booee, about the only injury that ocean swimmers -- indeed, any swimmers -- can get from swimming is swimmer's shoulder. Here, physiotherapist and ocean swimmer, Jerome Murphy, takes us through it...

swimmers shoulder graphic 350

Q. Which stroke is the most common cause of shoulder problems in swimming?

A. Freestyle. Regardless of the stroke performed in competition, over 50 per cent of swimmers in an elite Australian swim squad perform freestyle in training. As it’s highly repetitious, the shoulder is at risk to overuse and overload injuries. Elite swimmers and those training for distance swims (eg English Channel) can be swimming 50 to 90 km per week.

Q. Prevalence of shoulder pain reported at elite level?

A. Between 40 per cent and 90 per cent.

Q. Why the shoulder?

A. In contrast to most other sports, the shoulder and arm are the principal generator of forward momentum, not the legs.

The anatomy of the shoulder is similar to a golf ball sitting in a golf tee: the humeral head is 4x bigger than the socket (glenoid). Therefore, at any one time and position, there is only 25 per cent of the humeral in contact with the glenoid. Consequently, stability is compromised for greater mobility.

In return for greater mobility, the labrum (cartilage lining of the glenoid) and rotator cuff (four muscles from the scapula) are put under increasing load to stabilise the humeral head in the socket.

Freestyle stroke

The Freestyle stroke is divided into 4 phases --

  • Hand entry
  • Pull
  • Push
  • Recovery

swimmers shoulder freestyle 600
Source: Dr. Alex Jimenez, El Paso Back Clinic

Q. Which phase causes problems?

A. The recovery phase is where problems can occur in the shoulder. The shoulder is above water in a flexed and internally rotated position.

If the rotator cuff muscles are fatigued they cannot hold the humeral head securely in the socket as the hand enters the water for the next critical phases... hand entry and catch.

The catch position also can present problems to the shoulder if the entry is not correct ie hand first parallel to the water followed by the wrist, elbow and shoulder.

The all important angle of entry will dictate the resistance of water experienced at the shoulder. If entry is too shallow the shoulder will experience a large moment of force as the water provides resistance.

Over a period of time this will cause the rotator cuff to fatigue especially supraspinatus resulting in an impingement.

Impingement

Swimmers shoulder was coined by Hawkins Kennedy in 1974 for anterior shoulder pain following swim workouts and termed impingement. It has been since found to be just as common in the general public.

G Murrell et al 2008 looked at an elite group of Australian swimmers and found volume was a major cause of supraspinatus tendinopathy, not impingement. The hypothesis was high volume swimmers developed laxity in the joint soft tissues (ligaments and capsule). This laxity caused an unstable joint where the humeral head impinged upwards into the path of the supraspinatus tendon.

Laxity in the shoulder can be divided into two types --

  • The first is genetic, often involving more than one joint in the body having greater flexibility; often referred to as hyper mobility.
  • The second cause is repetitive swimming which can cause the static structures to become more flexible.

Results of the study showed swimmers who swam greater than 35km per week were 4x more likely to have tendinopathy than those who swam less. Laxity levels in the shoulder did not change with increased volumes of swimming when measured.

Take home points to prevent shoulder injury during swimming are --

  • Watch the volume of kms per week: over 35km will increase the risk of shoulder tendinopathy.
  • Maintain a strong robust rotator cuff that can tolerate fatigue.
  • Consider all aspects of the swim cycle from hand entry to recovery.

Happy ocean swimming!

Spots available for 2018

Whales off coast now

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Tickle my belly: some whales in Tonga get playful. It's been a long way from Antarctica, and if they want to get up close and personal, there ain't much we can do to get out of the way. This image from our oceanswimsafaris to Tonga in 2017.

The whale migration is on. Up and down the coast, meeja and tourist excursion companies are frothing about sightings from headlands and beaches, of spouts, of tail-slapping, of breaches, etc, etc. But why stop at just standing back and watching? Why not hop in the water with the whales, and enjoy an unrivalled experience in close-up? Swim with whales... Swim with mother whales and their calves... Listen to them singing under water... You can't do this in Strã'a, but you can do it with us in Tonga.

There are plenty of operations up and down the coast that can take you whale watching whilst the humpbacks head north to give birth, then back down sarth for the summer later. But there is none that can take you swimming with them. In Tonga, though, it's possible to jump into the water with the whales. There are strict rules -- size of groups, how long in the water, how close you can get (but if the whale comes to you, there's not much you can do other than back-pedal a little), how long swim tour operators can stay "on" a whale, etc -- but you can get into the water in close proximity to watch, and to listen (they're very talkative, and over long distances). Some contact, inadvertent, often is inevitable, but whales seem to have a good spatial awareness, and a knack for getting close, but not uncomfortably close. They're not going to run you down. Sometimes, they just want to play.

We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-August 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga, then book with us while space remains available… Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims.

New... Nup

Coming up... Be patient; it's only July.

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May 15, 2018

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The sea is up. Glistening Dave has that knack of always being on the spot to capture the image that defines the day: Today, looking sarth from Mona Vale towards Warriewood. Pic by David Helsham)

This issue...

Swims coming up

Flevoparkbad: A foreign place

Swimming at the end of the line

flevoparkbad amsterdam goble 600

Postcard from the Pool by Sally Goble

goble sally 100A satisfyingly thick hand drawn felt tip circle marks the spot on my tourist city map: the best outdoor swimming spot is here, apparently – the receptionist at my hotel has told me so. We’ve taken two trams, and have trudged in the heat round a deserted industrial docklands area, past empty buildings and waste land. The sun is beating down relentlessly, and we don’t really know where we’re going, or what we’ll find at the other end. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m desperate for a swim.

We arrive at the spot circled on my map. There is a café bar; a beer garden made with reclaimed industrial scrap; a beach fashioned by throwing sand on a jetty; and people lying on sand, on concrete, and pretending they are at ‘the beach’. They lie on towels sunning themselves amid the concrete and rusted steel. But although it’s a scorching hot day nobody is in the water. There are no steps down and no way to get out of the high sided walls of the dock that I can see. I don’t feel comfortable swimming here. We turn around and trudge back to our hotel, disappointed, parched. I think back to the enticing felt tip pen mark. Apparently there is swimming and then there is swimming.

In the cool, hip,’ lobby of our hotel, we rest in the shade and order rhubarb lemondade to console ourselves. It comes in large heavy crystal glasses, crammed with ice and lemon slices, condensation forming beautifully on the outside of the glass, inside delicious cold red nectar. We sit in silence and glug down our drinks, our thirst quenched. My disappointment wanes.

The next day I try again. I’ve heard there is a good outdoor pool I should visit. We set off in hope.

Flevoparkbad is in a park, at the end of a tram line, in a suburb of Amsterdam. We jump on the no 7 tram and head out. The canals and tall elegant townhouses disappear making way for nineteen sixties apartment blocks and graffiti. The tram is empty by the time we reach our stop.

At the very end of the line, Flevoparkbad. We pay our entrance fee and are in!

It’s a warm and still sunny day but hardly anyone is here. A café sells crisps and coffee. We sit briefly on wooden loungers listening to the faint sound of blackbirds singing, children laughing, water splashing. It’s a million miles away from the hustle and bustle.

I strip off and jump into the beautiful blue water of the 50m lap pool. The water is chilly and fresh, clear and blue, twinkling and delicious. It gives welcome goosebumps on a hot day. There are only half a dozen of us in the pool, we have more than enough space to not be anywhere near one another. The pool walls are painted a dazzling Mediterranean blue. The sunlight twinkles and dances. As I breathe I can see only blue sky and trees with the odd tram meandering by. I am in heaven. A short sweet tranquil swim and I am refreshed.

My mom – who doesn’t swim – has been patiently waiting for me, on a long bench in the sun. I try to explain what it’s like, a swim like this: “Remember those long fresh cold drinks we had yesterday?” I ask her “How delicious and quenching they were when we were hot and thirsty?” I smile. “It’s just like that.”

Sally Goble

This weekend

mona vale 180515 dhd 02 600
Mona Vale, today. Pic by Glistening Dave (David Helsham, @glistenrr)

Two events this weekend, both in Sydney, and a late change to one of them, of which you need to be aware...

Chieftain's Challenge

Sat'dee, the Chieftain's Challenge is a swim-run-swim from Mona Vale to Warriewood. A unique event, in that it's all on the beach, both swimming and running, all seven legs, so there's no risk from speeding vehicles, yelling passing hoons commenting on your body shape, or reckless motorcyclists. Start is a swim in Bongin Bongin Bay at Mona Vale, then it's alternately running/jogging and swimming all the way down to Warriewood at the other end of the beach. This event was postponed from April 28, when sea conditions were unfavourable. There is a rising sea forecast for this weekend, but the majority of that rise is expected from Sat'dee afternoon onwards. Swell at scheduled event start time, 11am, is c. 1.5m, which will be less when it hits the beach. Let's hope it won't be too difficult.

More info and to enter... Click here

South Head may have sea

Yes, yes, we know: there's a sea predicted for Sunday. When we checked yesterday (Willy Weather) swell was forecast to be around 2m, but today it's lifted to 3.9m around swim time. magicseaweed.com says "9-14ft", which, for Generation X, Y, and Now means 2.7-4.3m. And, yes, we know that swell does not automatically mean waves on the beach. It's relevant, though, that this swell is due from the sarth, and that will come straight into Bondi. The corner at North Bondi offers some mitigation, but on a swell that size, and from that direction, the mitigation is mitigated.

South Head awgies will make their first review of expected conditions on Friday afternoon. We will then text entrants (those who did and paid for the entries, not each member of the team), and we will Tweet, Facebook and post on both southheadroughwater.com and oceanswims.com. Further updates will come as necessary, but keep your eye particularly on twitter (@oceanswims), Facebook (oceanswims.com) and the websites.

Should the swim be postponed, it will be rescheduled to Sunday, June 10.

There's hardly a need to preview the South Head Roughwater, since anyone interested in doing it this year will have prepared so thoroughly that they know all about it. It's not a swim that you do on a whim. It is a spectacular event: 11km along the cliffs from Bondi to Watsons Bay. It's a commitment swim: once you're out, you're committed: there's nowhere to get out, other than into your escort boat, but then everyone will see you. Online entries close on oceanswims.com at 3pm on Friday. If you have entered a team, and you haven't submitted your team registration, then get onto it: we must know who is swimming... Click here... And you must attend the compulsory briefing -- yes, yes, we know that's a tautology, but we're about emphasis here -- at 7pm at the Watsons Bay Hotel.

More info and to enter... Click here

Mona Vale Solstice slips forward

The Mona Vale Solstice Swim has come forward a week to June 17, following a change in approvals by Northern Beaches Council. Original date was June 24. Now, Mrs June Dibbs will have to get stuck into that minestrone earlier, to have it ready for the mid-winter swim. Whilst the date is late June, water temp still generally and usually is around 19-20C. Just two categories, and two sub-categories: Newd and Wettie, M/F, for this swim around the Mona Vale rockshelf between Bongin Bongin Bay and Mona Vale main beach. The direction depends on conditions on race day. Remember, entries are online only; there are no entries accepted on swim day.

More info and to enter... Click here

1770

Our new paradise

agnes water 180509 osc 600 02
Random ocean swimmer rejoices in the pristinity of Agnes Water. Note The Hand.

We've discovered another paradise.

For many years, we've heard from different punters, and from different types of punters, some of them nothing to do with ocean swimming, how beautiful is the area of Queensland's "Discovery Coast" around the twin towns of 1770 and Agnes Water. Towns? Hamlets, really. They're very small, hardly anything at all; much more active at holiday time than out, but capable of some of the most brilliant dawns and sunsets anywhere, at any time, blanketed in virgin bush, blessed by clean seas, and pampered by swell that's tempered by the reef. They're around 130km north of Bundaberg, and about a similar distance sarth of Gladstone, a city familiar with anyone who has done the now defunct Great Barrier Reef Swim on Heron Island. Indeed, we went nosing around the Discovery Coast area as a result of the cancellation of the Heron Island event, because lots of punters still want to swim on the Great Barrier Reef.

1770 is little more than a few houses and a couple of tour businesses clustered around the shores of Round Hill Creek, which empties into the Coral Sea by Round Hill Head. Round Hill was named Round Hill by Captain Cook, who beached his ship there on May 24, 1770, for repairs. Local lore holds that this was the first place where Cook set foot on Strã'an soil, having remained aboard at Kurnell. (Not sure how true that is. But perhaps the federal gummint should be spending $50 million on a grandiose memorial at 1770 rather than at Botany Bay.) Cook saw a hill in the distance that looked round, so he called it Round Hill. (We've always wondered how the authorities find names for places.)

We visited last week at the invitation of friends, Chris and Penny Palfrey, who live there. Many will know of Penny and her strordinary open sea swimming exploits around the world; Chris is the brother of Bronte plumber Martin. But first, we did a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island, out of Bundaberg. Lady Musgrave Island is much like Heron Island, about 70km south of Heron and 40km north of Lady Elliott Island. We were drawn to Musgrave because it's a little island on the sou'-western corner of an atoll with a broad, deep lagoon in the middle, and only a narrow entrance into the lagoon from the open sea, but on the lee side. It looked a good place for a swim, and it is. Unlike Heron and Elliott, however, Musgrave doesn't offer accommodation. You can obtain camping permits, but there are no structures on the island and no accommodation. Mugs who camp must take everything in, then everything out. It's a nice place.

There's lovely reef at Lady Musgrave and clear water. And lots of turtles, even out of turtle laying season. And it's a very remote place, which is all the more attractive to us. There were c. 60 of us on the boat out to Lady Musgrave (thank you to the Lady Musgrave Experience for taking us out there for the day). There was a bit of a sea, and of those 60, 75 per cent (our estimate) were sick on the way out, and on the way back. Some people can't handle a bit of bump.

Then we drove up to 1770. This place is remote, too: we went through no other towns en route from Bundaberg to 1770, although there was the odd directional road sign, and one place -- we saw a couple of houses set back from the road -- even had a pub, just sitting there in the middle of the bush. It seemed to be catering to the grey nomad trade. The area is a popular stop on this circuit, although the size of the local caravan parks limits availability severely.

agnes water 180509 osc 600 01
Through a wave, brightly: The beach at Agnes Water.

You go through Agnes Water to get to 1770. The two hamlets are as one, albeit separated by a couple of kms. But whereas Agnes Water faces the sea, 1770 faces the northbound Queensland coast across a bay: it faces nor'-west. First day, we swam along Round Hill Creek along the 1770 shoreline, in gentle water that benefits from a tidal flow through a narrow opening to the sea. Next day, early morning swim was along the beach at Agnes Water, facing east and with a lovely little swell wrapping around a point, something like (if you're a boardie) Crescent Head although without as long a ride. We swam along the beach and back again, gamboled in the break, caught a few waves on the body, and revelled in one of the nicest morning swims we've ever done.

Agnes Water is said to be the most northerly surf beach on the eastern seaboard, despite being inside the Great Barrier Reef. What makes it is the 40km gap between Lady Elliott Island in the south, and Lady Musgrave Island in the north. Lady Elliott sits on one reef, while Lady Musgrave is at the lower end of the network of reefs that also boats Heron Island. Between Elliott and Musgrave is genuine open sea, and when the swell comes from the sou'-east, it slips through that 40km gap and arrives at Agnes Water. It's a very pretty beach, lined by trees, a tourist park, a creek behind the dunes, and with some tourist development behind. There's a low-intensity shopping centre just up the hill and a pub a little beyond.

There are pretty bushwalks all around the joint, sunset cruises on Round Hill Creek, an excursion by army duck (LARC) 23km along the beach to Bustard Head and its lighthouse, maybe with a swim in the hitherto unswum (certainly by punters like us) Salt Pan Creek, with its estuarine coral. There's also an excursion from 1770 to Lady Musgrave, sea conditions permitting.

Anyway, we were so taken with the joint that we're running our first inaugural Strã'an domestic oceanswimsafari to 1770 and Agnes Water in May, 2019. We're putting a package together now and we plan to post it on oceanswimsafaris.com a bit later this year. The date coincides with the annual Captain Cook Festival at 1770, which runs over the weekend Friday, August 24-Sunday, August 26. We've spoken to the awgies of that Festival, and we're hopeful that they'll mount the first inaugural Captain Cook 1770 Swim, which will be an highlight of our oceanswimsafari. We'll incoude a lot fo the stuff mentioneed above, including (sea permitting) a day trip to the reefs around Lady Musgrave Island, some of which, we say with confidence, have never been swum before by a peloton of ocean swimmers. This will be a first.

Anyway, more details as they come to hand. You're welcome to join us.

If you'd like to express interest in joining us on the Captain Cook 1770 oceanswimsafari in May, 2019. You can reserve your place with a  deposit (refundable if, when the package is finalised, you don't wish to take it up)... Click here

1770 180509 osc 600 01
Sunset over sea at 1770.

More therapy

Drowning? Or swimming?

Following our story last issue about swimming as therapy, Kirrilee Bracht writes: "I wrote this as a way of trying to move on from a tough spot. Someone (not knowing that I loved to swim) asked me was I going to drown or was I going to swim……."

Clear blue sparkling water.

I'm gliding through it as my arms rotate around and around, again and again, my feet move in a rhythmic beat. My breath is even. In and out in a repeating pattern.

I'm strong here. I'm confident. I'm comfortable.

The water is smooth and soft, there's no breeze, no current, the only ripples in the water are made by me moving gently through it. I love watching the shadows that my arms make on the untouched sand beneath me. On days like this there's nowhere else I want to be, this is the best place in the world. I see the occasional fish, a brightly coloured lure, stuck in the reeds and a golf ball.

I keep breathing. In and out. When I take my breath I only get a brief glimpse above the surface, the sun shines brightly into my goggles, it doesn't matter what's going on out there, sometimes I wish my face could just stay down so that my underwater view would not be interrupted by the need for oxygen.

A stingray startles me and then I smile at the privilege of being able to be see it. I settle back into my stroke but my mind wanders to what else might be out there and I begin to see dark shadows in the water. They're just from trees or clouds or lumps of weed but uncertainty and fear are now in my thoughts.

A boat passes by and makes some waves as the wind picks up, I don't mind the chop, it's harder on my arms but it makes me feel stronger as I pull my way through it. I kick harder just to keep the same pace in the increasing swell. It becomes an effort and I feel my muscles starting to burn. I look ahead but the next point that I had been focusing on seems far off. The tide has turned and is against me now, I'm not sure that I'm going anywhere. I'm kicking hard and pulling through the water but the view underneath me is staying the same. I've been looking at that same shell for minutes. I'm not moving. I turn my head for a breath and I'm hit with a wall of water that goes straight into my mouth and stings my nose. I stop. I cough. My goggles are foggy and I start to feel cold. The sun has gone, it's grey and I'm tired. Where I'm headed is a long way away. I turn over onto my back and float. I stay still but the water moves me up and down, I feel myself being dragged back to where I've already been. I roll back over and pull my arm down hard, I've drifted over some rocks and as I pull down into my stroke my arm slices open as it drags over the oysters. It stings and I yell under water. I hold up my arm to look at the damage and the blood runs down to my elbow and then drips into the water. Now I'm scared of sharks.

This is life. Life gets hard. Life is full of tough times, so how do we keep swimming until the wind ceases and the tide turns? It seems unending, the pain is consuming, we try everything but it feels like nothing brings relief, and then we choose.

forster 1805 osc 600 02
Drowning? Or swimming?

We choose to drown or we choose to swim.

Kick hard, cry, laugh, be angry, be sad, smile, be happy, grieve loss, feel pain, breath and keep swimming.

Keep swimming.

Keep swimming long after your tongue swells from the salt and you start to chafe. Keep moving, keep breathing. Just make it to the next buoy, don't think about what is after that until you get there.

