December 13, 2019

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Emailed to more than 38,000 ocean swimmers
weekly in season.

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The Dawnbusters enter the water at Bongin bongin Bay, on Sydney's northern beaches, on a recent relatively smoke-free morn. Image by David Helsham (@glistenrr)

Look below...

Swims this weekend...

Coaching mouth-to-mouth

Pluto Pups at the ocean baths

When we were kids, we all had our safe places; our fun places; places that gave us the experiences that, as we grow older, we feel moulded us into whom we are now. We Strã’ans, and plenty of Kiwis, no doubt – for we are all one -- often included in our back-of-the-mind list of such places our fave recreation areas, such as our beaches, our swimming holes, and our pools. We like to think of ourselves as nations of swimmers, if only because so many of us live right up against water, and the beach, the river, the lake and the pool play such a large part in our lives. Whether that perception is justified is another matter, and one we’re looking forward to hearing more about from Shane Gould, who completed recently her PhD thesis in which she critiques this “identity narrative”. Shane now is turning her thesis into a book.

That said, in life, especially at times in which identity is all, perceptions are far more important than reality, so if we as individuals see ourselves as nations of swimmers, then that’s what we are. It will follow, if the votes are there.

It also follows that our lives revolving around swimming (and by extension surfing and all other nautical activities) form a particularly important part of our personal development. When we wuz kids, for example, we spent all our waking hours when not at school on the stretch of sand from Caves Beach to Hams Beach. We surfed often in the mornings before school, and pretty well always in the afternoons after school. Even if there was no surf, in winter, we’d play touch footy on the beach every day after school, where we were sometimes joined by Sammy Hincks, the 1st grade half-back for Lakes United. Sammy lived across the road from us, up the hill from the beach. We have vivid memories still of our excitement when Mr Cobbin, also across the road, told us that Sammy was about to move in right opposite. These are memories that stay with us till death.

the set poster 300Between 4th form (when we completed our School Certificate) and the start of 5th form, we spent three months solid at the beach, 8am-6pm, every day, save for the mornings for three weeks prior to Xmas when we worked as postpersons and Head Telegram Boy at Swansea Post Office. Over that period, we grew our first beard, and left it on as we commenced 5th form. At Swansea High, others, with patchier coverings, had been ordered to shave when they attempted beards. But at the assembly on the first day back, the school disciplinarian, Frank Phelan, a metalwork/woodwork teacher renowned for copping no shite from anyone, patrolled the ranks, hands clasped behind him as he ambled along, inspecting the troops. When Frank got to us, he stopped. Frank, mind, was the one who’d ordered other lads to shave. Our cobbers either side of us sniggered, supportively. Frank turned his head; he raised and lowered it; he took in what we offered from all possible angles; he took a half a step back, and he said, “That’s a real rooter.” And he walked off, hands clasped behind his back, as if whistling nonchalantly, continuing his patrol. We’re still not sure what “a real rooter” is in the context of a beard, but there you go.

All these things make up our identities. We were known around the district as “the Caves Beach surfer”, although it wasn’t as if there were no other surfers at Caves Beach. Along the Caves-Hams stretch, there were lots of us, although attaching the “Caves Beach” appellation was disparaging, particularly from the source from which it emanated – an unfriendly rival at school who surfed at Nine Mile, across the other side of Swansea Channel. Caves itself was not known for the quality of its board waves. Other beaches offered better breaks, such as Hams, which is why we included the other end of our beach in our ambit. It was a mile from the rocks at Caves to Frenchmans Rock at the other end of Hams, but it was always a mile worth walking.

On the beach, we also were the uncredited technical advisers on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for “The Set”, a soft-porn movie made on the beach over the summer holiday in 1970. One scene had the hero (Rod Mullinar) administer mouth-to-mouth to the heroine, who wore a crocheted bikini with no lining. We were standing in the crowd watching the filming of the rescue scene, when the director, another bloke called Frank (Brittain, this time, not Phelan, who would never have been involved in a project like this) pointed at us in the crowd, snapped his fingers and said, “You… Show us how to do mouth-to-mouth”. So we knelt down next to the girl with the crocheted bikini-with-no-lining and “administered” mouth-to-mouth, although we administered it the way we did it in surf club training, ie we blew down the side of her cheek rather than engage her inviting, pouting lips, which we weren’t game to try. Then Rod took over. We could never see how mouth-to-mouth administered as full-on tonsil hockey pash could have revived anyone. If anything, Rod’s mouth-to-mouth, tongue implanted firmly down her gullet, would have stopped her breathing, not made her recommence it. Rod was much bigger’n her.

