• Personal Stories

'Beyond' by Sally Mayman: A pictorial celebration of belonging on Sydney's Northern Beaches

Sally Mayman captured her fellow swimmers and their connections with the sea during the many Covid lockdowns and turned them into a fine art book.

Words and photos by Sally Mayman

Avalon Beach and its rock pool community hold special places in my heart.

Every dawn during the 2021 winter lockdown I photographed the oceans raw energy and power, as well as her serene beauty. I felt blessed to be there, feeling the rhythms of the sea while observing and capturing peoples interactions with the natural world.

These timeless connections are physical but also deeply emotional and spiritual. They are intimately woven with our sense of belonging and well being.

Through this time of uncertainty, the sun continued to rise, waves continued rolling in and we continued coming. Bound by and bonded by the sea we love, it bought us together with certainty and purpose in what was an ever-shifting world.

I loved capturing my fellow thalassophile’s joy, sharing a passion for swimming, surfing and being part of something greater than ourselves. In the liminal space between night and day, between land and sea, I found these images.

Having photographed every dawn since the first lockdown in March 2020, I curated thousands of images into three handmade artist books. These books are labours of love which I hand print to order. With my fellow swimmers’ encouragement, I designed and printed a hardcover book with 64 images from the winter lockdown series.

‘Beyond’ captures a unique time in our collective histories. It is a celebration of belonging and a thank you to my courageous friends for welcoming me each morning and sharing this story.

With my regular photography work again on lockdown hold, ocean swimming and creating “beyond” nurtured my emotional and creative wellbeing, both of which had faulted from time to time during the previous year.

To this end, $10 from each book sale supports Avalon One Eighty, an organisation with roots on the northern beaches and a vision for a future free of youth suicide.



The wonderful benefits of ocean swimming are well documented, known and felt by many of us. The Rockie Beach swimmers however add another layer, taking this joy to a different level. The Avalon Pool “ rock off ” is never straightforward, adrenalin flows making the leap for freedom so much sweeter. Low tide brings a rock shelf to avoid, while high tide and large swells make patience and timing crucial. Everyone sports a scrape, graze, twist or tear as a souvenir but it’s the camaraderie and care for each other that continually stands out. With varying abilities, there is no pressure to jump, everyone is supported in their decision. Somedays a ‘flutter’ in the gutter is the best option.

On this morning, the sun burst through a ‘God‘ hole for 20 seconds, miraculously just as a rogue wave cashed over the rock platform. To capture the seas alive energy and motion I shoot with a slow shutter speed. There is a moment as you stand under a wave raining down, that you freeze, this was when I caught Louise, Archie, Nick, Di, Clarky, Gem & Murray in focus.

After the leap, there is a swim out beyond the break, sometimes short sometimes battling rips and then finally calm and time to regroup before swimming across the beach. Here swimming as one, watching stingrays and whiting as the swell rolls beneath you is a feeling I find difficult to describe in words!

In the Clouds Avalon Beach

In the Clouds Avalon Beach

Sherry and Nick, appear in the clouds as they wait patiently to “rock off”. Light, movement, energy and texture, a fluid and ever-changing sea.

Home Avalon Beach

Home Avalon Beach

Winter clarity, Avalon looking like a tropical island! In calm conditions, we swim back to the pool and climb onto the rocks for the full rock to rock experience. In autumn and winter, the sea looks cleaner and feels different, maybe there are fewer particles in suspension?! It feels like silk on your skin and is easier to glide through.

Beyond is a fine art hardback book, 30cm x 30cm, with 60 images, 64 pages, acid free eggshell paper, manufactured with wind power. $10 from each sale goes to ONE EIGHTY, an organisation founded on the Northern Beaches with a vision for a future free of youth suicide.

To order your copy of Beyond, visit turtlepictures.com.au/collections/beyond

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 14 February 2022
  • (Updated on 4 August 2023)

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