Keep going.

It takes a long long time but now you can see the beach, you know it won't be long until a wave pushes you in. You turn and see it coming and swim hard hoping to use its power. It picks you up and throws you down, it's out of your control and you spin and turn not knowing which way to the surface. But you're calm and you let it tumble you over and over. You know eventually you'll pop up and be able to breathe, you just have to wait, you know you can wait, you know you can hold on, you're confident and you know you're strong enough.

And just as the need for air becomes desperate, your head breaks the surface and you breathe. Another wave comes in and you ride it all the way in to the beach, it's exhilarating and a welcome relief after everything that's come before it. You're exhausted. Your feet touch the sand and you realise that you've made it, you're going to be okay. The sand is warm and so is the sun on your back.

You’re okay. You kept swimming and now you’re okay. You have no idea of what the conditions are for tomorrow but by the time the sun rises you’ll be ready to dive right back in again.

Kirrilee Brach

Mana Fiji rates reduced

Swim with Trent & Codie Grimsey, Brent Foster

mana fiji 1610 06 600

The Mana Fiji SwimFest is the original ocean swimming carnival in Fiji, indeed in the South Pacific. It's the only ocean swimming carnival that take splace completely in pristine reef waters. It offers a range of distances and a complete swimming and holiday package where you can do all your swimming and relaxing at the one location, without having to commute by bus or ferry from place to place each day.

It's also the only ocean swimming carnival in Fiji supported by trained and experienced water safety staff, who've been watching over this event now for eight years, some of them for over ten years.

Mana Fiji is the only ocean swimming carnival that gives you the opportunity to swim with the English Channel record holder, Trent Grimsey, his equally talented brother, Codie, and New Zealand triathlon and ocean swimming legend, Brent Foster. All three are pre-eminent coaches in their fields, and you could come away better ocean swimmers than when you arrived.

If you're setting yourself for Rottnest Channel swim in 2019, you can also use the 10km event at Mana as your qualifying swim. While Mana falls just prior to the official qualifying period, Rotto organisers ask that you keep a training diary to demonstrate that you're kept up your regimen. Best to check with them directly, as well, of course.

There are two days of swimming at Mana: Thursday for the 10km either solo or as part of a 3x swimmer relay, each swimmer doing c. 3.3km; then Saturday, when you have a choice of 5km, 2.5km and 1km.

We have special swimmer packages online now offering free spa treatments, all meals, and 20 per cent off room rates all included. The inclusion of all meals -- a compulsory meal plan, as some other Fijian resorts have been doing for years -- makes the rates a little higher, but then you now don't face the added cost of food once you get there.

Check for info and booking... Click here

Spots open up for 2018

First whales off the coast now

tonga whales 2018 oceanswimsafaris 600
Tickle my belly: some whales in Tonga get playful. It's been a long way from Antarctica, and if they want to get up close and personal, there ain't much we can do to get out of the way. This image from our oceanswimsafaris to Tonga in 2017.

The whale migration is on. Up and down the coast, meeja and tourist excursion companies are frothing about sightings from headlands and beaches, of spouts, of tail-slapping, of breaches, etc, etc. But why stop at just standing back and watching? Why not hop in the water with the whales, and enjoy an unrivalled experience in close-up? Swim with whales... Swim with mother whales and their calves... Listen to them singing under water... You can't do this in Strã'a, but you can do it with us in Tonga.

There are plenty of operations up and down the coast that can take you whale watching whilst the humpbacks head north to give birth, then back down sarth for the summer later. But there is none that can take you swimming with them. In Tonga, though, it's possible to jump into the water with the whales. There are strict rules -- size of groups, how long in the water, how close you can get (but if the whale comes to you, there's not much you can do other than back-pedal a little), how long swim tour operators can stay "on" a whale, etc -- but you can get into the water in close proximity to watch, and to listen (they're very talkative, and over long distances). Some contact, inadvertent, often is inevitable, but whales seem to have a good spatial awareness, and a knack for getting close, but not uncomfortably close. They're not going to run you down. Sometimes, they just want to play.

We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-August 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga, then book with us while space remains available… Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Even politicians needs jobs after they leave parliament. This one, spotted by hack Timothy Vaughan, runs a bar in Madrid.madrid bar keating tv 350

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims.

New... Nup

Coming up... Toowoon Bay (Nov 24)

Subscribe

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April 26, 2018

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Early morning mugs at Bongin Bongin. Pic by Glistening Dave (David Helsham), Mona Vale.

This issue...

Swims coming up

Swimming as therapy

Why we do what we do

Many ocean swimmers either are, or know, someone for whom swimming is their therapy. We can all relate to this. For many swimmers, too, the seminal read was Waterlog, an account by the late Roger Deakin of his travels around the UK swimming in open water. Published in 2000, and despite its UK focus, that book articulated for us why we do what we do. Over the last few years, Joe Minihane retraced Deakin's strokes and, last year, published Floating: A Life Regained, also Minihane's account of how swimming helped him deal with anxiety. It was his therapy.

minihane joe head 200Here, Minihane (right) reflects on the therapeutic power of reading, and writing, about it. This piece was published earlier on unbound.com.

‘When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking-glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim’ - Roger Deakin, Waterlog

‘Why have there been so many swimming books in the past year?’

The last time I was asked this question, my lips parted but no words came out. I took a sip of water and looked out at a sea of blank faces at the literary festival audience I was speaking to. They expected something, however, and I delivered a stream of consciousness answer that did little to satisfactorily answer the question. The appeal of the water to modern swimming writers, myself included, could not be reduced easily to a simple sound bite.

Since publishing my memoir about retracing Roger Deakin’s nature writing classic, Waterlog, in a bid to conquer anxiety, this is the question I have been asked the most. There is a breadth as wide as an ocean to this new swathe of swimming literature. To name a few: Turning, Jessica J. Lee’s memoir about swimming in fifty-two lakes around Berlin in a year; Leap In, Alexandra Heminsley’s fiercely brilliant tale of learning to swim during IVF treatment; Swell, Jenny Landreth’s history of women’s fight for swimming rights; Swimming With Seals, Victoria Whitworth’s powerful tale of sea swimming and finding solace in the waters around Orkney; and Ruth Fitzmaurice’s I Found My Tribe about her ritual dips in the Irish Sea.

There are a series of consistent themes which emerge among them: healing, community, empowerment and escape. Each of these books is imbued with these qualities, all of which have become central to the cultural conversation in recent years. In a world where multitasking, technological ubiquity and social media-induced anxiety have become inescapable lifestyle factors, swimming offers writers a rich seam to explore and readers something they can easily relate to.

Healing

In this Instagram age, the word healing has been sullied. It is a term now steeped in the idea that healing yourself can only be attained through achieving the ‘perfect’ body and eating ‘clean’. Modern swimming literature is about healing in its truest sense. The water in these books holds curative properties, both physical and mental.

Lee touches on this within the first pages of Turning. Swimming in the lakes around Berlin is an act of defiance against depression and heartbreak. ‘As I was retreating from the deep end of depression, I surfaced with the bizarre notion that the solution to my problems lay in swimming … I thought that swimming might help me find some new place in the world in a year when I had changed address five times.’

The notion of surfacing is one which Lee turns to repeatedly, as if the emotional waters can breached and navigated like those of the lakes which she fell in love with. She goes on: ‘In depression, I had become someone I hadn’t wanted to be, emptied and hardened. I felt that I had to respond to it in kind, as if lake water might blast away my sadness and fear. So I decided to swim for a year, in the hope of finding some reserve of joy and courage in myself.’

This is a feeling that I relate to acutely. Finding solace in swimming came after nearly a decade of living with an anxiety disorder, one which I discovered could be ameliorated, although not fixed completely, by going for cold swims in distant places. When I entered the water, I found that my mind – which struggled to separate small, inconsequential concerns from larger ones, leaving me often on the edge of blind panic – was becalmed. The water gave me the ability to understand that living a life of constant worry was not normal and that I could change. It helped me find a way to fix myself, to make myself a better person in my own eyes.

floating book cover 150Lee’s healing is achieved through mining reserves of strength, power and presence that only the water can afford her. When she swims, she isn’t escaping her depression, her lost love, the physical pain of a shoulder injury suffered after being hit by a taxi. She is, rather, finding a way to live with those things, of resurfacing, renewed but not remade, through the visceral thrill of wading into an icy lake.

In Swimming With Seals, Whitworth takes to Orkney’s bitterly cold seas to find solace and healing from troubles within her marriage (‘It is no coincidence that the crisis in my marriage coincided with my compulsion to swim in the sea’) and the pressures which she places on herself professionally. The latter speaks to a very modern malaise, where as a society we have become increasingly connected and yet increasingly isolated, without the requisite support structures required to boost our emotional wellbeing.

For Whitworth, the water acts as a pressure valve, a release. ‘My relationship with reality has become ever more tenuous,’ she says about her inability to accept that she is good, worthy and brilliant at what she does. ‘Going into cold water shocks me back into myself and what really exists, here and now. What really matters.’ She does this both alone and with a group, the Orkney Polar Bears. Community, as we shall see, also plays a vital role in swimming’s rise in popular literature.

For Heminsley too, the water is a place of healing. Leap In was initially conceived as a travel book about learning to swim and then taking on some of the more fearsome stretches of water the author could find. But it developed into something more unexpected. Heminsley details, with searing honesty, the struggles she faced during IVF treatment while learning to swim and how the water made her feel as those treatments failed and the emotional toll became almost unbearable.

‘I woke up at 6 am, and stared at the ceiling as the tears rolled slowly, sadly down the sides of my face and onto the pillow. What now? Well, it turned out there was a chink of light in the autumn clouds: swimming.’ Her sea swims near her Brighton home bring a semblance of peace, but it is a dip in a freezing Lake District tarn weeks later that captures the water’s ability to bring healing: ‘I couldn’t speak for the existence of any wildlife in that water, but I could speak for me,’ she writes. ‘I had survived the misery of the last few months. I had survived loss more painful than I had ever imagined. But I had survived. And I would survive the almost paralyzing fear of this swim. I was here. I was fine.’

There is an openness and honesty in Heminsley, Whitworth and Lee’s writings about swimming’s restorative and life-giving qualities that is both refreshing and yet completely at odds with the notion of health being attainable through ‘clean eating’ and the search for the ‘perfect’ body as defined by a select group of self-proclaimed fitness ‘influencers’, who have emerged on social media in recent years. The latter, though, does have a large part to play in the emergence of swimming literature, specifically in the community which the authors of these books helped to create and sustain.

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Not a big wave at Forster during the week, but there was an edge.

Community

Swimming is having a moment right now, perhaps because of the re-emergence of lidos as community hubs. Guidebooks such as Jenny Landreth’s Swimming London feature them, and Libby Page’s forthcoming debut novel, The Lido, set at Brockwell in south London. And it is – ironically – places like Facebook and Instagram that have fostered this boom in swimming as a communal activity.

Heminsley learns to swim at a dedicated ‘pool to pier’ course in Brighton, which immediately fosters community and, in turn, becomes a Facebook group for new friends to share swimming plans. In the wake of her IVF treatment, she turns to the social network: ‘When I looked over at my phone that morning and saw that others were planning to take a swim from Hove to Brighton, I knew there was only one place I wanted to be. Only one place that would still my body and mind.’

Companionship develops into an essential component of Heminsley’s swimming experience. Despite being a solitary pursuit, it requires the support of others, both in the water and on shore. Whitworth’s book has its basis in a social media community too, having started life as Facebook posts which she would write in the immediate wake of her swims. The positivity in these posts is inescapable, giving her experience a sense of urgency and vitality that makes it truly magical. It is through social media that the author is able to connect with fellow Orkney swimmers and enjoy her regular Saturday swims with them.

‘Polar bear dips are wonderful, chaotic communal experiences. In some ways we’re a random bunch; in others we’re a distant demographic.’ This line captures swimming’s ability to cut through agendas, age barriers and backgrounds. It plays into the classic phrase from Josiah Stamp, the former governor of the Bank of England’s that ‘when we get down to swimming, we get down to democracy.’ There is something very basic, but very powerful, about being stripped down together in a body of water, equal, with survival in its purest form the name of the game.

Survival through community emerges in Fitzmaurice’s I Found My Tribe. The title gets straight to the point. Swimming is a tribal activity, although not exclusively so. Fitzmaurice’s tribe calls itself ‘The Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club’, meeting regularly to cope with and survive the struggles which life has dealt them. They take to the rolling waves of Greystones in County Wicklow with a sense of purpose, and the ‘rush of the cold’ becomes the perfect panacea to their problems.

Fitzmaurice is dealing with the challenges of raising five children with a husband who suffers from motor neuron disease. The water, and her friends, give her a sense of herself away from the challenges at home. ‘The hurt seek each other out wordlessly,’ she writes. ‘We gather on a stony beach that may as well be a deserted car park … We swap pain silently like illegal contraband.’

Yet this pain is subsumed by the freezing cold sea: ‘Cold water hits you with a head-slam. Don’t fight the cold. Let it go and let it seep in … We climb out of the water back up the steps with numb, pink bodies … Talking, talking, we just can’t stop talking and laughing. We are kings of the world.’

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Sometimes, as you enter the water, there's something that focuses the mind.

Anti-authoritarianism and empowerment

In Swell, Landreth explores how women have fought for equality in and around the water, returning to the idea of community in her exploration of women’s swimming both past and present. She spends time training with modern day Channel swimmers, who derive strength and skill from each other while practicing for this most audacious of swimming feats; with her friends at Tooting Bec Lido, breaking ice in winter in order to share that magical feeling of emerging from the cold with a sense of strength in adversity; and with the swimming suffragettes whose ‘Water Carnival’ at the Hyde Park Serpentine in April 1914 helped advance the cause of equal swimming, not to mention voting rights.

The description of the suffragettes is an example of the powerful, anti-authoritarian streak within communal swimming. Women were banned from swimming in the Serpentine and, unable to take the boats on the lake and stage a protest as planned, suffragettes banded together and took to the water themselves. Landreth quotes a Daily Mirror report in which five women strip down to their bathing costumes and wade in before being ‘captured’ by the authorities: ‘Obviously, the women’s intention was to highlight the suffrage movement rather than working towards equal swimming rights … it seems apposite that these militants in tights chose this “shocking” act to highlight their cause.’

As well as dealing with the fight for women’s equal rights in the water, Landreth also speaks to a very modern sense of needing rule breakers and revolutionaries to help bring us out of our current malaise. We live in insular, fearful times, where sticking to the rules seems to have become the default setting for many.

Swimming, and especially wild swimming, goes beyond this. It is at times a risky pursuit that is decried by many as unsafe and ‘eccentric’. The latter is a loaded term, used disparagingly, and yet as a society we need such people to show us a different way of doing things.

Like her swimming foremothers in 1914, Landreth steals a swim at the Serpentine: ‘Things forbidden and snatched can feel delicious in themselves, but the warm water and sunshine combined with that thrill to engender a real sense of daring and freedom.’ It gives us insight into how these renegade women must have felt when swimming in men-only lidos and lakes, searching for a sense of freedom denied to them by the patriarchy’s rules. Such restrictions are thankfully consigned to the past, but in stealing a swim and flicking two fingers to authority, the suffragettes show us a quality that needs to be cultivated in the modern age.

In Waterlog, Deakin constantly evokes this anti-authoritarian spirit. He has a love of trespassing and steals swims in private rivers and locked up lidos at any opportunity. As early as 1999, before the grip of the internet and social media had taken hold, he wrote: ‘Most of us live in a world where more and more things are signposted, labelled and officially “interpreted”. There is something about this that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking, swimming and cycling will always be subversive activities. They allow us to regain a sense of what is old and wild in these islands.’

Lee, meanwhile, breaks through a padlock in her quest to explore Berlin’s lakes. She heads to Heiligensee on a wet, cold autumn day with her friend, Anne: ‘Around the eastern side, there’s a small beach, but it’s padlocked and lined with barbed wire. Heiligensee is a private lake, with access restricted to those who won lake-shire property. I ask Anne if she’s OK with trespassing, and she laughs. “Of course, that’s why I’m here,” she says brightly.’ Lee’s short swim in a black, clear and clean lake is made all the better for being illicit. Rules are not for her.

It is not in my nature to break rules yet often I found myself in situations where I had no choice but to bypass them while on my swimming odyssey. I hopped fences to swim in the River Itchen, a protected body of water preserved for trout fishing. I jumped out of the window of a mill house into the River Avon. And I slipped into the depths of a pot hole on the Yorkshire/Cumbria border with little regard for my own safety (the latter was perhaps somewhat over the top). Like Lee and Landreth, I began to take great joy in breaking the rules, either real or imagined. There is a perception that getting into open water, rivers in particular, is wrong. This is a rule imposed by society and yet it holds powerful sway. Breaking that taboo feels very apt in these turbulent times. It is a small act of rebellion.

As Whitworth says of her first solo swims: ‘Am I allowed to do this, to take these steps across the sand and heaps of storm-torn daberlack and walk into this water, alone, in the gale, in the cold, in the dark? Am I letting the side down? Who’s going to be angry with me?’
No one will be: she swims, she rebels, she flourishes.

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Looks like a noice joint for a swim: Parnell baths, Auckland, as tweeted by @NeverLostatSea

'Nowness' and escape

Getting into cold water not only allows the authors to escape daily stress, but also lets them tap into a feeling of being present, which is virtually impossible to sustain in any land-based activity.

This ‘nowness’, the ability to stay present, is an elusive feeling, one which so many strive for in this smartphone era of perennial distraction. Being here ‘now’ is not easy. Unlike running, with its growing world of tracking devices and apps which I find stress-inducing, and meditation, from which I find I can easily be distracted, swimming is very elemental. Kick your legs, move your arms, breathe, and you survive. Forget to do those things, and you’ll struggle. Put them all together and you can enter a flow state that, from my own personal experience, is hard to replicate on dry land. You can get distracted, but your breathing, your limbs, will always bring you back into the present moment. It is this that Deakin invoked, the idea that swimming gives a need for survival which overrides any ambition or desire.

As a writer, Deakin takes that feeling of being in the present moment in the water and brings it into his everyday. In Waterlog, the passages when he isn’t in the water are reflective of this, whether it’s during a ‘terrific set-to’ with security staff at Winchester College after trespassing, or tending to the woods around his farm in Suffolk. The water becomes part of who he is and how he approaches life.

Whitworth also captures this when discussing the appeal of cold sea water: ‘my sense of who I am withdraws deep into the core of my body as my blood leaves first my hands and feet, then my arms and my legs, the heart beating the retreat, commanding a strategic fallback of the troops to protect my brain and spinal cord, my vital organs. In the water, there is only now.’ In her ‘now’, Whitworth finds a meditative aspect in its purest sense. She escapes into herself through the cold water.

In contrast, Heminsley’s experience of this ‘nowness’ is less about meditation and more focused on discovering relaxation. Having learned how to swim front crawl and become adept at taking to open water, she writes: ‘It turned out that the water, the views, the sense of achievement were not the only pleasures of swimming: it was that the act of swimming itself did not create relaxation as much as demand it of you.’

I could easily relate to these ideas of being in the moment, of being able to relax and look deep into yourself. The sense of relaxation that swimming demands is what kept drawing me back to the water. As someone suffering from anxiety, the water’s pull was addictive. It brought me into the now in a way that nothing else could. When I sat down to write, this was the first thought that passed through my mind: ‘In the water there was nothing. My mind was empty and I floated without thinking.’