Anyway, these were all experiences that made up our happy place.

Prior to the beach, we also had Newcastle Ocean Baths. We were members of the Newcastle Police Boys Amateur Swimming Club, which rolled off the tongue mellifluously as an anagram across the back of our monochrome tracksuit, NPBASC. We swam with the NPBASC when we lived at Stockton, the workin’ klass suburb across the harbour from Newcastle. This meant solo treks on the ferry across the harbour on Sat’dee morns, then a schlepp up Scott St to the Topper Town (The Top of Town), and down the hill to the baths, where we’d sign up for the free and breast events, initially in D2 grade, but building eventually, as we recall, to an ultimate stint in C.

Newcastle Ocean Baths was a magical place. There was a big, open pool that seemed to be about 100 yards (metres weren’t invented in Strã’a then) long and 50 yards wide. There was a wooden diving board covered in coir matting for grip. There were light poles on concrete plinths in the middle. Along the far end, on weekday afternoons, we sometimes tagged along as a cobber did swim training with an actual coach.

At the northern end of the baths, nestled beneath the bleachers, and behind a narrow boardwalk, which we’d dive beneath when the grown-ups weren’t looking, was the 55-yard competition pool. We’d get there early; we’d find a position on the top of the bleachers; and we’d spend an hour or three sprawled across the top row of seating, watching not the races below us, but the surfers in the Cowrie Hole next door, and we’d dream. One day, we would be surfers. If you’ve seen the movie, Young Einstein, you’ll know the Cowrie Hole. It’s a bay in the rock shelf right next to the baths. It’s where the movie’s surfing scenes were shot.

We had crowded living conditions at that time, so our mornings at the baths were our special space. But that’s not to say the Newcastle Ocean Baths weren’t crowded, too. The sprawling, general purpose pool, especially, would always be full of Novacastellian yoof, interacting. That pool would get so crowded that interaction was inevitable. A few years back, a bloke we’d known as kids was charged with sexual assault after a bit of such interaction. He’d always had difficulty socially. Our cohort bore some responsibility for that, we always felt.

memory pool cover 250We went to the Ocean Baths alone, although we knew plenty of other swimmers in the club (with some of whom we also did judo on Friday nights at the Police Boys Club itself). There was a lot of noise about the races: the shouting and barracking, the marshalling, the counting out of the handicap times, the excitement of place finishes… The sea water was always bracing, and exciting at times when the swell at high tide sent waves crashing over the promenade into the competition pool, which could give you a nice lift in the swim. We don’t recall them ever closing the baths because of intruding swell during the NPBASC Sat’dee meets, not like they do for those pussycats at the Icebergs at Bondi.

And at the end of it, there was a reward.

For us, Newcastle Ocean Baths will always be associated with Pluto Pups, their aroma, and their flavour. What’s a Pluto Pup? Visitors to the Royal Easter Show will know them as Dagwood Dogs. They’re a frankfurt on a stick, dipped heavily in batter, deep fried – in the days when deep frying was in animal fat, not oil, as if a frankfurt needed any more of it -- then dipped generously in a tub of tomato sauce, back when tomato sauce was more tomatoes than sugar. So a morning at the NPBASC would end inevitably with exit through the kiosk for a Pluto Pup, which we’d been scenting all morning, the aroma drawing us like a cartoon dog elevated trance-like by the scent of a bone. We’d munch it slowly, drawing it out (much as today we can draw out a large skim latté for as long as three hours) as we schlepped back up the hill to the Topper Town, then down Scott St to the ferry wharf, heading home to Nan’s place. This was no easy trek, mind you. We barefooted in those days. Too poor for thongs (flip-flops). And in summer, the street between the baths and the ferry wharf would get so hot that Channel 3 News once ran a segment in which they fried an egg on the footpath. It was on one such day that, when we got to the wharf, there were two teenage girls waiting on the steps down to the harbour. They had an alarm clock on the steps; they kept consulting it, for some reason, and they would dip their feet into the cool of the harbour whilst they waited on the ferry. It was that scene, back in 1963, that remains etched in our psyche; that makes the Newcastle Harbour Australia Day Swim Classic one of our fave swims.