Joe Minihane’s book, Floating: A Return to Waterlog, is out in paperback now. Read an extract from the book... Click here

Mana Fiji rates reduced

Swim with Trent & Codie Grimsey, Brent Foster

mana fiji 1610 06 600

We've had a few difficulties with rates for the Mana Fiji SwimFest, October 23-28. We opened bookings a few weeks back, but we found an error in the rates supplied by the resort and had to revise our calculations, twice. Now, all packages are cheaper than initially advertised, and they're up on oceanswimsafaris.com now, ready for booking... Click here

The Mana Fiji SwimFest is the original ocean swimming carnival in Fiji, indeed in the South Pacific. It's the only ocean swimming carnival that take splace completely in pristine reef waters. It offers a range of distances and a complete swimming and holiday package where you can do all your swimming and relaxing at the one location, without having to commute by bus or ferry from place to place each day.

It's also the only ocean swimming carnival in Fiji supported by trained and experienced water safety staff, who've been watching over this event now for eight years, some of them for over ten years.

Mana Fiji is the only ocean swimming carnival that gives you the opportunity to swim with the English Channel record holder, Trent Grimsey, his equally talented brother, Codie, and New Zealand triathlon and ocean swimming legend, Brent Foster. All three are pre-eminent coaches in their fields, and you could come away better ocean swimmers than when you arrived.

If you're setting yourself for Rottnest Channel swim in 2019, you can also use the 10km event at Mana as your qualifying swim. While Mana falls just prior to the official qualifying period, Rotto organisers ask that you keep a training diary to demonstrate that you're kept up your regimen. Best to check with them directly, as well, of course.

There are two days of swimming at Mana: Thursday for the 10km either solo or as part of a 3x swimmer relay, each swimmer doing c. 3.3km; then Saturday, when you have a choice of 5km, 2.5km and 1km.

We have special swimmer packages online now offering free spa treatments, all meals, and 20 per cent off room rates all included. The inclusion of all meals -- a compulsory meal plan, as some other Fijian resorts have been doing for years -- makes the rates a little higher, but then you now don't face the added cost of food once you get there.

Check for info and booking... Click here

Spots open up for 2018

First whales off the coast now

tonga whales 2018 oceanswimsafaris 600
Tickle my belly: some whales in Tonga get playful. It's been a long way from Antarctica, and if they want to get up close and personal, there ain't much we can do to get out of the way. This image from our oceanswimsafaris to Tonga in 2017.

In Forster during the week, we heard the local dolphin and whale watching cruise company had spotted, last Monday, the first whale of the winter migration, heading north. Wow! This is early. Normally the migration gets going in May-June. Yet another corollary of global warming?

There are plenty of operations up and down the coast that can take you whale watching whilst the humpbacks head north to give birth, then back down sarth for the summer later. But there is none that can take you swimming with them. But you can swim with humpback whales in Tonga. There are strict rules -- size of groups, how long in the water, how long swim tour operators can stay "on" a whale, etc -- but you can get into the water in close proximity to watch, and to listen (they're very talkative, and over long distances). And if they approach you, all you can do is watch as they gambol by. Some contact, inadvertent,  often is inevitable, but whales seem to have a good spatial awareness, and a knack for getting close, but not uncomfortably close. They're not going to run you down. Sometimes, they just want to play.

We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-August 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga… Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ

For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims.

New... Nup

Coming up... Toowoon Bay (Nov 24)

Subscribe

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April 21, 2018

mona vale bongin dhd 180429 600
We all know why we rise early to swim: it's not just the swim; it's the culcha, the conversation, the chatter and boasting with one's cobbers. Pic by Glistening Dave (David Helsham), Mona Vale.

This issue...

Swims coming up

Hypothermia 101

When is cold too cold?

Early this season, writes Howard Roby, controversy raged after the Bondi to Bronte swim was modified to allow swimmers to use wetsuits. This came about because of unseasonably cold water temperatures and the concerns of the officials about the possibility of some swimmers developing hypothermia. Snooze Doc Howard, an anaesthetist, offers this guide to dealing with hypothermia...

The term hypothermia refers to a core body temperature of below 35 degrees C, whereas normal core body temperature is around 37 degrees C.

Despite the change in the rules at Bondi-Bronte, some swimmers did need to be transported to hospital with hypothermia. I have seen different estimates of the water temp that day and have been told by the officials that the temperature during the swim was actually 13.7C. Due to the interest created by this swim, and as a committed ocean swimmer, I have been asked to write a piece on hypothermia. I am not an expert on hypothermia but I have qualifications in anaesthesia and intensive care where I spend a lot of my time and energy preventing patients from becoming hypothermic. I swam that race without a wetsuit and was very cold but I still felt as though I was functioning normally after it. I had a coffee an hour after the Bondi to Bronte swim with my friend, PJ, who is very fit but doesn’t have much fat. He was still slurring his speech and appeared drunk, although he kept telling me he felt normal.

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Waves in New Zealand: we had a lovely trip to the Coromandel for the Cathedral Cove swim.

First, some physiology

The human body functions well only within a narrow temperature range. A core temperature drop of 2 degrees C is dangerous and a 3 degreesC drop can kill you. Every cell in your body is a heat making machine. The act of burning energy creates heat. Even if you sit absolutely still, you are still using energy to keep your body functioning and thus producing some heat. The more exercise you perform, the more heat you produce.

Body temperature depends on a balance between heat production or gain and heat loss. In air, most heat is lost or gained by radiation as in warming from the sun. In water though, heat is lost mostly by conduction to the water. The colder the water, the more rapidly you lose heat and the faster your body temperature falls. In water below 34 C your body temperature will fall. The colder the water, the faster you’ll cool.

The major physiological defence mechanism you have to reduce heat loss is to constrict your surface blood vessels. This is why your skin is white when you’re cold and pink when you’re warm. In the cold, blood is shunted away from the skin and diverted towards your core. This increases blood flow to your kidneys which is one reason why you need to empty your bladder so often when you get cold. Shivering is an attempt by your body to increase heat production. It usually starts at a core temperature of around 34C but beware that it usually stops if your temp falls below 32C. Fat is an insulator, offering some protection against heat loss as well as increasing buoyancy.

Ocean swimmers are at particular risk of hypothermia because they are typically fit and muscled, with large surface veins. These carry blood just below the skin – which increases heat loss. Swimmers also typically have little fat to insulate them, also predisposing to rapid loss of body heat.
Swimming increases heat production in the muscles, but because it also increases blood flow to the muscles, and through the superficial veins, it increases the loss of heat through the skin. Moving the limbs through the water increases the flow of water across the skin, further increasing heat loss. The net effect is that swimming increases heat loss more than heat production; temperature falls faster when swimming than when floating still in the water.

Survival time in water depends on many factors, including water temperature. This makes estimating survival time difficult and often inaccurate. Published “survival tables” refer to specific conditions, but are hard to relate to different conditions of water and air temperature, wind strength, wave speed and height, presence or absence of clothing or wetsuit, flotation, head coverage or lack thereof, degree of physical activity, as well as physical factors such as muscle mass, natural insulation by body fat, natural buoyancy and proportion of the body on or above the surface – all of which affect rate of cooling.

SUDDEN IMMERSION in cold water causes marked and dangerous physiological responses. Most obvious is the gasp response: rapid, deep and uncontrollable breathing. Maximum breath hold time is reduced, and coordination between breathing and swimming action is lost. These contribute to a high risk of drowning within a very short period, even before getting to the first turning buoy.

Sudden cooling of the skin causes widespread constriction of the surface vessels, shunting blood to the body core. The sudden increase in blood flow back to the heart can cause a dramatic increase in blood pressure, and an irregular heart beat. There is an increase in production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, pushing the blood pressure and heart rate up even more.

Confusingly, sudden immersion in cold water can also cause the dive reflex, a sudden slowing of the heart, and a rush of cold water up the nose can exacerbate this or even cause the heart to stop. The competing effects of these contradictory drives can cause a dangerous, even lethal, irregular heart rhythm.

All of these responses occur when the body surface is first exposed to cold water; the core temperature has not yet changed at all - the person is not hypothermic.

For these reasons, cold water should be entered slowly. Before a cold swim, wade into the water, or allow water to enter your wetsuit just before you start the swim. This reduces the effects of sudden immersion in cold water.

Do the effects of sudden immersion decrease with repeated exposure? – a little, after a long period. Do not think you are immune!

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We all know that you should never take your eyes off the sea. Here, Mrs Sparkle practises looking one way whilst diving another. Off Hahei beach, the Coromandel, in New Zealand.

Recognition of hypothermia

The initial response to cold water is constriction of the surface blood vessels, reducing heat loss via the skin. The initial feeling of cold on the skin lessens over a few minutes, as the temperature sensors in the skin become accustomed to the stimulus. As the tissues of the body lose heat, the body core temperature starts to fall. By 35oC there is reduced awareness of cold, often a feeling that everything is fine. Muscle strength is reduced. Muscular activity is less efficient, swimming less coordinated and less powerful. There is reduced ability to recognise the deterioration in function. Speech is slurred, reflecting impaired brain function – people like this have been mistakenly assumed to be drunk. Between 34 and 35oC mental acuity is markedly impaired. Judgement and memory are impaired, and with it the ability to remember training, to recognise danger, and to act logically. Swimmers are likely to miss buoys, change direction the wrong way, fail to avoid waves or swell, and are unlikely to signal for assistance. At this stage they may be seen to be swimming, but not making any headway.

Mentally there is a determination to keep swimming, without any understanding of what is happening. There is no awareness of the need for immediate rescue. By 34oC thinking, reason, memory and awareness are very limited. Extreme lethargy gives way to a desire to sleep; this precedes a decrease in conscious level, predisposing to a quiet, un-noticed disappearance below the water and drowning.

Because the hypothermic swimmer does not recognise that they are becoming hypothermic, control of the swimmers must be exercised by people who are not in the water. (Tasmania Police Rescue divers in water of 12 - 13C, wearing two layers of thick wetsuit with hood and boots, are under the control of a diver in the mother boat for this reason.)

What water temperature is safe for swimming?

To a small degree this depends on acclimatisation. People in Canada and Europe tolerate lower water temperatures than we do, but usually for shorter swims. They often have higher body fat content, and may use artificial insulation.

The physiological effects are dramatically increased in water below 15oC so this might be a reasonable absolute minimum. Between 15 and 20oC an acceptable water temperature would depend on the wind, waves, wetsuits and head covering, sunshine, individual physical makeup, the length of the swim, and the other variables mentioned earlier.

Does gender make a difference? Females have a slightly higher total body fat percentage, so a little more insulation, and have a higher surface area to mass ratio. Males typically have a higher muscle mass, so producing more heat. The net effect is probably a small difference between male and female ocean swimmers, with females at slightly more risk.

sydney rocks rain thiel steel 400Man of Steel, Peter Thiel, hung around Sydney's Rocks during the rain so long for just the right pic, he was almost arrested for loitering. Certainly had intent. It paid off.

Prevention of hypothermia

Make assessment of water and weather conditions a formal part of every swim GO or Postpone decision. Ensure you have a club doctor who is well informed on hypothermia, is part of the decision-making process, and listen to his or her advice.
In cold conditions, keep as warm as possible before starting the swim. The warmer you are before you start, the longer it takes to become cold. DO NOT walk around uncovered, thinking you are getting yourself ready / used to the cold.

Make sure you are well hydrated.

  • In cold water, below about 20C, always wear at least one swim cap. In lower temperatures, wear two.
  • When to wear a wetsuit depends on water temperature, degree of warmth from the sun, wind strength, wave height and velocity, and how far the swim is, as well as your physical characteristics. Some examples -
  • a swim of 1.5 km in water 0f 17C, without a wetsuit, is likely to leave a swimmer mildly hypothermic, looking pale, shivering, and feeling cold;
  • a swim of 5 km in water of 20C, by a swimmer with a little body fat, no wetsuit, is likely to leave him or her mildly hypothermic, looking pale, shivering, and feeling cold;
  • the same 5 km swim, but in water of 21C, by a thin muscular swimmer with large surface veins, without wetsuit, is likely to leave the swimmer very cold, visibly affected and under-performing;
  • an 8 km swim in water of 20C, without wetsuit, is likely to cause moderate, and dangerous hypothermia in many of the swimmers;
  • a 10 km swim in water under 20oC is likely to leave most swimmers moderately hypothermic, and some in hospital.

So, there are no good rules, but it would seem sensible to consider wearing a wetsuit in any swim under 17C, or any swim over 5 km.

Ocean swimming is meant to fun, not a trial of survival!

Management of hypothermic swimmers
  • Recognise that their performance is impaired;
  • Understand that they may not realise this, and argue with you;
  • Get them out of the water;
  • Shelter them from wind;
  • Dry them, cover the whole body in dry clothing / blankets, particularly the head. If they are conscious, keep them wrapped up, and allow them to warm themselves by their own heat production. They must be carefully observed, as their core temperature may continue to drop and they may lose consciousness;
  • Give them warm, not hot, sweet drinks. Warmed blankets are useful, as is body-to-body contact;
  • The ubiquitous space blanket that looks like a giant piece of aluminium foil may not be all that good for treating hypothermia. If you’re warm, they are good at keeping you warm. They won’t rapidly warm up someone who is cold;
  • Active heating with a specially designed forced air warming blanket is preferable to a space blanket;
  • DO NOT leave them alone;
  • DO NOT use hot water bottles or chemical heating packs, as these are likely to result in burns;
  • DO NOT put them in a hot shower or bath; rapid warming causes the superficial vessels to dilate rapidly; blood pressure falls dangerously, cold blood trapped in the periphery is suddenly released, and a bolus of cold blood returning to the heart can cause a fatal irregular heart beat.

Once they are rewarmed, their swim for the day is over. Do not allow them to re-enter the water.

Unconscious or semi-conscious people should be treated as above, on their side in the coma position with airway support, and transported by ambulance to hospital for more intensive management.

Should Bondi-Bronte have been cancelled?

I’m not smart enough to know the answer to that but I hope the organisers understood the dangers. Swimmers may rapidly get hypothermic and have breathing and heart difficulties before they even get to the first buoy (as happened to one of my colleagues) or they may start to act irrationally midway through the swim. They may turn out to sea and start swimming away from then land or they may drown.

In summary, if you are thinking of swimming in cold water -

  1. Consider how long you’ll be in the water for;
  2. Consider the weather conditions;
  3. Wear at least one bathing cap;
  4. Consider wearing a wetsuit;
  5. Keep yourself warm leading up to the swim but make sure you’ve entered the water slowly when you do get in;
  6. Make sure someone who is not in the water is keeping an eye on you.

Howard Roby is an anaesthetist at St Vincents Hospital in Sydney, a former water poloist, and a regular ocean swimmer. He has two Cole Classic plates.

Mana Fiji rates reduced

Swim with the Grimseys, Foster

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We've had a few difficulties with rates for the Mana Fiji SwimFest, October 23-28. We opened bookings a few weeks back, but we found an error in the rates supplied by the resort and had to revise our calculations, twice. Now, all packages are cheaper than initially advertised, and they're up on oceanswimsafaris.com now, ready for booking... Click here

The Mana Fiji SwimFest is the original ocean swimming carnival in Fiji, indeed in the South Pacific. It's the only ocean swimming carnival that take splace completely in pristine reef waters. It offers a range of distances and a complete swimming and holiday package where you can do all your swimming and relaxing at the one location, without having to commute by bus or ferry from place to place each day.

It's also the only ocean swimming carnival in Fiji supported by trained and experienced water safety staff, who've been watching over this event now for eight years, some of them for over ten years.

Mana Fiji is the only ocean swimming carnival that gives you the opportunity to swim with the English Channel record holder, Trent Grimsey, his equally talented brother, Codie, and New Zealand triathlon and ocean swimming legend, Brent Foster. All three are pre-eminent coaches in their fields, and you could come away better ocean swimmers than when you arrived.

If you're setting yourself for Rottnest Channel swim in 2019, you can also use the 10km event at Mana as your qualifying swim. While Mana falls just prior to the official qualifying period, Rotto organisers ask that you keep a training diary to demonstrate that you're kept up your regimen. Best to check with them directly, as well, of course.

There are two days of swimming at Mana: Thursday for the 10km either solo or as part of a 3x swimmer relay, each swimmer doing c. 3.3km; then Saturday, when you have a choice of 5km, 2.5km and 1km.

We have special swimmer packages online now offering free spa treatments, all meals, and 20 per cent off room rates all included. The inclusion of all meals -- a compulsory meal plan, as some other Fijian resorts have been doing for years -- makes the rates a little higher, but then you now don't face the added cost of food once you get there.

Check for info and booking... Click here

Big Swim 4 Dave...

Across Broken Bay to help a friend

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Louise Lambeth writes, from Umina on the NSW lower Central Coast...

Eight of our informal swim group, Peninsula Ocean Swimmers, are undertaking a fundraising swim for the family of David Isaacs, an ocean swimmer who had a cardiac arrest last year while swimming at Ocean Beach. David left behind his wife and three kids, one of whom has autism.

We are swimming c. 7.5km across Broken Bay from Ocean Beach to Station Beach, below Barrenjoey Headland. Two swimmers will be doing the whole distance and six will swim in a relay.

Big Swim 4 Dave

It is now six months since David Isaacs suffered a cardiac arrest while ocean swimming at Ocean Beach. He was not able to be revived. David left behind his wife Kate and their three children, Sam (10), Zara (8), and Ella (5). They are still coming to terms with his loss and learning to negotiate life without David.

A fundraising swim has been organised to provide much needed support to allow Kate to get on with the job of looking after her family.

The swim will start from Ocean Beach at  6:30am on Sunday, April 29.

Swimmers will be supported by Ocean Beach Surf Life Saving Club, Kayak Central Coast and local dive boat captain, Jimmy Foyel.

A My Cause page has been set up for those who wish to help support this event... Click here

All funds raised will go to Kate and her kids.

Whilst we're talking about cold water...

You think that's cold? This is cold...

At least three Strã'ans swam at the Winter Swimming World Champs in Tallinn, in Estonia, in early March. Here, Mel Holland tells what it was like...

winter swim aust 600 

Water temperature was 0.2 degrees with air temperature during the event hovering between -7 to -3, overnight being colder. Event distances started from 25m for free, fly and heads up breastroke, through to 450m freestyle for the real crazies!

Andrew managed to place 3rd in his age group for the 450m free, there are rumours this may have been the first male Aussie medal at an IWSA World Champs. Not sure how true they are! There was also another Aussie guy who swam shorter distances but I didn't know him or manage to get in contact with him, but I know he won 50m for his age group.

Ellery also had a great meet with winning a plethora of golds and silvers for her age category. She also holds world records in younger age groups from previous competitions.

For me, this was my first IWSA World Champs meet. I'm only relatively new to cold water swimming(I swam through my first winter and without a wetsuit over Christmas in the UK 2016/2017) having taken it on as part of my training regime for my English Channel solo crossing in late July this year. But I absolutely love it! It's become my favourite type of competition for sprinting. It's a completely niche sport but growing rapidly in the UK. And because it takes a certain mindset to get in water that is literally freezing, you can quickly build up a rapport with swimmers you've only just met.

Anyways, I was lucky enough to win my age groups 100m free event, also breaking the world record by 6 seconds. I completely appreciate that I'm a pretty average swimmer when it comes to normal competition but this is something I excel at and love and feel privileged to have won. I also came 2nd in the 200m free, beating the current world record by 35 seconds, but someone quicker beat me by a further 4 seconds, as well as getting 3rd in 25m fly.

I'm now looking at the IISA World Champs event next year in Murmansk, I've heard rumours the IOC are attending. Wouldn't it be fantastic to get winter swimming included as part of the Winter Olympics! 

(According to official results, Christoph Karow, swimming for the Maroubra Seals, won his category in the 50m free in 26.76, and in the 25m free in 12.13. Stuart Gregory swam the 25m breast in 30.23: os.c)

Find out more about the Winter Swimming World Championships... Click here

Spots open up for 2018

Still a chance to swim with whales in Tonga

tonga whales 2018 oceanswimsafaris 600
Tickle my belly: some whales in Tonga get playful. It's been a long way from Antarctica, and if they want to get up close and personal, there ain't much we can do to get out of the way. This image from our oceanswimsafaris to Tonga in 2017.

We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-August 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga… Click here

How beautiful the world can be

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Playful punters practise their synchronised ocean swimming in Sulawesi, under the looming cone of Manadotua. Yes, the water is this clear. Come to Sulawesi with us in June, 2018. Find out more... Click here

We also have a few places still available on our oceanswimsafaris to Sulawesi in Indonesia (June 12-21 and 20-29). This is one of the most beautiful, exotic places you'll ever visit.

Come with us, and you'll fin dout how beautiful the world can be... Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ

For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims.

New... Nup

Coming up... Toowoon Bay (Nov 24)

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April 4, 2018

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We love waves, and we love capturing them at their most poignant, as it were. We spent Easter in Forster. Pic by oceanswims.com

This issue...

Swims this weekend

In/Out

Good spit, and undies

After last week’s newsletter, in which we expounded on how to handle a surf, we received a cry from the dark. Someone felt there was an issue that we’d ignored.

“How about a discussion on whether to have your goggles inside or outside of your swim cap?” pled (as ‘Mer’cans would say) Howard Roby, a swimmer of considerable capacity. You can read Howard’s email in Controversy Corner at the bottom of last week’s newsletter… Click here

Howard went on: “I’m still undecided on my preference.

“Does it depend on the state of the surf, ie is inside more stable?

“If you are the type to lick your goggles before putting them on, then inside is a bit of an issue as they may have refogged before the start?

“However outside, especially for boys who aren’t used to swim caps, always feels like the straps are about to slide up and fall off.

“Any advice?”

There are several issues here, principally the central one of inside or outside. There is also the matter of spit on the gogs. We’ll come to that later.


The Pacific Palms swim was on Easter Sundee. It was a noice day. Video by oceanswims.com

Inside/Outside

We have no idea. Some punters prefer to don their gogs before their caps, thus the straps are under the cap, whilst others, such as us, prefer the opposite. Anecdotally, and only now that we think of it, most punters would seem to be strap-out kinds of people. That’s going from memory.
We wear our straps out, but then it’s never occurred to us to do otherwise. Is that better than straps-in?

On the one hand, straps-in might protect the gogs from being dislodged by surf or by passing punters. There is contact in a pack in an ocean swim, usually innocently and incidentally, and having the straps held in by the cap might seem to provide greater stability and security to your gogs. Is this true? This is probably all the more important with high-profile gogs, such as the View Xtreme, which is the fuller mask type of swim gog. Other gog makers offer similar styles. Because the Xtreme sits farther out from the brow, it offers a more substantial target to passing whitewater and fists. Lower profile gogs, such as most of us wear, are not as vulnerable. So there’s that.

There’s also the issue, to which Howard referred, of the sliding cap: Sometimes, your cap will slide off. It happens to us a bit, usually when our head is freshly shaven, and with suncream applied. The head becomes slippery and the cap won’t stay on. Perhaps best to always ensure a day or more’s stubble to provide grip. A sliding cap will tend to dislodge strap-out gogs, so that’s a fair point.

We’ve even met people who swear blind that their cap simply will not stay in place, or even that they can’t get it on. We’ve usually suspected this as a subterfuge from punters who simply don’t want to wear a cap. But some punters do have a hand-eye issue with donning their swim cap. Some people habitually wear their caps sideways, which is always a surreal look.

Does strap-in promote the seal?

Now there’s an issue. We and Mrs Sparkle have considerable experience in helping punters fit their gogs, and it never ceases to amaze us how many punters reach, as their first response to donning their gogs, to tighten the strap so that they’re almost fused to their noggins. This seems to be in a belief that tight gogs provide a better seal and thus won’t be as prone to leaks during a swim.

We say, Tosh! Tight gogs actually compress the skirt, making the seal more difficult. A good seal takes advantage of the “natural” suppleness of the skirt to settle comfortably on the face onto its natural contours. That’s the seal, and that’s what the skirt is for. The straps should be there simply to keep them in place. They don’t need to be tight; just assertive. The straps should not be used to “tighten” the seal. The effect is actually the opposite.

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The innards of a wave. What it's like from behind as the wave rolls through. Pic by oceanswims.com

Strap-out

We wear our gogs strap-out. No deliberate reason why; that’s just how we do it, but we probably would not switch to strap-in because we like the flexibility that the strap-out gives us in adjusting our gogs. We wear low-profile gogs, and we generally swim wide, so our gogs are not as vulnerable to the sea or to wayward mugs. But if there is an issue with seal or leaks or, heaven forbid, fogging, we prefer to have the straps-out so that we can lift, adjust and replace the gogs easily. We’re not sure how easy that is to do with straps-in.

A passing observation: while we have this general feeling that the vast majority of punters are strap-out people, we also have a general feeling that the ratio of strap-in to strap-out is more heavily in favour of strap-in with what might be termed “elite” swimmers, ie a greater proportion of elites are strap-in than your rank and file mugs. Maybe they know something that we don’t. But then, they may simply be following a practice adopted from pool training, where strap-in can also protect the gogs in racing starts from the blocks. There are few things more embarrassing – and more likely to help you to lose a race – than diving in all buff and urgent only to lose your gogs in the dive. That’s another skill, of course, one that wouldn’t normally concern us here (the secret is: keep your chin on your chest when you dive into a pool, and that will protect your gogs. We’re strap-out in the pool as well as in the sea.)

How’s your spit?

We’re lucky: we have high-viscosity spit. Most of our careers, we’ve been spitters, ie into the lens, and our spit has been good enough, by and large, to keep our gogs fogless. But there are tricks to this, as well as the qualities that the Almighty Dolphy has given us. First, you must spit and rinse the spit around the inside of your lenses before you enter the water: you must be dry, and the gogs must be dry. If you’re wet, indeed even if you’ve just done something to corrupt your spit – eaten something, had a cuppa, cleaned your teeth, dived in and a few drops slip into your gob, say – then the viscosity dissipates and it doesn’t work as well.

Similarly, it doesn’t work as well if you stop and re-spit mid-swim. It can work a bit, but not as well as if you’re dry.

Others aren’t so lucky, however. We can’t vouch for others’ spit, but we can only guess that some punters’ spit is not as high quality as ours, thus this method doesn’t work as well for them. Is this dietary? Genetic? Fate? Some punters prefer goo, or Anti-Fog Treatment, as the folks from View term their goo, of which we sell gallons. It works so well. In contrast with us and our spit, Mrs Sparkle swears by the goo, and so do many others, particularly ladies who apparently find technical analysis and exploitation of their spit either unfeminine or distasteful.

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Under the lip. Pic by oceanswims.com

Respect your gogs

There are other issues at play. Principally, however, it’s a matter of goggle respect. How clean are your gogs? How well do you look after them? A sight that always makes us cringe is that of a punter arriving at the beach or entering a municipal baths with a towel over the shoulder and his (generally, it’s a boofhead) dangling louchely from his fingertips. What that says is that his gogs are not stored in their case. The extension of that is that they’re kept loosely in a swimming bag or – good grief! – in the boot of his car. This is why some punters complain that their gogs “don’t last long”, that they “always start to fog up after a few weeks”.

Gogs accrue grease from use on faces that are coated with suncream. They also attract dirt and grease from general handling – from your fingers, et al – and in time they become dirty and greasy themselves. This is when the anti-fog qualities applied to the gogs at the point of manufacture are compromised, ie they won’t work any more. If you leave your gogs rolling around in your boot, or even in your gear bag, then little wonder they stop working for you. This treatment also reflects your personal habits: like your clothes, your self, your underarms and your personal bits, gogs must be maintained and cared for if they’re to stay healthy. For a more complete discussion on this, see our essay on Goggle Respect on oceanswims.com… Click here

But essentially, gogs must be kept free of grease, sand and other things that might damage and dirty them. After each and every use, you should rinse your gogs in fresh water and allow them to air dry, then replace them in the case in which you bought them for storage until you call on them next. (If your gogs didn’t come in a case, chances are they’re rubbish.) Every few weeks, you should wash them gently with dishwashing detergent and warm, fresh, clean water (because some grease will build up never mind how finicky you are). If you look after your gogs like this, then they will look after you.

A few years back, we were wandering along the boardwalk by the beach on Maui, and we came across a kiosk run by the Maui Jim people. They were offering sunnies for sale, or just to clean the Maui Jims already on your face. We’re Maui Jim wearers, so we handed over our sunnnies for a clean. As the bloke gave them back to us, all spark-ark-arkling, he said, in a solicitous lilt, “Remember, if they’re not on your face, they’re in the case”. Quite.

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The start at Pacific Palms. There's a lot at stake when you're a young bloke. Pic by oceanswims.com

Undies

Gogs are an intensely personal item, perhaps the most personal item that a swimmer can wear. Even more personal than undies. Most undies will do; but not all gogs will do, because faces are myriad shapes: width of eyes; depth of eyes; height of nose bridge; circumference of scone; length and thickness of hair; protrusion of brow; lushness of eyebrows – one hair from your eyebrow, errant, can stuff your entire seal – and so on. Different gogs have different skirts, and different shaped skirts. That’s why gogs that you think are triffic may not be triffic for someone else. Gogs are so personal that, when you find a pair that suits, you should treasure them and care for them.

What other reasons might there be for strap-in/strap-out? Tell us, and we’ll post your views in Controversy Corner at the bottom of the online version of this newsletter… Click here

Salutary tale

A few years ago, at the Malabar swim, a laydee approached our tent to buy a new pair of gogs. She’d been using the same pair of View Selenes for “years” and simply felt she should renew them.

We asked her how long she’d had her current pair. She couldn’t remember. After a few moments of trying to remember, the lady pointed at her husband and said, “I’ve had them longer than I’ve had him.”

We said, “How long have you ‘had him’?” She said, “Nine years”.

She’d been using the same pair of View Selenes for nine years. Because she had been looking after them.

As Peppermint Pattie would have said, in a sing-song voice with a rising inflection at the end, “Let that be a lesson to you”.

PS: Negotiating the break

Last week, in our stuff on negotiating the break, there is another point that we should have made clearer.

We were talking about diving under waves and grabbing the bottom for traction as the break rolled through. We said that you must be committed, but what we should have said more forcefully is that, when you "dive" under a wave, you must dive, assertively, not just loll down like a deflating balloon. Watch next time you're in a break, and see how many punters, when they "dive" under a wave, really are just bending their legs, lying down and ducking. You must be forceful in your dive to give yourself a momentum that will counteract the force of the wave rolling over you. Push off with your legs, assume the streamline, put your chin on your chest, and reach for the bottom.

Don't be a loller.

I will not be defeated (244m swum)

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goble sally 100Sally Goble

Four years. Four bloody years. I’m not about to break my record, I will not let it happen!

I have been logging every metre swum, every kilometre, of every pool or river or lake or pond I have ventured in to, with the aid of an app. Each session casually measured against each other one. Of course there have been good weeks and bad weeks. My app gives me praise when I’ve been good: “This swim was 493 metres longer than your average swim!” It’s also quick to remind me of my shortcomings: you can’t argue with the numbers. Each week’s tally has to stand up and be measured against the preceding one, each month the same. When you fall short the app is blunt and to the point: “Down on last month’s total.” But each subtle victory — and each failure to measure up — spurs me on. And that is the point, of course.

As well as weeks and months, there is a yearly graph. Through the graphs of weekly distance swum, the peaks and troughs of effort, I see the stories of my life flow. Like the rings of a tree’s bark telling its history. Look closely here and you can see that month of long swims, here I see my 50 swims in a row, and there was the week I went to florida for work. My life writ large in graphs of distances swum.

One thing you will never see, though, is a week without swimming. Since I started this recording I haven’t missed a heartbeat — I haven’t had a week when I haven’t swum. Not one.

Until this week.

Almost.

I had planned 4 days of concentrated swimming during the Easter break. And then I got ill. On Monday I started coughing, by Tuesday I was wheezing like an old man, Wednesday I struggled, and by Thursday I was sent home from work, finding myself struggling for breathe walking around the supermarket. Non-swimming days slipped through my fingers as I struggled to get fit and control my cough. Friday — a holiday — a doctor prescribed me a steroid inhaler and I lay at home anxiously listening to the loud rasping sounds coming from my chest, appalled. My planned weekend of swimming washed away with tears of frustration. Friday, Saturday, no swimming.

On Sunday I knew that whatever happened I would have to swim. I could not break my four year record of swimming at least once each and every week.

My local pool. Eight sedate lengths I swam. 244m in total. Each length a slow procession to the end, followed by a rasping coughing fit, and then the same again. I swam as carefully and with as little effort as I possibly could. An eternity. And when I finished my 244m, I stood for a while at the shallow end, just happy to be there, looking enviously at the people swimming strongly, wishing I was them, wishing I felt like myself again.

At home, and with great relief, I logged my distance for the day. It didn’t matter, for once, that it was the shortest swim I’ve possibly ever done. It didn’t matter that the total was less than last week. It just mattered that I got up and went. I pressed the submit button and heaved a sigh of relief that the week no longer stared back at me with a resounding “0m”.

Sally Goble
Reprinted from Sally's blog, Postcards from the Pool

Spots open up 2018

Still a chance to swim with whales in Tonga

tonga whales 2018 oceanswimsafaris 600
Tickle my belly: some whales in Tonga get playful. It's been a long way from Antarctica, and if they want to get up close and personal, there ain't much we can do to get out of the way. This image from our oceanswimsafaris to Tonga in 2017.

We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but a couple of punters have pulled out and we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-Agust 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga… Click here

Mana Fiji bookings open

Swim with the Grimseys, Foster

mana fiji 1610 06 600

We've opened bookings to the Mana Fiji SwimFest, October 23-28. We opened them last week, but we found an error in the rates supplied by the resort and had to revise all our calculations. Now, all packages have been revised, most are cheaper than initially advertised, and they're up on oceanswimsafaris.com now, ready for booking... Click here

The Mana Fiji SwimFest is the original ocean swimming carnival in Fiji, indeed in the South Pacific. It's the only ocean swimming carnival that take splace completely in pristine reef waters. It offers a range of distances and a complete swimming and holiday package where you can do all your swimming and relaxing at the one location, without having to commute by bus or ferry from place to place each day.

It's also the only ocean swimming carnival in Fiji supported by trained and experienced water safety staff, who've been watching over this event now for eight years, some of them for over ten years.

Mana Fiji is also the only ocean swimming carnival that gives you the opportunity to swim with the English Channel record holder, Trent Grimsey, his equally talented brother, Codie, and New Zealand triathlon and ocean swimming legend, Brent Foster. All three are pre-eminent coaches in their fields, and you could come away better ocean swimmers than when you arrived.

If you're setting yourself for Rottnest Channel swim in 2019, you can also use the 10km event at Mana as your qualifying swim. While Mana falls just prior to the official qualifying period, Rotto organisers ask that you keep a training diary to demonstrate that you're kept up your regimen. Best to check with them directly, as well, of course.

There are two days of swimming at Mana: Thursday for the 10km either solo or as part of a 3x swimmer relay, each swimmer doing c. 3.3km; then Saturday, when you have a choice of 5km, 2.5km and 1km.

We have special swimmer packages online now offering free spa treatments, all meals, and 25 per cent off room rates all included.

The 25 per cent discount on room rates applies to bookings received by March 31, so get in now.

Check for info and booking... Click here

How beautiful the world can be

sulawesi 17 02 600
Playful punters practise their synchronised ocean swimming in Sulawesi, under the looming cone of Manadotua. Yes, the water is this clear. Come to Sulawesi with us in June, 2018. Find out more... Click here

The season here has a couple of months to run -- March and April are two of our busiest months in numbers of swim events -- but punters are making plans for winter. We have limited places still available on our oceanswimsafaris to Sulawesi in Indonesia (June 12-21 and 20-29), Tonga (July 24-Aug 1, and July 31-Aug 8), and the Yasawas in Fiji (Oct 27-Nov 4). And don't forget the Mana Fiji SwimFest (Oct 23-28).

Come with us, and you'll fin dout how beautiful the world can be... Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

forster 180402 05 600
Holding up in the breeze. Pic by oceanswims.com

Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ

For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims, as well. We have heard nothing from South West Rocks (their website has said for some time, "April 2018, date to come"). We know no more, but when we do, we'll let you know.

New... Nup

Coming up... Pretty well it for this season. But keep your eye out for new season swims. We already have two online for entry.

Subscribe

If you wish to receive our newsletters by email, or you know someone who would like to receive them... Click here

Share this post

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March 28, 2018

wave underside oceanswims 600
There's much more to a wave than a crashing break: check the hydrodynamics. Pic by oceanswims.com

This issue...

Swims this weekend

What we learned in our yoof

A story from our yoof – we were little tacs, maybe three or four, sitting on the sand at Caves Beach with Aunty Doy, just on the water’s edge, letting the waves wash in around us, our legs spread out before us and our fingers tinkering with the foam as it rushed in then rushed back out again.

“You need to becareful,” said Aunty.

“Watch how the waves rush in and wash away the sand around you…” And we watched as each wave rushing in and out left hollows around our backsides and our legs, and ate away and the sand beneath us. Every wave, a little more of that sand would collapse, and every few waves, we’d have to shift position to get a firmer seating, a better grip on the sand, so that we weren’t suddenly in a constantly deepening pool.

“Before you know it,” said Aunty, “the sand washes right away. That’s how you get swept out to sea."

We could see how that could happen through this micro demonstration, although a more experienced mind would sense that the wave action really needed to be more brutal to pose a genuine threat to a grown-up.

Maybe 10 years later, we were body surfing with Uncle Bonehead at the same beach. It was a rising surf, and we were in the wave zone. There was maybe a six-foot swell with shifting banks and rips. Have you ever noticed how rips move up and down the beach? They don’t necessarily stay in the same spot. Between the waves, Uncle Bonehead was teaching us a bit about body surfing, how to catch and hold the wave, body position, and how to go out through a breaking surf.

“When you dive under a wave, grab hold of the bottom,” he said to us.

It didn’t seem right to us, at the time, for we all know what happens when you grab hold of wet sand: it collapses with the pressure of the grab and it filters through your fingers. What was he on about, “… grab hold of the bottom”.

water drop 600
What's in a drop of sea water? The makings of a good marinara mix. But this is a contrived drop: it's about a swimming pool amount of seawater concentrated into "half a pint of goo". We'd love to see this as the print on a shirt. Pic from deepseanews.com via Twitter

Traction

But Uncle Bonehead was one of our heroes – he still is – and we did what he said: next wave, as we dived under it, arms outstretched ahead of us, we grabbed the bottom with both hands. Indeed, the sand collapsed beneath our hands from the pressure of the grab, and it filtered through our fingers. There wasn’t much traction there.

But there was some traction, and that little bit of traction was enough, we found, to resist the pressure of the wave rolling through, even if momentarily, and that’s all that mattered. It was enough to resist the wave’s sweet spot. There are myriad forces at play. We learnt over time that the resistance it offered depended on such factors as the strength of the wave, the depth of the grab, and – and we didn’t realise this until much later – the angle of your head.

The angle of your head?

It’s critical. If you dive under a wave with your head up – and most mugs do -- the force of the wave grabs your head like a hammer against bouncy doll and uses that to push you back, and even lift you up, up into the turbulence zone. But if you drop your head, drop your chin to your chest, you fall into the streamline position, and we all know about the streamline, don’t we! The streamline, or “torpedo”, as we teach the littlies, is the most efficient way through the water because it eliminates resistant surfaces. If you dive with head up, the hydrodynamics of the underside of the wave grab you, push you back and lift you up into the turbulence of the break. But if you dive with chin on chest, and grab the bottom, you eliminate the resistant surface. Grabbing the bottom provides just that little point of traction, at the right point in time, to keep you in position, safely under the wave, not caught up in it. It’s about timing.The turbulent, brutal undersides of waves do not usually extend as far as the sandy bottom of the beach. How far down they extend depends on such factors as the size of the wave, the force of the drop, and the depth of the water. Thus, a two-metre swell dropping onto a shallow bank as the tide drops will be a dumper that messes up not just the immediate water but also the sandy bottom. But the same size swell dropping into deeper water will roll, not dump, and will be much gentler beneath.

This is why you should generally avoid a shallow bank with a dumping surf going both in and out through a break. Look for deeper water, for the force of the surf will be less and the opportunities to escape that force will be greater.

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Everything's gotta eat: A humpback whale chases a school of herring, in Prince William Sound, Alaska. From pugetsoundblogs.com via Twitter.

Your friend

Usually, in those conditions, there will be a rip right next to the thumping, dumping shallow bank. Rips form when the water rushing in with the surf escapes back out to sea. A rip follows the principles of which Aunty warned us, of the washing swells undermining the sandy bottom, washing it away and running back out to sea. Thus, the water escaping back out will wash a channel into the sandy bottom, so the water will be deeper, the break softer, and the current swifter. But do not be afraid of rips, little children, for the rip can be your friend.

With deeper water, the rip offers a safer and quicker way out through the break than over a shallow bank with dumping waves. The current inherent in a rip will give you a natural advantage in speed. The water is a bit bumpier in a rip – one of its characteristics is that the wave pattern on the surface of a rip is irregular, it’s all over the place, because of the conflict between the incoming swells and the outrushing water. But if you know that, you can deal with it.

The other thing about rips is that they really are softies. In the normal course of events, the force of a rip ends just behind the break, because that’s past the critical mass of incoming breaking waves. So a rip is never going to sweep you to New Zealand, or to Strã’a, if you’re already in NZ. It will sweep you through the break to just behind the break, then the rip will dissipate and leave you floating in deeper, relatively benign water. Sometimes, it will bring you back towards the shore farther along the beach.

This is what’s behind the debate about how to respond if you find yourself “caught” in a rip: a natural instinct, if you don’t know what you’re doing, such as if you’re “a visiting overseas tourist”, is to swim back towards the shore, but that can prove futile and it can waste your energy. For years, the surf life saving people have advised swimming across the rip to get out of it. Other experts, such as the former ironman Craig Riddington, who runs a surf skills school, says you should just go with the flow: let it take you out and wait for the rip to bring you back closer to shore behind the break farther down the beach. We agree with Riddo, who is perhaps the most gifted surf swimmer we know. The beauty of this is that you’ll be where you would like to be, just behind the break, with most of your energy intact.

If the surf is enormous, of course, the point at which the rip dissipates will be farther out, but for those threatened by seas and rips, if it’s that strong, you shouldn’t be in it in the first place. At that point, just stay cool and signal for help.

wave tube oceanswims 600
The tube: a breaking wave is a beautiful thing. Pic by oceanswims.com

History repeats

But we’re talking of ocean swimming, not surf rescues. For ocean swimmers, remember: the rip is your friend.

History repeated itself at North Steyne last Sundee. In 2002, we faced almost identical conditions in the size of the swell, the state of the tide and the nature of the shallowing bank. The only difference was that, in 2002, the breeze was more directly offshore than the northerly-nor’westerly of last Sunday. What struck us then was that, when the gun went off, about 2/3 of the field either could not get out through the break, or did not even try. We remember small groups of punters milling around on the shallower parts of the bank discussing the break. Maybe what movie they might watch that night.

At North Steyne last Sunday, the dumping swell onto a shallowing bank was just one of the difficulties. There were also conflicting sideways sweeps that complicated the break still further. Around Sydney, indeed around most Strã’an beaches, we don’t need to worry too much about side sweeps or undertoads. When they happen, they’re generally short lived and short-distanced. Not so on the Gold Coast, however, whose long stretch of open beaches also have a side-sweep running their entire 25-odd kilometres.

At North Steyne, with its 1.5-2m dumping break, there was a strong south-north sweep through the gutter on the edge, running towards a friendly rip just to the north of the start area. But on the bank, the sweep ran the opposite direction, north-south, and when the sets crashed in, it ran south-north again, temporarily. Most punters ignored the rip and went straight out over the shallow bank. They ran into difficulty when dumping sets crashed onto a shallow bank with the south-north-south sweep. It was hard to keep your feet and at the same time negotiate the sets, at the same time to make progress against the inrushing water. In those cases, you need to maximise your torpedo and remember to grab the bottom. And be aware, everyone else who took a similar route to you is in the same situation. It’s not all about you.

It also helps if you can “read” the surf. This comes with experience and confidence. For it’s important to dive under a wave at the right time and, if you can, in the right spot. If you dive too early, you’ll float back up just as the wave hits you. If you dive too late, you will dive into the wall of whitewater. With a perfectly timed dive you can actually slip under the lip as it hits the water, ducking beneath the impact, grabbing the bottom momentarily, then curling back up the back of the wave as it passes. It’s quite a noice feeling. This works best when there’s a bit of water under the wave, but it can be done even with very little water, although perhaps you would need to stretch a bit farther beyond the impact zone before curling up. It works best, too, when you can read the surf, advancing your progress and your dive to either sneak in under the lip or to hold back to avoid the initial, greater impact of the dump. It’s a nuanced thing.

bongin mona vale dhd 180328 600
The ghosts of summer's passed. Bongin Bongin Bay this morn. Pic by David Helsham (@glistenrr)

Commitment

It also requires commitment, like driving in Sydney: you must decide what you are going to do, and you must do it. You cannot be half-hearted; you cannot shilly-shally or dilly dally. A cobber who is an experienced ocean swimmer, got chundered at North Steyne on Sunday. She told Mrs Sparkle later, the mistake she made was that she had hesitated. You must decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it, and you must do it.

Remember, too, that the impact zone is short, narrow, brief. And sets come in waves of up to five or six. Between the sets, there is relative calm.

Having said all that, don’t bother trying to come in with the rip. You’ll just waste your energy and, if it’s at the end of a swim, you’ll probably be on the weary side anyway.

If the sea is dumping, you might sit behind the break for a few moments to get a feel for the nature of the break. When the wave breaks, the view from behind is of churning, bubbling, frothing mayhem. The shallower the water under the break, the more mayhem the break creates. Watch also for sand churned up by the breaking wave. The more sand in the mayhem, the shallower the water, indeed the more dangerously shallow the water and the more brutal the break. What we’re trying to do here is to get in without breaking your neck or otherwise farther down your back. We don’t want to be dumped. Avoid the areas where the sand is churned up, and the areas where the tumult of the break is greater than others. The less the tumult and sand, the deeper the water and usually the safer the water.

You can slip in between a rip and a shallow bank, but you must be alert to the runout of the rip, to find the happy medium between the outward current and the shallowing bank. You might also need to take an angled approach to the break, sneaking between the rip and the bank.

Lucky

If you are caught on a bank as a set rolls through, and you feel you’ve lost control of your position, stay loose, roll yourself into a ball, keep your head, and remember: the wave that breaks on you is also pushing you in. Above all, always be aware of what the waves are doing. Don’t turn your back on the break, or if you do, always keep your eye on it so that you remain aware of what it’s doing: you need to know when a wave is about to break on you. Stay afloat, dolphining or swimming; wade only when you reach knee-depth water – swimming is the fastest, most energy efficient way through the water – and stay cool, remembering always how lucky we are to be able to experience all this.

Much of this knowledge comes with experience. Some people pay lots of money to people to tell them what we’re telling you now. We were lucky that we had people such as Aunty and Uncle Bonehead to help us along, and we picked up more as sultry adolescents who spent our entire waking life, when not at school, at Caves Beach (where we learnt to become surf life savers and surfers, ie with a surfboard) and its northern extension, Hams Beach. On Good Friday, we always think of Hams, of Frenchmans Rock at Hams’ northern end, for one of the best day’s surfing we ever had: a crisp, cloudless sky, a four-foot swell, a gentle offshore breeze, long, rolling walls, and five straight hours in the water to think about what we were going to do with our lives. This was our childhood; our yoof. We grew up doing this. We learnt then what some punters are starting to learn only now. We’re still doing it. We were a lucky one.

Spots open up 2018

Still a chance to swim with whales in Tonga

tonga whales 2018 oceanswimsafaris 600
Tickle my belly: some whales in Tonga get playful. It's been a long way from Antarctica, and if they want to get up close and personal, there ain't much we can do to get out of the way. This image from our oceanswimsafaris to Tonga in 2017.

We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but a couple of punters have pulled out and we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-Agust 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga… Click here

Your Easter swims

pacific palms tj 11 01
The start at Pacific Palms: A little bit of paradise.

the sunbatherIt's Easter: Sat'dee, one of the most beautiful swims you'll ever do, at Culburra, on the coast from Nowra. The Tilbury Classic goes between Culburra Beach and Tilbury Cove, around Tilbury Headland. You get a beach break with all its excitement, a dramatic journey around the headland, where the bottom is dotted with reefs, and into the calmness of the cove. Or maybe it will run ther other way, depending on the conditions on the day. (On a whimsical note, Culburra beach is where photographer Max Dupain shot his iconic Australian image, the Sunbather.) Or you can do Terrigal (below), closer to Sydney on one of those glories of the Eastern Seaboard, a north-facing beach.

Terrigal aerial entry portal 600Easter Sundee, the late start at Pacific Palms (11am for the short swim and noon for the main event) allows you even to drive from Sydney or Newcastle for a day trip to the Great Lakes region, which we reckon is one of the prettiest in Strã'a. It's another north-facing beach (slightly east of north, but it's as good as), and the event's sponsors, a local real estate agency, is offering swimmers 10 per cent off accommodation if you'd like to stay over. Main event is a curious X shape, criss-crossing on the ways out and back, with a long reach north-south in between.

The Rock to Rock Swim at Pacific Palms on Easter Sundee is offering swimming punters a deal through their swim sponsor, Pacific Palms Real Estate, of 10 per cent off holiday accommodation rentals at swim time. To book accommodation, go to their website and use the code R2R2018 when you make your booking. Be aware, this code is case-sensitive... Click here

Mana Fiji bookings open

Swim with the Grimseys, Foster

mana fiji 1610 06 600

We've opened bookings to the Mana Fiji SwimFest, October 23-28. We opened them last week, but we found an error in the rates supplied by the resort and had to revise all our calculations. Now, all packages have been revised, most are cheaper than initially advertised, and they're up on oceanswimsafaris.com now, ready for booking... Click here

The Mana Fiji SwimFest is the original ocean swimming carnival in Fiji, indeed in the South Pacific. It's the only ocean swimming carnival that take splace completely in pristine reef waters. It offers a range of distances and a complete swimming and holiday package where you can do all your swimming and relaxing at the one location, without having to commute by bus or ferry from place to place each day.

It's also the only ocean swimming carnival in Fiji supported by trained and experienced water safety staff, who've been watching over this event now for eight years, some of them for over ten years.

Mana Fiji is also the only ocean swimming carnival that gives you the opportunity to swim with the English Channel record holder, Trent Grimsey, his equally talented brother, Codie, and New Zealand triathlon and ocean swimming legend, Brent Foster. All three are pre-eminent coaches in their fields, and you could come away better ocean swimmers than when you arrived.

If you're setting yourself for Rottnest Channel swim in 2019, you can also use the 10km event at Mana as your qualifying swim. While Mana falls just prior to the official qualifying period, Rotto organisers ask that you keep a training diary to demonstrate that you're kept up your regimen. Best to check with them directly, as well, of course.

There are two days of swimming at Mana: Thursday for the 10km either solo or as part of a 3x swimmer relay, each swimmer doing c. 3.3km; then Saturday, when you have a choice of 5km, 2.5km and 1km.

We have special swimmer packages online now offering free spa treatments, all meals, and 25 per cent off room rates all included.

The 25 per cent discount on room rates applies to bookings received by March 31, so get in now.

Check for info and booking... Click here

How beautiful the world can be

sulawesi 17 02 600
Playful punters practise their synchronised ocean swimming in Sulawesi, under the looming cone of Manadotua. Yes, the water is this clear. Come to Sulawesi with us in June, 2018. Find out more... Click here

The season here has a couple of months to run -- March and April are two of our busiest months in numbers of swim events -- but punters are making plans for winter. We have limited places still available on our oceanswimsafaris to Sulawesi in Indonesia (June 12-21 and 20-29), Tonga (July 24-Aug 1, and July 31-Aug 8), and the Yasawas in Fiji (Oct 27-Nov 4). And don't forget the Mana Fiji SwimFest (Oct 23-28).

Come with us, and you'll fin dout how beautiful the world can be... Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ

For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims, as well. We have heard nothing from South West Rocks (their website has said for some time, "April 2018, date to come"). We know no more, but when we do, we'll let you know.

New... Nup

Coming up... Pretty well it for this season. But keep your eye out for new season swims. We already have two online for entry.

Subscribe

If you wish to receive our newsletters by email, or you know someone who would like to receive them... Click here

Share this post

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March 21, 2018

mana fiji swims 1610 15 10k
Look at the water... The Mana Fiji SwimFest... The water is this good.

This issue...
Swims this weekend

Autumn Swim

It’s the gentle breeze that smoothes the sea,
that blows the blueys away from me;
it clears the air of vile fumes,
and whips the waves to playful spume.

It’s sun that shines so starkly down,
yet softened with the season gone,
it pierces through the crystal air,
lays nuanced quilt, just lightly there.

It’s water, still with summer’s glow,
laps kindly ‘gainst the swimmer’s brow.
Steady, rhythmic, stroking fluent
free of summer’s turbulence.

It’s trips away: get outta town
to places that you rarely see,
those dreamt about in awkward youth
in whimsied dreams, our fantasy.

We get to them, this time of year,
Our private treats for being there,
that country beach ‘neath bushy peaks,
that squeaking sand beneath our feet.

We get to them, we special few,
our prize for what we’ve done before,
While others drop from summer’s view,
Just us, we get what lies in store.

We are just simple mugs at heart,
we’re chasing up that perfect whim,
our dues are paid, our caps are donned,
our pay-off, now, is autumn’s swim.

os.c

Hard yards done

The peak of summer is the hard yards. You do that to get to this. We have entered the best time of year for ocean swimming.

We love autumn. 

Strangely, some have shut up shop already. In the old days, many punters would regard the Cole in early February, or at a stretch whatever ran at the end of February, as "the end of the season". More latterly, March and April, even into May is where the season has grown and matured. New swims had to go there to get free air. The irony is that this is, we reckon, by far the best time of year to swim. The air offers a crispness in the morning, and it's clearer, because we're more likely to get those gentle offshore breezes that smoothe out the sea, blow the stingers away, and clarify the water. And the water still is warm. Punters have been recording temperatures of 23-24C over the past two weeks: the warmest all season.

And it will remain warm into June and July. Ask anyone who's done the Solstice Swim at Mona Vale and they'll tell you, the only thing cool might be the air temperature if it's a blustery day.

It's the time when we get to travel to country swims, those boutiquey events in beautiful, isolated locations that sit there in secret for most of the year. And you'd probably never find them but for the fact that there's a swim on. 

What can we do till June?

culburra aerial
Culburra Beach and Tilbury Headland... On difficult days, when seas are up, there's a sheltered course inside the cove (top right). 

This Sundee, North Steyne offers one of the most beautiful courses in Sydney: its main event -- and this year is its 20th outing -- heads across the bay from the northern end of Steyne beach to Cabbage Tree Bay, hiding behind Fairy Bower, then comes back again. Two long reaches separated in equal legs by one of the prettiest swimming holes in Strã'a. Or you can head up to the Northern Tablelands from a freshwater swim with altitude in Copeton Waters.

Then it's Easter: Sat'dee, another of the most beautiful swims you'll ever do at Culburra, on the coast from Nowra. The Tilbury Classic goes between Culburra Beach and Tilbury Cove, around Tilbury Headland. You get a beach break with all its excitement, a dramatic journey around the headland, where the bottom is dotted with reefs, and into the calmness of the cove. Or maybe it will run ther other way, depending on the conditions on the day. (On a whimsical note, Culburra beach is where photographer Max Dupain shot his iconic Australian image, the Sunbather.) Or you can do Terrigal, closer to Sydney on one of those glories of the Eastern Seaboard, a north-facing beach.

the sunbatherEaster Sundee, the late start at Pacific Palms (11am for the short swim and noon for the main event) allows you even to drive from Sydney or Newcastle for a day trip to the Great Lakes region, which we reckon is one of the prettiest in Strã'a. It's another north-facing beach (slightly east of north, but it's as good as), and the event's sponsors, a local real estate agency, is offering swimmers 10 per cent off accommodation if you'd like to stay over. Main event is a curious X shape, criss-crossing on the ways out and back, with a long reach north-south in between.

The following weekend is a  monster: take the full weekend on the Sarth Coast and do Mollymook on Sat'dee and Shellharbour in Sunday. Two more beautiful swims in places you'd mostly never get to otherwise.

Back up on the lower north coast, 20kms from Pacific Palms, you can do the Club to Club swim from Cape Hawke around Bennets Head into Forster Main Beach, yet another north-facing beach, and a stretch of water that's full of sea life. Forster is our second home beach now. Farther up, Coffs Harbour runs the same day.

If you stay in Sydney, your spoilt and damned all at once for choice, for you can do the fledgling Newport-Avalon swim, Around the Bends, or just the Avalon swims, or head around Wedding Cake Island off Coogee on that swim's second outing for the season. We reckon the April date is by far the better one for Wedding Cake, because there is the chance of those invigorating autumn conditions which will smoothe the sea, clean it out, clear the air, and make for one of the most beautiful swims you will ever do. Both Newport-Avalon and Wedding Cake are dramatic swims. Such a pity they're run this season on the same day (but only this season, after Avalon was postponed from January due to sea conditions).

Then, weirdly? No swims for two weeks. That's because the surf life saving crowd have their champeenships in Perth, and nothing runs over those weekends.

But come back, baby, come back: the final weekend in April, more spoilt for choice swims: South Curl Curl-Freshwater and along the reef at Caves Beach, two more beautiful, dramatic swims, on the same day. Caves is our alma mater. It's like family day for us.

There's also Warriewood's Chieftain's Challenge, a swim-run-swim-run-swim from Bongin Bongin Bay to Warriewood.

There are other swims, too: South West Rocks runs on April 29, too, and Byron Bay on the first Sunday in May. Then there's South Head on the third Sunday in May, the other side of Mothers Day. They've changed the course at South West Rocks, but the town remains another of the coast's most beautiful and -- yet again -- on another of those north-facing beaches, as is Byron Bay.

There are other swims, too. Spoilt rotten with enriching experiences. You can keep going till the Solstice swim at Mona Vale in late June, when you can also be spoiled by a mug of Mrs June Dibbs's minestrone after you swim.

Swimming in autumn is the best time of the year. Why wouldn't you still be going around. And in NSW, we're spoiled extra: everywhere else around the joint has pretty much closed down. But here, we have three months of swims to go.

And if you're wondering where all the other stuff is, elsewhere, well, largely it ain't. There is the great Easter double in the West, Albany and Denmark on Easter Sat'dee and Sundee, and there are a string of autumn swims still to come in New Zealand - Red Beach this Sunday, the NZ Ocean Swim Series event at Nelson on Easter Sat'dee, Matakatia Bay on Easter Sunday, Brent Foster's dramatic Cathedral Cove swim at Hahei on April 7 (we'll have a posse of Strã'an oceanswimsafarists there for that one), Hamilton's 5 Bridges swim on Sunday, April 8, the Kings of the Bays swim in Auckland on April 14 -- now relocated from Takapuna lower down to Devonport due to water quality concerns -- and the Auckland Harbour 12.5km marathon on April 22.

Postcard from the Pool

The place where I belong

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Friday night at work. From a safe distance away I watch your easy conversations, your laughing, your beers and your casual chatting — your Friday night anticipation bubbling and frothing. I don’t know how to join in and be like that. So relaxed, so confident, so at ease. I don’t have it in me. I sting with frustration. I quietly whisper an excuse that nobody will hear and scuttle away and into the night. I could cry.

I just want to be myself, to relax. To get away.

Half an hour later I am here at Golden Lane Leisure Centre: a quiet small unassuming 20m pool, my safe and happy sanctuary. I jump in. The warm water embraces me like a lover. Relief. Slowly warming up with an ambling front crawl, turning to breathe every few strokes, I take in my surroundings in fragments.

A sign casually propped up against a wall near the shallow end warns “Swimmers with armbands not allowed beyond this point!” The illustration shows a scrawny young person with strangely bent arms wearing arm bands leaning against the pool edge. I smile faintly every time I pass — it looks hurriedly sketched — as though by a lifeguard in a quiet moment.

And as I swim, I watch underwater, the lithe limbs of a group of young boys at the far side of the pool. Their pale legs dangle in the diffuse underwater light, moving around in aquatic slow motion, a seemingly carefully choreographed dance. Their legs shift slowly around as they play and chat, like long strands of kelp swaying in a current. Above the water they are exuberant and noisy.

I came here for some quiet. I swim up and down trying to keep my ears below the surface of the water so that the shouting and laughing and splashing doesn’t pierce my muted world. I need silence. When my head is under the water everything is dialled down.

Finally, with a final flurry of animation, the boys get out and head off, laughing, towards the changing rooms.

But as the boys rush off the poolside towards the changing rooms, immediately two men appear and jump into the lane beside me. It’s as though the swimming world has arranged itself to come swimming in shifts for my entertainment. These new blokes are strong and fit looking and I hold out great hope of demonstrations of athletic prowess. They swim two fast lengths, energetically competing against one another to reach the end first. But then they stop, exhausted, and chat for ten minutes at the end of the pool. They are in no hurry to swim. I wonder what they are chatting about. This routine is repeated around five times until they get out as well. They’ve been in the water around half an hour and have swum for five minutes in total.

Then it’s just me and one other woman. The air is silent now but for the echoing splash of arms hitting the water and the sound of breathing and bubbles. Of huffs and puffs. She her gentle breaststroke, me my deliberate plodding front crawl. Silently inhabiting the same space with a common understanding. Finally I can relax. I can let go of the week, and the day, and the prickling shameful feeling of not belonging. Because here is the place I belong. My natural habitat. My place. My world, finally.

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One hundred and ten short lengths later and I am done.

Sally Goble, from her blog, Postcards from the Pool

 

Mana Fiji bookings open

Swim with the Grimseys, Foster

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We've opened bookings to the Mana Fiji SwimFest, October 23-28. We opened them last week, but we found an error in the rates supplied by the resort and had to revise all our calculations. Now, all packages have been revised, and they're up on oceanswimsafaris.com now, ready for booking... Click here

The Mana Fiji SwimFest is the original ocean swimming carnival in Fiji, indeed in the South Pacific. It's the only ocean swimming carnival that take splace completely in pristine reef waters. It offers a range of distances and a complete swimming and holiday package where you can do all your swimming and relaxing at the one location, without having to commute by bus or ferry from place to place each day.

It's also the only ocean swimming carnival in Fiji supported by trained and experienced water safety staff, who've been watching over this event now for eight years, some of them for over ten years.

Mana Fiji is also the only ocean swimming carnival that gives you the opportunity to swim with the English Channel record holder, Trent Grimsey, his equally talented brother, Codie, and New Zealand triathlon and ocean swimming legend, Brent Foster. All three are pre-eminent coaches in their fields, and you could come away better ocean swimmers than when you arrived.

If you're setting yourself for Rottnest Channel swim in 2019, you can also use the 10km event at Mana as your qualifying swim. While Mana falls just prior to the official qualifying period, Rotto organisers ask that you keep a training diary to demonstrate that you're kept up your regimen. Best to check with them directly, as well, of course.

There are two days of swimming at Mana: Thursday for the 10km either solo or as part of a 3x swimmer relay, each swimmer doing c. 3.3km; then Saturday, when you have a choice of 5km, 2.5km and 1km.

We have special swimmer packages online now offering free spa treatments, all meals, and 25 per cent off room rates all included.

The 25 per cent discount on room rates applies to bookings received by March 31, so get in now.

Check for info and booking... Click here

Heading to Rottnest

Scott and Emily Miers, father and daughter, both did solos to Rottnest last month. This, an account mainly of Emily's swim, is perhaps the most realistic portrayal of what that swim is like, from an observer's perspective, that we have ever seen. We expect it's the same from the swimmer's perspective. There was a strong following breeze and wind swell, but it was a tough day out. Unlike last Sat'dee's Port to Pub Rottnest swim, it completed, apart from some solos' swims being disrupted by a shark sighting. Well done, those swimmers.

Pacific Palms

Easter by the Great Lakes

The Rock to Rock Swim at Pacific Palms on Easter Sundee is offering swimming punters a deal through their swim sponsor, Pacific Palms Real Estate, of 10 per cent off holiday accommodation rentals at swim time. To book accommodation, go to their website and use the code R2R2018 when you make your booking. Be aware, this code is case-sensitive... Click here

How beautiful the world can be

sulawesi 17 02 600
Playful punters practise their synchronised ocean swimming in Sulawesi, under the looming cone of Manadotua. Yes, the water is this clear. Come to Sulawesi with us in June, 2018. Find out more... Click here

The season here has a couple of months to run -- March and April are two of our busiest months in numbers of swim events -- but punters are making plans for winter. We have limited places still available on our oceanswimsafaris to Sulawesi in Indonesia (June 12-21 and 20-29), Tonga (July 24-Aug 1, and July 31-Aug 8), and the Yasawas in Fiji (Oct 27-Nov 4). And don't forget the Mana Fiji SwimFest (Oct 23-28).

Come with us, and you'll fin dout how beautiful the world can be... Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ

For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims, as well. We have heard nothing from South West Rocks (their website has said for some time, "April 2018, date to come"). We know no more, but when we do, we'll let you know.

New... Nup

Coming up... Pretty well it for this season. But keep your eye out for new season swims. We already have two online for entry.

Subscribe

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March 14, 2018

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We're back in Paradise this week. An early morning wave on Forster Main Beach. Oop here, water temp. this week has been 24.1C.

This issue...
Swims this weekend

A perennial question

Is cold water good for you?

Here in Strã'a, we don't experience much "cold" water. At worst, our water gets down to high single digits darn sarth (Port Phillip Bay, say, in June, lower in Tassie), and in the more populous swimming regions -- NSW, say -- we whinge when it drops to 15C. Oop in the Northern Hemisphere, however, cold water for swimming gets to low single digits. There are lunatics in those places who specialise in swimming in this kind of water, although we're not sure how long they stay in or how many of them actually put their heads in the water in temps like that. Our cobber, Viktor the Iceman, in Moscow, specialises in cutting holes in the ice of frozen rivers and swimming between the two. Harbin, in nor'-eastern China, holds an Ice Festival each winter, which includes a swimming carnival held in a 50m pool cut into the river ice. They make the starting blocks out of the ice. Closer to our home, most of our chilling experiences are when our cobber Ekman brings in his cold updrafts after relentless days of stiff and black nor'-easters. It dropped down to 13C early this season, in December. We've had similar temps, thanks to Ekman, even in January and February. We've done 12C twice, at Lorne in Victoria for the (unofficial) Winter Pier to Pub, but then, we have our wetties built in. Winter's approaching, but. Two questions arise: how do we keep swimming throuogh winter; and at what temp is it dangerous, even reckless to run an ocean or open water swim event? We can't anser those questions ourselves, but we can bring you different perspectives on the issues.

First, Nell Frizell, in The Guardian, relates her experience swimming through the English winter,. Further down, something called the National Center for Cold Water Safety goes through some issues in a more empirical manner.

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The 7th UK Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec lido, south London, in January 2017. Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

By Nell Frizell

I swam through ice three weeks after giving birth. I wondered, momentarily, if it was possible to freeze breast milk in your own body. I wondered, briefly, if my uterus might shrivel up and fall out. I wondered, frankly, if I still had it in me. And yet, afterwards I felt happier, more clear-headed and warmer of heart than I had for weeks.

The question – as with all things that give us a rush of adrenaline, take effort, force us outdoors and push us into severe discomfort – is: should I be doing this? Is it safe? Is it advisable? Is it good for me? With half a heart we roar for the answer to be yes, the confirmation that will fling us out into the bright, sharp edge of our ability, to surprise ourselves. Yet simultaneously, and just as strongly, we hope the answer will be no; that we will be warned back into the cosy warmth of what we know, what comes easily and what won’t require standing in the howling wind with nothing but our pubes for warmth.

Is cold water good for you? Well, it depends how it is administered, how often and under what circumstances. For those with heart conditions, asthma or compromised immune systems, cold-water swimming may well be a stress too far on your body, and certainly something worth discussing with a GP before you start. But I’ve spent many months working as a lifeguard at the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath, where I regularly watched women in their 70s, 80s, even 90s climb down the duck-cluttered ladder into the cold, velvet brown water and glide effortlessly across the surface. I am therefore inclined to believe that, when it comes to our bodies – the muscles and bones, the hormones and heartbeats that keep us going – cold water does us the opposite of harm.

A report published in the BMJ Case Reports last month seems to indicate that cold-water immersion can improve postoperative pain and mobilisation outcomes. Standing around on the muddy banks of a river, on a windswept beach or in the mottled-thigh changing room of the ponds, I have often heard like-minded swimmers swap theories about how endorphins, increased heart rate, the burning of calories, improved circulation and the sheer act of getting out and wet and cold has kept them healthy.

The real good of cold water, however, flows not just through our bones but in our hearts and minds. Purely anecdotally, swimming outdoors in all weathers seems to kick a huge range of mental health issues squarely in the nuts. Solace in grief, the silencing of anxiety, a chink in the fog of depression and a splashing off of loneliness: men and women without number have told me how they have seen a significant and lasting improvement to their emotional and psychological health after taking up cold-water swimming. Perhaps it’s the release of serotonin and dopamine, perhaps bringing your physical body into an extreme state allows your mental discontent to take a temporary back seat, perhaps it’s the therapeutic benefits of swimming beside ducks and under branches.

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Another rubbish day.

Lyrical

If you can do it regularly enough to become acclimatised, cold water is like the bite of an apple, the clear song of a bird, the shine of silver on your body and lightning through your brain. It silences tension, burns your skin with frozen euphoria and leaves you feeling like a viking, like a wet-haired warrior, like a steam-breathing dragon. Throughout the winter I swim outdoors, in the cold, at least once a week. If you have similar intentions then the best way to start is by simply letting a summer swim habit bleed on into autumn, then the ember months and simply see how long you can go.

Neoprene gloves and boots have made all the difference to me, as sluggish circulation often left me fumbling with my knickers using wax-white, useless fingers. A good towel, a thermos and a snack will all help you recover through the chattering and goosepimpled chills afterwards. Also, do it in company – the social element to cold-water swimming is as beneficial as that of your physical or mental health. Even if you can’t find a volunteer to get in with you, make sure you have someone to hold your towel if you’re going in the sea, a river or anywhere else that may prove risky.

Finally, cold water, like schnapps, sprinting or a visit to your family, is a treat best appreciated only in short bursts. I keep to a 50-stroke maximum in the winter, often far, far less. This week, as I clocked up three months since giving birth, I found myself crunching through snow on a Yorkshire hillside, beside a friend who pushed out her own baby just seven weeks earlier. There we were, in the bright, biting white of a February morning, surrounded by ice, snow and rocks, stripping down to our underwear as our partners stood on a bridge overhead, holding the babies. As we both slipped under the brown, tumbling, ice melt, pushing our mothering-soft arms and milk-heavy breasts out towards the waterfall, we hollered, sighed and turned our faces to the sky. It felt like living, like healing, like pure joy. In short, it felt pretty damn good for you.

Nell Frizzell is a freelance journalist.

What is cold water?

From the National Center for Cold Water Safety

CWS thermometerCold water can kill you in less than a minute. It's actually so dangerous that it kills a lot of people within seconds. Thousands of people have drowned after falling into cold water and a lot of them died before they even had a chance to reach the surface.

That's a scientific and medical fact that most people have trouble understanding - because they have no personal experience actually being in cold water. When they hear or think about 50F (10C) water, it doesn't sound particularly cold - or dangerous - because they're mentally comparing it to 50F (10C) air. It's a big mistake that gets a lot of people killed each year. This is explained in much greater detail in the section Why Cold Water is Dangerous.

You should treat any water temperature below 70F (21C) with caution.

Water Temperature Safety Guide
Below 77F (25C)
Breathing begins to be affected.

This is why the official water temperature required for Olympic swimming competition is 77-82F (25-28C).

70-60F (21-15C) Dangerous

Controlling your breathing and holding your breath becomes progressively more difficult as water temperature falls as water temperature falls from 70°F to 60°F (21°C to 15°C).

True or False: You don't need thermal protection when the water temperature is above 60F (15C).
False. You should certainly be wearing a wetsuit or drysuit below 60F, however, 60F (15C) is not the temperature at which most people should start wearing thermal protection.

60-50F (15-10C) Very Dangerous/Immediately Life-threatening

Total loss of breathing control. Maximum intensity cold shock. Unable to control gasping and hyperventilation.

Fact: Cold shock is as extreme between 50-60F (10-15C) as it is at 35F (2C).
Most people who are unaccustomed to cold water will experience a maximum cold shock response somewhere between 50-60F (10-15C). For some individuals, this happens at 57F (14C), for others, the peak occurs at 52F (11C) and so on.

This means that an unprotected immersion in this temperature range will cause most people to completely lose control of their breathing – they will be gasping and hyperventilating as hard and fast as they can.

Since cold shock reaches its maximum intensity between 50-60F (10-15C), it can’t get any more intense at lower water temperatures. In other words, breathing control, once completely lost, cannot be lost to a greater degree.

Below 40F (5C) Very Dangerous/Immediately Life-threatening

Total loss of breathing control. Unable to control gasping and hyperventilation. Water feels painfully cold.

Below 40F (4.5C), water is so painfully cold that it often feels like it’s burning your skin. For many people, the notorious “ice cream headache” can be triggered simply by water touching your face. Even though cold shock is no more intense than it was between 50-60F (10-15C), the severe pain makes a desperate situation even worse because it greatly increases your psychological stress. Clear thinking becomes almost impossible.

See for Yourself

If you're in good physical shape and feeling adventurous, a very memorable way to find out about cold water is by conducting a personal experiment. First, make sure the tap water is as cold as it will get by running the faucet for a minute or two, then fill a glass and measure the temperature.

When you're feeling brave, get in the shower and turn it on full blast. No shower? No problem. Have a friend spray you with cold water from a garden hose while you're wearing a bathing suit.

Warning:Don't try this unless you're completely healthy because the shock of cold water hitting your skin will cause an immediate, and often dramatic, increase in your blood pressure and heart rate. If there's any doubt in your mind, check with your doctor

Interesting Temperatures
  • 98.6F(37C) Normal body temperature measured with an oral thermometer.
  • 99.6F(37.5C) Deep body or core temperature measured with a rectal thermometer.
  • 95F(35C) For medical purposes, this is the clinical point at whichh hypothermia begins.
  • 91F(32.7C) The temperature of your skin.
  • 85F(29.4C) Water feels pleasantly cool rather than warm.
  • 77-82F(25-28C) Swimming pool temperature range for Olympic competition.
  • 70F(21C) Water feels quite cold to most people. Treat any water temperature below 70F (21C) with caution.
  • 40F(4.4C) or lower Water is painfully cold.

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The Forster Turtles. No, they're not debating whether to go in. They just like to gather for a chat every now and again.

Different Strokes

Most people unfamiliar with cold water find 70F (21C) to be quite cold. On the other hand, a competitive open-water swimmer who is used to swimming in 55F (13C) water will probably think that 70F (21C) doesn’t feel very cold at all. What’s important to your safety is how you personally respond to cold water.

Acclimation and body fat can make a significant difference in how someone responds to cold water.

Acclimation is a process by which your body gradually adapts itself to cold water through repeated exposure. Through acclimation, it’s possible to improve circulation to the hands during cold water immersion, and to greatly reduce or eliminate cold shock.

Body fat is an excellent insulator. Seals, whales, and other warm-blooded aquatic mammals have a lot of this insulating fat - called blubber - which enables them to keep warm while swimming in cold oceans.

Because fat provides insulation from the cold, it can delay incapacitation and hypothermia and also improve physical stamina in the water. Repeated exposure to even cool water increases the layer of fat directly under the skin surface (subcutaneous fat).

You can easily see this body fat difference by comparing the physical appearance of Olympic swimmers and runners. Swimmers have a lot of subcutaneous fat and a sleek, streamlined look. Runners have very little fat and more obvious muscle definition.

Acclimation reduces the intensity of cold shock

Acclimation does not protect you against incapacitation, swimming failure and hypothermia.

Body fat does not reduce the intensity of cold shock.

Body fat provides insulation, slows heat loss, and delays incapacitation and hypothermia.

A Very Remarkable Swim

An excellent example of how body fat can prolong cold water survival is the remarkable case of Icelandic fisherman Gudlaugur Fridthorsson. On a cold night in March, 1984, Fridthorsson was working on a 75 foot (23m) commercial fishing vessel when the nets snagged on the ocean bottom and she capsized three miles off the rugged coast of Heimaey Island.

Although he wasn't a particularly good swimmer, Fridthorsson swam for six hours in 41-43F (5-6C) water before reaching shore. He was the sole survivor of the five-man crew. How in the world did he do it? In a word, he was obese. At 6'4" and 125kgs, he had a chart-busting BMI in excess of 30. His physique was similar to a seal’s.

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The Hand. Off Forster Main Beach. A Great Lakes beach.

Pacific Palms

Easter by the Great Lakes

The Rock to Rock Swim at Pacific Palms on Easter Sundee is offering swimming punters a deal through their swim sponsor, Pacific Palms Real Estate, of 10 per cent off holiday accommodation rentals at swim time. To book accommodation, go to their website and use the code R2R2018 when you make your booking. Be aware, this code is case-sensitive... Click here

Come swimming with us in warmer places

sulawesi 17 02 600
Playful punters practise their synchronised ocean swimming in Sulawesi, under the looming cone of Manadotua. Yes, the water is this clear. Come to Sulawesi with us in June, 2018. Find out more... Click here

The season here has a couple of months to run -- March and April are two of our busiest months in numbers of swim events -- but punters are making plans for winter. We have limited places still available on our oceanswimsafaris to Sulawesi in Indonesia (June 12-21 and 20-29), Tonga (July 24-Aug 1, and July 31-Aug 8), and the Yasawas in Fiji (Oct 27-Nov 4). And don't forget the Mana Fiji SwimFest (Oct 23-28).

Come with us, and you'll fin dout how beautiful the world can be... Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ

For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims, as well. We have heard nothing from South West Rocks (their website has said for some time, "April 2018, date to come"). We know no more, but when we do, we'll let you know.

New... Mollymook (Apr 7), South Curl Curl-Freshwater (Apr 29), Mona Vale Solstice (June 24)

Coming up... Nup. Pretty well it for this season.

Subscribe

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March 7, 2018

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Freshwater last Sundee: it started as a pristine, early autumn morning, till the southerly arrived. Punters found the back reach, north to south, was a tough one. Pic by Glistening Dave (David Helsham @glistennr)

This issue...
Swims this weekend

Nanna made me do it

Swimmers' ear - another great bane

When we were little tacs, our nanna, Chris McKenna (nee Urquhart), taught us some of the basics of life. She taught us, for example, how to eat porridge: by soaking it overnight with a pinch of salt, then covering it with heaps of brown sugar after we'd boiled it up in the morning. It took us half a century to get out of that habit. And she taught us to keep our ears clear of wax by cleaning the ear canal periodically. She did it by sticking a bobby pin inside a hanky and sticking into our ears, twisting it around, and showing us the gunk it found. Now we find that ear wax is our friend, for it helps to protect us from one of the great banes of swimmers everywhere: swimmers' ear. Here, ocean swimmer Dr Niell Boustred, an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist, explains it to us...

swimmers ear diagram 450Swimmers’ Ear is an infection of the outer part of the ear, fundamentally the ear canal. This is a narrow canal which connects the pinna, the visible part of the ear, with the tympanic membrane, or eardrum.

The medical term for this infection is “otitis externa”. It is distinguished from Surfer’s Ear, which is a narrowing of the ear canal caused by benign bony growths. The bony growths themselves develop as a consequence of exposure to cold water, sand and wind and are common in surfers and ocean swimmers. The narrowing of the ear canal can cause water entrapment which predisposes the surfer or swimmer to otitis externa, Swimmers’ Ear.

What follows is a discussion about the ear canal specifically.

The health of the external auditory canal is maintained by the production of wax (cerumen) in the canal which has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is acidic and is a superb waterproofing agent. The skin of the ear canal also protects against infection by being migratory, in other words, it moves from the depths of the ear canal to the outer part of the ear canal carrying with it debris (eg.beach sand) from the ear canal itself.

The ear canal has evolved in such a way that it is self-protecting and it is only really when we adversely affect this host defence mechanism that we are likely to develop an episode of otitis externa (Swimmers’ Ear).

Nanna made me do it

We do need to talk about wax, really, before continuing this discussion.

As stated, it is wonderful stuff. It protects the ear canal by waterproofing it. It is full of antibacterial and antifungal agents and has a low pH. Left in place, the wax will do a great job of preventing otitis externa. For reasons that are, frankly, unclear a significant number of the population habitually try to “clean” their ears in the mistaken belief that wax is, in some way, shape or form, dirty. This is not the case. In the overwhelming majority of the population, canals do very well if left completely to their own devices. Again, there are always exceptions to these biological rules, but fundamentally the advice that “nothing smaller than your elbow should enter the external auditory canal” remains a good maxim.

Occasionally, wax blocks the ear canal or prevents an appropriate view of the eardrum and, in that circumstance, it needs to be removed. It can be done safely by an appropriately trained general practitioner with a gentle syringing. The gold standard for cleaning the ear is to use a microscope and a suction. I think any form of personal attempts at cleaning your ear are inappropriate.


An healthy ear canal. (Video supplied by Dr Niell Boustred)

Infection

There are a number of factors that are required or may precipitate an infection. We obviously need bacteria or fungi and the skin of the ear canal is a microbe rich environment. These microbes are what we would call commensals. In other words, they are part of the normal microbiology of the skin.

Protracted periods of exposure to moisture may predispose one to an infection but, generally speaking, the precipitating event is a combination of water and trauma to the external auditory canal which classically is produced by earbuds or any form of object, finger, hatpin, wax curettes. In fact, there are fantastically imaginative ways of traumatising the skin of the external auditory canal and therefore precipitating an infection. It is unusual that water exposure per se in an otherwise healthy ear canal would precipitate an infection. Remember the wax etc!

There are certainly patients with chronic skin conditions whose external auditory canals appear to be predisposed to infections, but in the normal healthy individual, water exposure alone is unlikely to precipitate an infection.

Leave it alone

In those people who are susceptible to infections, particularly precipitated by periods of water exposure, there are three safe ways to dry the external auditory canal.

One is to use Aqua-Ear or Ear Clear, which are mixtures of alcohol and acetic acid (and available widely at chemists). The alcohol acts as an astringent or drying agent and the acetic acid lowers the pH and creates a microbiologically hostile environment.

The use of tissue spears, the corner of a tissue folded and placed in the external auditory canal, will not dislodge wax but will wick moisture out of the ear canal.

Lastly, a hairdryer on a low setting, both in terms of heat and power, can also be used to dry the external auditory canal. Fundamentally this is only required in those people in whom exposure to water may precipitate an otitis externa.

I cannot stress enough the fact that the ear canal is best left to its own devices.

bongin 180307 dhd 600
Staff snapper Glistening Dave says: "Wensdee, blueys on the main beach, none in the bay, onshore winds, weed, choppy, ugly indeed, but water is super warm". Ahh, ocean swimming! Dave's local at Bongin Bongin Bay on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Pic by David Helsham (@glistennr)

Pain

Otitis externa itself is characterized by ear pain and usually develops after a period of water exposure almost inevitably accompanied by some form of simple trauma to the external auditory canal. It can be extremely painful. This is because the skin in the depths of the ear canal is closely adherent to the bone and as the infected ear canal tissue swells, it can become particularly uncomfortable.

The causative organisms in otitis externa are usually bacterial initially, but can be fungal and often, after a protracted period of management with an antibacterial, a fungal infection can develop.

What to do

Otitis externa needs to be carefully managed. If one develops severe ear pain, particularly if it is exacerbated by simple manipulation of the pinna, I would strongly recommend that you seek the advice of your doctor. Do not attempt to clean the ear canal yourself. I would have a very low threshold for seeking the advice of your general practitioner and, in most circumstances, the infection will respond to relatively simple treatment including the use of appropriate oral antibiotics and particularly appropriate topical antibiotics. Generally speaking these should be initiated only after a swab has been taken. No need to wait for the result, though: initial treatment is empiric. The swab is useful if the condition does not improve.

boustred ear canal shell 320Careful in the shore break: a shell wedged in the ear canal following a tumble on the edge.

Lots

As a specialist, particularly in the summer months in Australia, we see a lot of patients with otitis externa. In some circumstances it can be necessary to clean the ear canal. The gold standard for this is to use a microscope and a suction. We often have to pack the ear canal with appropriate antimicrobial agents because the swelling in the ear canal prevents or limits access of ototopical agents. We would occasionally use a course of oral steroids, commonly appropriate oral antibiotics and very occasionally intravenous antibiotics.

Diabetics can be particularly severely affected in this scenario and require prompt treatment and occasionally hospitalisation with appropriate intravenous antibiotics.

Prophylactic

What about ear plugs?

It is not as simple as it may seem

There are certainly patients who appear to develop an otitis externa as soon as the ear canal gets wet and they do appear to benefit from the use of ear plugs. In my opinion, if you are swimming regularly, almost daily, and you are using ear plugs on a regular basis, they could potentially be counterproductive because they prevent the ear canal from cleaning itself, their insertion could be traumatic and they may not be efficient.

This is a discussion that you should have with an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon and really is only for those people who appear to be getting recurrent episodes of otitis externa. There are no hard and fast rules here. Earplugs do not work for everyone and need to be tailored to your specific needs.

Cerumenolytics, in other words the drops that supposedly dissolve wax, are generally unnecessary and irritating to the ear canal and I do not believe really have a part to play in the day-to-day management of the ear canal.
There certainly is a group of people (swimmers particularly) who have a chronic skin condition and who appear to be predisposed to acute or chronic infections of the ear canal, and I would recommend they seek advice and active management by a specialist. Generally speaking the infections can be controlled if the underlying condition cannot itself be cured.

In conclusion, leave your ears alone, seek advice if there is a problem. If the problem is recurrent or chronic or threatening your swimming career, get the opinion of a specialist.

Dr (R N) Niell Boustred
ENT Specialist, ocean swimmer

Exotic adventures and locales

tonga whales 17 01 600
Yes, you really can swim this up close and personal with a humpback whale in Tonga. Rules keep you a little farther away, but if they come to you, there's nothing you can do about it apart from stay out of its way as best you can. Some of them are playful, like this one last year. It's an experience unrivalled in ocean swimming. come to Tonga with us in 2018. Find out more... Click here

 

sulawesi 17 02 600
Playful punters practise their synchronised ocean swimming in Sulawesi, under the looming cone of Manadotua. Yes, the water is this clear. Come to Sulawesi with us in June, 2018. Find out more... Click here

Pittwater winner chosen

pittwater 78 campbell james 250

Pittwater Swim Series awgies have chosen their winner for season 2017/18. It's James Campbell, a swimmer from Avalon.

Awgies say a random computer draw was done by Gail Kardash at TravelView Avalon, one of the sponsors of the series, along with Bay Royal Apartments at Byron Bay and Northern Beaches Council. James Campbell swam four of the Pittwater series events held so far and is entered, also, in the 5th and final event, at Avalon on April 8.

With the Avalon swims postponed from January 14, the draw was held before Avalon's postponement date of April 8 to allow the winner to prepare for their prize, a trip to Byron Bay to take part in the swim there on May 6. Awgies included in the random draw all those who had entered the Avalon swim. Qualification for the draw was by doing three of the five Pittwater swims.

Tbere have been a total of 3,012 swimmers in the Pittwater swims in season 2017/18, with 234 swimming in at least three of the swims, thus qualifying for the draw.

Shoal Bay to Broughton Island

Wharfies to swim a Port Stephens first

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The route this mob might take from Shoal Bay to Broughton Island: straight across breeding grounds of Great White sharks. But they know that.

By Ellie-Marie Watts

Four experienced ocean swimmers will break new ground in Port Stephens next month and swim the distance between Shoal Bay and Broughton Island.

In what is believed to be a first, Shoal Bay Wharfie ocean swimming club members Chris Outteridge, Mike Lindsay, Wal Wallace and Graeme Wolfenden will relay swim the 18km distance to the island on March 27 or 28.

The weather and sea conditions will dictate which day the group complete the challenge, which has been six months in the making.

“To our knowledge, it has never been done before,” Mr Lindsay said. “We figured that if anyone was going to do it, we’re not a bad crew to do it first.”

All four swimmers are master competitors, aged between 55 and 75, and have completed long distance ocean swims and ironman events in the past.

Ms Outteridge, a member of the Fingal Beach Surf Life Saving Club, won gold at the 2014 Coolangatta Gold, an annual event that tests Australia’s best ironmen and women.

Mr Lindsay has taken part in the Rottnest Channel Swim 12 times, Mr Wallace the Caves Beach Ocean Swim five times and Mr Wolfenden the Lake Burley Griffin 9km ocean swim nine times.

Experienced gained from past endurance events has helped them prepare for the swim from Shoal Bay Boat Ramp to Broughton Island, the format of which has been modelled off the Rottnest swim.

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COURAGEOUS, MINISTER: Mike Lindsay and Chris Outteridge are two of four Shoal Bay Wharfies ocean swimmers preparing to swim from Shoal Bay to Broughton Island.

However, planning has been meticulous to take Port Stephens-specific factors such as the marine life into account.

At least three of the support boats and skis that will accompany the swimmers will be fitted with Shark Shield devices.

The boats and skis will be manned by Wharfies members, plus other skilled volunteers including Fingal Bay surf lifesavers.

A boat at the front and skis either side of the swimmer will have shark repelling devices attached.

“If anyone sees anything, a flash of a fin, anything, the priority will be to get the swimmer straight into the boat and we’ll call it a day,” Mr Lindsay said.

“But in saying that, the Rotness swim which is similar has been going for 30 years and it hasn’t had anything untoward happen.”

Ms Outteridge expected the swimmers would not encounter any marine life, including any escaped kingfish.

“We’re tracking well away from the pens,” she said.

The 18km distance will be covered by the four swimmers in a relay format. A swimmer will be in the water for 10 minutes, tag out and spend 30 minutes in a boat then get back into the water.

The swim is expected to be completed in six to eight hours.

“I think it’s going to be easier than what everyone thinks it will be, once we get going,” Mr Lindsay said. “We’ll have skis either side of us, we’ll be kind of caged in.

“Once you eye your paddler on the left or right and get a rhythm going, you set your pace and it becomes quite easy.”

To carry out the swim, the group has received licenses from NSW Department of Primary Industries, Roads and Maritime Service and National Parks and Wildlife Service.

If the swim is unable to be carried out on March 27 or 28, the swimmers will have a “final shot” at it on April 12.

The Wharfies meet on the beach outside Shoal Bay Holiday Park at 9am on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

From the Port Stephens Examiner

Thank you to Parfait l'Amour for pointing out this story to us.

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Sundown from Blue Lagoon, on the Blue Lagoon in Fiji's Yasawas.

With Heron dead...

Back to the Yasawas

We’re planning a second oceanswimsafari to Fiji’s Yasawas after the Mana Fiji SwimFest in late October, to make up for the abandonment of the Great Barrier Reef Swim at Heron Island in early November. The dates are October 27-November 4 (or Oct 28-Nov 4 if you're already on Mana Island for the Mana swim beforehand). We’re already running a Yasawas oceanswimsafari before the Mana event, so this will be our second Yasawas oceanswimsafari for the season, sandwiched either side of the Mana Fiji SwimFest (Oct 23-28).

This oceanswimsafari is perfect for groups of friends and individuals alike. You don’t need to have done Mana Island first, but you can do both, if you like. The Yasawas experience is very different to Mana Island. We'll swim in some of the best water, and over some of the best reefs you will find anywhere, in a very beautiful, exotic location.

Check out our Yasawas oceanswimsafari page to see what this experience is like.

To find out more about our Yasawas oceanswimsafaris… Click here

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Speaking of Mana Island...

We’ve released our packages for Mana Island in Fiji, this year running core dates of October 23-28. There are two swim days in the Mana Fiji SwimFest – a 10km day on the Thursday, when you can do the 10km solo or as part of a 3-swimmer relay team; and on the Saturday, you can do 5km, 2.5km or 1km, or a combination of 1km with one of the other two longer distances.

We’re particularly excited this year, because we’ll be joined on Mana Island by three of the best and best known ocean swimmers in the world, Trent and Codie Grimsey, and New Zealand’s Brent Foster. You’ll get to swim with the world’s best.

Mana Island Resort have a new pricing structure this year, with all meals bundled into the room rate. It makes the room rate a bit higher, but then you’re not up for meals on top of the room. It makes a lot of sense, and follows what a number of other Fijian resorts already do with their meals.

We have a special oceanswimmer’s package available for Mana Island offering 25 per cent off standard rates with a 30-minute Mana Spa experience (swimmers only), if you book through oceanswims.com/oceanswimsafaris.com. That deal lasts only till March 31, when it will rise to a 20 per cent discount from the standard rate. So get in now.

You can use the 10km at Mana Island as a qualifying swim for Rottnest, the following February. While Mana falls just prior to the Rotto qualifying period, awgies accept it with, we understand, a diary of your training in between times.

The great thing about swimming at Mana Island is that you're staying right on the reef, just a few minutes walk from the most beautiful swimming water, and your courses for each event. You can tumble out of bed each morning straight into reef water, and you don't spend hours each day on transfer buses and ferries. Once you're on Mana, you're there, where it matters. There's nothing to compare with that.

To find out more about the Mana Fiji SwimFest and to book… Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

oceanswimsafaris

How 'bout swimming with whales

tonga jump into the water

We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but a couple of punters have pulled out and we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-Agust 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga… Click here

sulawesi dawn 1607Exotic Sulawesi

We also have a few rooms left at our most exotic location, Sulawesi, to where we’re running two oceanswimsafaris in 2018, June 12-21 and June 20-29.

Sulawesi is right out of left field: it’s one of the most beautiful locations you’ll ever bvist, but we’ll wager that, unless we took you there, you would never even hear agout it, let alone visit. We try to find locations that will surprise you and Sulawesi is a fine example of that. Water is profoundly clear with lots of sea life, dramatic landscapes and local culture, and extra-sensory food. We also throw in a day tour around the mountain hinterland, and whitewater rafting. It’s an obscure location, with very few Strã’ans going to Sulawesi, remarkably for it’s so close to us, and easy to access. We go via an overnight in Singapore, then it’s a single flight from there to Manado, in the far north of Sulawesi.

Find out more and book… Click here

Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ

For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here

Swims open to online entry

Most swims remaining this season are open to online entry on oceanswims.com, as you'll see below, as well as a couple of season 2018/19 swims, as well. The Mona Vale Solstice Swim (June 24) is in the works. The South Curl Curl-Freshwater swim (normally would be April 29) is not certain yet, due to the proximity of the date to the Strã'an surf life saving champs in Perth the weekend prior. We have heard nothing from South West Rocks (their website has said for some time, "April 2018, date to come"), and whilst we  know Mollymook is on, we haven't heard from the awgies apart from confirming that date (April 7). We have "reached out" to both enquiring after their intentions. We'll let you know.

New... Nup

Coming up... Mona Vale (June 24)

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February 28, 2018

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Spectacular, ain't it! Another image to raise you from your midweek torpor, and another one from National Geographic, but this one is genuine. Pic by Matthew Smith, taken at Shell Cove.

Swims this weekend

ocean swimming etiquette

Civilising the mob

It was a lively period following this newsletter’s rant on drafting two weeks back, and it brought out a number of stories from ordinary punters who’d experienced it in a negative way.

One lady swimmer, very much a mug punter, and by no means an elite swimmer (we’re sure she would agree with that), told us of a woman who approached her at the start of a recent swim to tell our friend that she routinely drafted off her week in, week out. She was unashamed of it and proud, as if she expected our friend would be honoured by her attention. The lady victim, our friend, was in the habit of wearing a distinctive rashie, which made her easy to pick out. The woman drafter told her that that’s how she found our friend each week, and how much she enjoyed the draft each time.

The victim now has dispensed with the distinctive rashie.

We copped some flak from some swimmers who saw drafting as a perfectly legitimate tactic. Why couldn’t we just accept it? And from a coach who told us that, while he was taking a pot-shot at us for our rant, he hadn’t actually read our story, other than “admittedly, in a hurry”.

“I have a job,” he said, by way of excuse. Life is frenetic for all of us these days, it's true. What the coach had missed, it seemed, was the bit in our rant about how it's done routinely and acceptably at elite levels, but... More in a moment...

But the issue isn’t just drafting; it’s conduct generally; it’s how we treat the swimmers around us; it’s respect for our comrades; it’s etiquette.

The factor that distinguishes a mob of punters from a civilisation is mutual respect. It’s a form of social capital. People might mouth platitudes about respecting their peers, about coexistence, but without mores, conventions, generally accepted rules, some will always be on the make at the expense of others. In the institutional sense, this is why governments exist: to establish and continually refine the rules that allow us to live together as a society. Otherwise, we’d be a rabble, some always on top; others always on the bottom.

Ocean swimming has no gummint, however; we have no laws, apart from those that different swims set for themselves, although we can think of none – NONE – that actually enforce their rules. So we live from week to week relying on the goodwill of our fellow swimmers to enable us to enjoy our caper individually, in our own ways. Every now and again, it does us all good to raise these issues, to encourage some thinking and arguing. This may not facilitate our arrival at a consensus, but it does, at the very least, encourage awareness and enhance the environment within which we may all exist as mug punters together, as peers.

tonga whales 17 01 600
Yes, you really can swim this up close and personal with a humpback whale in Tonga. Rules keep you a little farther away, but if they come to you, there's nothing you can do about it apart from stay out of its way as best you can. Some of them are playful, like this one last year. It's an experience unrivalled in ocean swimming. come to Tonga with us in 2018. Find out more... Click here

 And so to etiquette.

Some years back, after a similar bout of mob navel gazing, a swimmer punter then from the Hunter Valley, John “Bam-Bam” Bambery, sat down to codify standards and rules that he felt represented a consensus on ocean swimming etiquette. John’s code was intended as a guide for both swimmers and awgies, many of whom are almost completely ignorant of the sport as a whole and their role within it. Awgies generally are kings for a day, and for the rest of the season, they’re off doing something else. Us, however, are stuck with it week in, week out.
We had John Bambery’s code posted on oceanswims.com for years, but we discovered just yesterday that, somehow, it had dropped off. We have no idea how, when and for how long it has been missing, and we apologise to John for that. John spent many hours compiling his Guide to Ocean Swimming Etiquette, and we figure now is a good time to resurrect it.

You can read John’s full code posted again on oceanswims.com, from the link at the end of this story. We post here a summary of it, adding our own remarks. Necessarily, John’s code is broad and general. It doesn’t get into specifics in every area, and it leaves much unsaid, while hoping that the unsaid bits will be implicit.

It comes essentially in two parts –

Swimmers
  1. Come prepared.
  2. Follow reasonable instruction from volunteers and safety personnel.
  3. Accept rules and conditions and understand risks you are taking.
  4. Be aware that there are no central rules in ocean swimming. Rules vary from swim to swim. This can be confusing, but it also reflects the different “personalities” of the swims.
  5. Ask questions if you are unsure of any detail.
  6. Respect the safety of others.
  7. Be honest with your abilities and understand your limitations.
  8. Do not deliberately hinder others in the swim by blocking or kicking, and take reasonable care not to injure others, particularly when rounding buoys.
  9. Do not be overtly aggressive. Ocean swimming can be a body contact sport, especially when you’re swimming in a peloton. When someone knocks or hits or kicks you, it’s usually unintentional, so react accordingly.
  10. Seek help if you need it; stop to assist people in distress.
  11. Respect and applaud the efforts of all those involved in the event.
  12. Provide constructive feedback to organisers.
  13. Leave nothing behind but your footprints.

To this, we add (not exhaustively) –

  • Breaststroking is a great form of blocking following swimmers and, while not illegal, be careful where and when you do it and, if you do it, especially right on a booee or several swimmers abreast, don’t be surprised if some boofhead, head down going hell for leather, runs into you and over you on his or her way past. Another excellent way of blockiing other swimmers and copping a clock on the noggin is to stop on a booee, as if to find your line to the subsequent booee. Both are effective.
  • Some people need wetties because they feel the cold, and some (especially triathletes) need to practise in them in race conditions, because all the rest of the triathlon community wear them. So don’t look askance at wettie wearers. They have their own reasons and needs. (There is another comment on wetties under Awgies, below, which complements this bit. They should be read together.)
  • It’s inevitable in an ocean swim that there will be contact amongst swimmers. Some of this contact will be harder than others (see above) and, sadly, some of it will be more intentional, generally from punters who don’t appreciate this point. But remember that this is inevitable, because we’re all in this together and whilst we’re swimming in the ocean, we’re confined by the booees to a relatively small space. If there is contact, it doesn’t mean someone is trying to job you, so don’t react as if they are. Mind you, if you have some eejit sitting on your feet for an entire race (see below), stroking the soles of your feet all the way, the court of public opinion will take a compassionate view of hostile verbal response.
  • Drafting is bludging and cheating on your fellow swimmer. Elite swimmers do it in elite races, but they generally take turns to lead; it’s how they, as a pack, maintain a pace, just like in the grand cycle tours. In that context, when it’s done amongst consenting swimmers in a pack, it’s their business. At our level, however, other than inadvertently in a pack, it’s intended to exploit the efforts of others for personal, selfish gain. If you’re a drafter, be ashamed.
  • Cossies... sighhhh... What a hoary old issue, but relevant. We have a dream, of ocean swimming as a completely level playing field, where people compete against each other on the basis of their ability, not the depth of their pockets, or their access to technology. Just as with elite waves (see below), we worked with awgies a few years back to develop a set of standards for swims that included one that cossies should only be basic, traditional budgys for blokes and smugglettes for laydees. No fancy cossies, no hi-tech materials, no core supporting jim-jams or leggings or sleeves. We understand that there even are jammers cossies now -- the boofheads' cossies that look link skin-tight jamies -- that are made from neoprene. This brings us into wettie territory: neoprene aids flotation, just like wetties, which also are made from neoprene. We're told that these neoprene jammers are designed for training, but some smarties wear them in races. Awgies don't have the resources to police all this stuff, to ensure that all cossies meet "FINA rules", whatever they might be today, but in any case, why should they have to deal with such minutiae? Far simpler, and fairer to say baldly, no fancy cossies allowed, nothing more than traditional budgys and smugglettes. That keeps it even, and it keeps the entry cost to our caper minimal, under $A100. At the moment, all you need to become an ocean swimmer is a pair of cossies and gogs. Once you start allowing all this fancy stuff, including wetties, then the entry cost rises by multiples, factors of five or ten. Fine if you're wealthy, but not so if you're an ordinary mug punter.
  • Understand that awgies have issues to deal with that are far more complex, far more nuanced than most of the issues that we, as individuals, must contend with. Keep yourself in perspective. And remember that one of the awgies' key concerns is the safety of their water safety staff out on the water. It's not all about you.

We don't argue that there should be rules about all this stuff; merely that there should be an awareness of it and respect for your fellow swimmer. We're trying to encourage an attitude, a culcha, and it's the culcha that's all important.

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Playful punters practise their synchronised ocean swimming in Sulawesi, under the looming cone of Manadotua. Yes, the water is this clear. Come to Sulawesi with us in June, 2018. Find out more... Click here

Awgies

John Bambery’s executive summary for awgies (to pre-empt inevitable emails, an “awgie” is an organiser, so called after a well-meaning chap we knew back home, when we were kids, who was known as “Awgie” because he was always trying to “awginize” everyone, usually outstandingly ineffectively –-

  1. Risk-assess the safety hazards and plan risk-mitigation strategies.
  2. Plan the event early, considering the resources required to undertake the task, the date and time, the facilities, venue and details of the course.
  3. Obtain permission and licences from relevant authorities early.
  4. Provide clear and adequate information on entry forms/web forms.
  5. Consider safety of swimmers, safety personnel, volunteers and spectators.
  6. Lay out the swim course logically, providing clear information for swimmers in entry forms.

To which, we add -

  • For swim caps, use only those half a dozen fluoro colours that have been approved by the Surf Life Saving Association. Any other colour cannot be seen in all conditions. This is a matter of safety, not of aesthetics. Don’t let some smart-talking cap supplier or sponsor convince you that their caps are ok when they’re just trying to offload some rubbish colours that they can’t get rid of otherwise, or on which their logo stands out. Only those fluoro colours can reliably be seen in all conditions. They range through fluoro orange, red, lime, yellow, green, and pink. The SLSA has mandated these colours for surf clubs that run swims, and it amazes us constantly how few organising clubs observe that rule. The alternative, surf warned when introducing the rule back in c. 2011, was that they would make us all wear those silly pink singlets, which would change the economics of swims fundamentally, and the comfort. If you don't believe us, check how conspicuous the other colours -- the lost-at-sea range of colours -- are next time you're watching an ocean swim.
  • Use booees that can be seen. Like the cap colours, we have found only two colours that can reliably be seen in all conditions: yellow and orange, preferably fluoro, although genuine fluoro should be ok in those other colours, as well, it's just that we haven't seen booees in those other colours. And the booees should be cylindrical, weighted at the bottom to make them stand up in the water. Cylindrical is important, because the fat bit is at the top, which means swimmers have a chance to see it. We can tell in an instant when a swim course has been set by someone who is not an ocean swimmer, because they use silly colours and silly shapes, like those absurd pink, conical things. Try finding a pink conical booee on a grey day, especially with a swell running. Ski paddlers and boat rowers and observers from shore can see these booees, but swimmers at water level cannot, and only swimmers know this.
  • Don’t set a course that involves a first, short leg followed by a sharp turn. If your first booee is not far from the start, make sure the turn is oblique, not acute. The pack will still be together, and sharps turns make for mayhem and danger in a pack. Make sure there is clear line of sight from booee to booee, that there are no obstacles obstructing the straight line from booee to booee, and that the booees can be seen by swimmers, not just by some superviser in an IRB. We did a swim a few years back which circumnavigated a reef, and we found the line from the far out booee into the next booee ran right across the exposed reef. And don't turn swimmers back on themselves, ie don't set a 180 degree turn or similar that sets swimmers rounding the booee back into the faces of those following behind. You need to keep the reaches separated by at least 50 metres, to allow for punters who hang wide.
  • Make sure that successive waves at the start use different cap colours. Using the same or even similar cap colours is a recipe for confusion, with swimmers starting in the wrong wave. And police your starting line, to ensure that only swimmers with the correct cap for a wave start with that wave.
  • Have a clear and fair wetties policy: The use of wetties varies from region to region. In NZ, Victoria and Tasmania, it's almost all wettists. In NSW, Queensland, SA, and the West, there's hardly a wettie to be seen during an ocean swim. As we note above, some punters need wetties because they feel the cold, or they're practising for a triathlon (where wetties are de rigeur, because without them, they can't swim, ie actually, not just legally). Let them wear their wetties, but wetties in non-wettie areas should not be included in open company categories, ie with newd swimmers. Give them their own categories. Why? Because wearing a wettie confers a significant speed advantage on the wearer (wetties float you higher in the water). It's not fair to have newds competing with wettists. Further, in the newd regions, hardly anyone owns a wettie outside the triathlon community. It's unreasonable to have a policy that reward wettie wearing at the expense of newds in places when few have them available. Conversely, in wettist areas, awgies should provide dedicated categories for newdists.
  • Elite waves – Dilemma: do swimmers in an elite wave get to compete with swimmers in their age group as well as with the Elite wave? Or are they barred from age group competition. There are arguments for both, and they will never agree. A few years back, we worked with some awgies on a daring system whereby the fastest swimmers habitually from each age group would be seeded into an elite wave. We set up a system of rankings to identify them. This had two objectives: to make for better racing at the front of the event; and to remove faster swimmers from the age groups, thus making the age groups, we hoped, safer for faster and mug swimmers alike. The system dropped into abeyance as awgies lost enthusiasm. Some punters complained and the awgies just found it all too hard. Yet again, the loud ones win the day.

There is much, much more that could be said. But tell us what you think. Send us your two bobs’ worth and we’ll post it in Controversy Corner, at the bottom of the online version of this newsletter… Click here

You can download John Bambery’s code, his Guidelines for Ocean Swims, from oceanswims.com… Click here

Otherwise, you can find it on oceanswims.com under Swims/Bam-Bam’s Swimming Etiquette

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Another image from National Geographic, this one taken at sundown in the Faroe Islands, by Wojciech Kruczyski.

Rotto and the shark

A big day for the Rottnest Channel swim last Sat'dee, with a new record set by race winner Solomon Wright, breaking 4 hours (Solomon swam 3:59:28.61) and Mark Saliba's previous record. There were strong following conditions on the day. And there was kerfuffle aplenty when a good portion of the solo swimmers in the Rotto swim were pulled from the water when they found a big shark swimming amongst them. Hardly surprising in those waters.

The brouhaha erupted because swimmers pulled from the water thus lost their chance of a finish and a time in the event. But, according to some swimmers, some of them got back in, finished and were credited with the swim.

Few would argue with the decision to pull the swimmers out, but one swimmer told us afterwards they were disappointed that there didn’t seem to be a protocol in place for resuming the swim once the all-clear was given, thus giving those who got out the chance to finish the swim. (Perhaps there was such a protocol and this swimmer didn’t know.)

Afterwards, Rotto awgies posted on their Facebook page...

Following the events of yesterday, we would like to update you and reiterate that swimmer safety is our priority. This is the first time the Rottnest Channel Swim has experienced having a 3-4m white pointer in the fleet and we understand the disappointment you feel with not being able to complete your crossing.

Our race committee implemented the safety plan to ensure the wellbeing of swimmers, with ongoing monitoring of the situation.

For those affected, we will be offering you priority entry in the 2019 event and we will be in touch with you in the coming weeks.

Our post event survey will be sent to all swimmers and skippers - we look forward to receiving your feedback.

According to the meeja, the swimmer who first spotted the shark was Eli Ball, who swims Sydney events butterfly. You can read Eli’s account, as recounted by the meeja… Click here

Wetties make you faster

Here's news: There’s an academic study of the effect of wetties on swim speed, and who wears them. It's in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. The study focuses on swimmers who attempt the Straits of Gibraltar. You can read the study… Click here

Thanks to Peter Hancock for drawing it to our attention.

fiji yasawas blue lagoon sunset 1501
Sundown from Blue Lagoon, on the Blue Lagoon in Fiji's Yasawas.

Heron dead

Who can raise their hand?

Sad news: the Great Barrier Reef Swim on Heron Island is no more. There’s new ownership and management at Heron Island Resort, and they have decided that the event is not worth their while, financially. That surprises us, having worked with the previous resort managers for seven years of highly successful and, more to the point, fun events. All the words we've had over those years were about how financially successful the event was for the previous owners/managers, but now we're told we don't know nuthin'.

Perhaps there's another location on the Great Barrier Reef that might like to host this swim? (On the reef, not inside it. There's no comparison between the water.) Green Island hosts a swim, but they rather keep to themselves. A friend in Cairns once suggested swim along the reef off Cairns between two snorkelling platforms.

As a consequence, in any case, we’re planning a second oceanswimsafari to Fiji’s Yasawas after the Mana Fiji SwimFest in late October. The dates would be October 27-November 4 (or Oct 28-Nov 4 if you're already on Mana Island for the Mana swim beforehand). We’re already running a Yasawas oceanswimsafari before the Mana event, but it’s full. If there is enough interest, we’ll now run another Yasawas trip afterwards.

This oceanswimsafari is perfect for groups of friends and individuals alike. You don’t need to have done Mana Island first, but you can do both, if you like. The Yasawas experience is very different to Mana Island.

Check out our Yasawas oceanswimsafari page to see what this experience is like. We have not updated the page for the second trip yet – we found out about the cancellation of Heron Island only yesterday – but it gives you the basics.

To find out more about our Yasawas oceanswimsafaris… Click here

fiji mana north beach 10

Speaking of Mana Island...

We’ve released our packages for Mana Island in Fiji, this year running core dates of October 23-28. There are two swim days in the Mana Fiji SwimFest – a 10km day on the Thursday, when you can do the 10km solo or as part of a 3-swimmer relay team; and on the Saturday, you can do 5km, 2.5km or 1km, or a combination of 1km with one of the other two longer distances.

We’re particularly excited this year, because we’ll be joined on Mana Island by three of the best and best known ocean swimmers in the world, Trent and Codie Grimsey, and New Zealand’s Brent Foster. You’ll get to swim with the world’s best.

Mana Island Resort have a new pricing structure this year, with all meals bundled into the room rate. It makes the room rate a bit higher, but then you’re not up for meals on top of the room. It makes a lot of sense, and follows what a number of other Fijian resorts already do with their meals.

We have a special oceanswimmer’s package available for Mana Island offering 25 per cent off standard rates with a 30-minute Mana Spa experience (swimmers only), if you book through oceanswims.com/oceanswimsafaris.com. That deal lasts only till March 31, when it will rise to a 20 per cent discount from the standard rate. So get in now.

You can use the 10km at Mana Island as a qualifying swim for Rottnest, the following February. While Mana falls just prior to the Rotto qualifying period, awgies accept it with, we understand, a diary of your training in between times.

The great thing about swimming at Mana Island is that you're staying right on the reef, just a few minutes walk from the most beautiful swimming water, and your courses for each event. You can tumble out of bed each morning straight into reef water, and you don't spend hours each day on transfer buses and ferries. Once you're on Mana, you're there, where it matters. There's nothing to compare with that.

To find out more about the Mana Fiji SwimFest and to book… Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff?

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(See posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Freshwater this weekend

freshwater pano DHD
Photograrph of Freshwater by Glistening Dave (David Helsham, @glistennr)

The first weekend of autumn, and the season moves into its best phase for ocean swimming: the soporific haze dissipates, the air cools, but the water stays warm, the occasional gentle offshore breeze smoothing the sea and pushing the blueys away from land. It's autumn, or fall if you're reading this on the other side of the Pacific. Autumn is the best time of year to swim. It's also filled with all those beautiful boutique swims, smaller but interesting in their own way, more personal, all with their own backstories.

This weekend, it's Freshwater, where the surf club awgies honour their late legend, Barney Mullins, with the Barney Mullins Swim Classic. Just one distance: 1.5km.

Freshwater is a lovely day out. And the best news: there's a high tide shortly after swim start, so there'll be water aplenty. It won't be the Barney Mullins Biathlon, as it can be if this swim falls on a low tide.

Freshwater has a glorious history. It's where Duke Kahanamokou put on a display of surf board riding that's credited with starting surfboard riding in Strã'a. You dan still see the Duke's board, used in that display, on show in the Freshwater clubhouse.

Online entries close at 3pm on Saturday, March 3. More info and enter online… Click here

King of the Bays moves

Awgies behind the King of the Bays swim, the final event in the NZ ocean swim series, have moved the venue from Takapuna down the shore to Devonport, citing water quality concerns with the original, long-standing venue. The date remains April 14, but distances have been changed to 2.5km and 750m, to better suit the venue. Find out more... Click here

oceanswimsafaris

Spots open up in Tonga

tonga jump into the water

We thought we’d pretty much run out of space on our three oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with whales in July-August, but a couple of punters have pulled out and we now have a couple of rooms available in our second group (July 24-Agust 1), and our third group (July 31-August 8). If you’re wondering what it’s like to swim with whales, check out our video from last year’s oceanswimsafaris in Tonga… Click here

sulawesi dawn 1607Exotic Sulawesi

We also have a few rooms left at our most exotic location, Sulawesi, to where we’re running two oceanswimsafaris in 2018, June 12-21 and June 20-29.

Sulawesi is right out of left field: it’s one of the most beautiful locations you’ll ever bvist, but we’ll wager that, unless we took you there, you would never even hear agout it, let alone visit. We try to find locations that will surprise you and Sulawesi is a fine example of that. Water is profoundly clear with lots of sea life, dramatic landscapes and local culture, and extra-sensory food. We also throw in a day tour around the mountain hinterland, and whitewater rafting. It’s an obscure location, with very few Strã’ans going to Sulawesi, remarkably for it’s so close to us, and easy to access. We go via an overnight in Singapore, then it’s a single flight from there to Manado, in the far north of Sulawesi.

Find out more and book… Click here

We're building a new shopping cart

view selene mirror 05Sorry, our shopping cart is down temporarily... We're building a new one... Rather, someone is building it for us.

In the meantime, if you'd like to buy our merchandise, such as View goggles or other swim gear, tow floats, oceanswims cossies, etc, we can still process your order manually. The old shopping cart still is there, so you can browse that to work out what you'd like, then contact us by email. Some prices have changed a little from the old cart (suppliers change their prices, which means we must review ours).

We can work it out.

To contact us and to order... Click here

Fine ocean swims calendar in NZ

For NZ swims, there is a new website run by former fine ocean swimmers tallies winner Mike Cochrane which is a simple calendar of swim events around the nation. We'll list swims coming up in this newsletter, as well, but to plan ahead, check out Mike's calendar for a comprehensive list of NZ swims... Click here

Swims open to online entry

New... Nowra-Culburra (Mar 31), Pacific Palms (Apri 1), Forster (Apr 8), Mona Vale-Warriewood (Apr 28), Coogee-Bondi (Dec 8)
In the works
... Toowoon Bay (Nov 24)

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