These are some of our memories. Now, ocean swimmer and blogger Therese Spruhan has collected a whole lot of memories – 28 including her own — from all kinds of punters in The Memory Pool, effectively a set of short memoirs of Strã’ans and their memories of their fave swimming holes as youngsters. Therese yarned with all those who contributed, then essentially transcribed the conversations so the memories are much as they expressed them.

The Memory Pool makes a noice Xmas present for the special swimmer in your life. Or just buy it for yourself.

The Memory Pool (New South Publishing, part of UNSW Press, 2019), by Therese Spruhan.

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New goggles - The rush continues

Selene Swipe, no fog

Our most popular gog, the View Selene, now has a revolutionary, hi-tech version offering anti-fog capacity that lasts 10 times as long as existing goggles, the makers say. The Selene Swipe has technology in its interior lens coating that allows you to clear fog from the lens simply by "swiping" your finger across it.

According to the makers, the "10 times as long" refers to distance they say you can swim before you start to see some fogging with new goggles. They say the standard is 4km, but the Swipes will go 40kms. Whatever, all gogs will fog if you don't respect them and look after them. The issue also is how to deal with the fogging if and when it does occur.

view 820ASA selene swipe 450We've been wearing our new Swipes for 23 swims so far (at the time of writing) hoping they will fog so that we can try the Swipe technology, but the stubborn things refuse to fog. On our last two swims, there was a bit of fog, which went away instantly we swiped across it.

This is the third model of the Selene that we've added to our online store, after the regular Selenes and the Mirrored Selenes. We've sold a lot of swipes since we released them a week ago. Stocks available in Australia are severely limited at the moment, but we've bought up almost the entire current supply, especially of the more popular colours.

Selene is one of the best value gogs you will ever find. And made with an extra wide silicone seal, the Selene is probably the most comfortable low-profile gog you'll find, and it doesn't leave you with Rocky Raccoon marks around your eyes. The Selene Swipe offers anti-fog performance that's 10 times longer than normal, and a swiping lens durability offering 1,500 swipes without degrading performance.

Selene Swipe comes in Blue (BL), Light Blue (CLB), Lavender (LV), Black (Smoke) (BK), Brown (BR).

Find out more and order Selene Swipes... Click here

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So this is Xmas...

This will be our last newsletter prior to December 25, so to all of you, have a good Xmas. Remember, Xmas is a celebration of family and friendship. Appreciate those close to you, and enjoy their company. They are what makes life worth living.

Appreciate everyone else, too, even those you don't know. We are all part of our community; we are all one.

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daves calendar 150 shopGlistening Dave's calendar - Only 6 left!

We've had lots of orders for Glistening Dave's oceanswims calendar 2020. Now, Dave has just six copies left. If you want yours, then get your order in quick and smart. As soon as those six are gone, we'll be taking them down from our shopping cart. 

Dave's calendar highlights some of his fave scenes from the previous 12 months. It carries pretty well every swim date, and is a daily inspiration to all ocean swimmers, everywhere.

The absolutely perfect Xmas present for the ocean swimmer, Dave's calendar will be despatched in late November-early December, but best order yours now... Click here

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Entries online this weekend...

Sunday, Mona Vale-Warriewood

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The Chieftain Challenge can be completed by individuals or broken up into legs for up to four competitors -teams of 2, 3 or 4. Changes can be made at any flag point along the route.

This event combines beach running and swimming from Mona Vale basin to Warriewood beach – no shoes required. With a $250 Cash Prize for the first solo male and first solo female across the finish line.

Total swim distance is 1.9km broken into four legs, interspersed with three runs totaling 1.5km ending with a 50m sprint up the beach to the line.

Online entries close at 3pm on Saturday, December 14.

More info and to enter online... Click here
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2020 oceanswimsafaris

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Swim with whales in Tonga.

March 12-16 – Coromandel New Zealand – A long weekend away in one of the most beautiful parts of the temperate Pacific, the Coromandel Peninsula. The feature event is the Cathedral Cove swim, but just being in this stunningly beautiful place is a tonic… Click here

June 12-20 – The Philippines – Swim with whale sharks in another paradise of some of the clearest water of the greatest marine biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific region… Click here

June 23-July 1 – Sulawesi, Indonesia – More of the clear water and great marine biodiversity at the other end of the Celebes Sea from our Philippines location. This is a place that hardly any Strá’an visits. It’s pretty well just us... Click here

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A tender scene by la Concha, San Sebastián.

July 20-28, July 27-August 4 – Tonga – Swim with Humpback Whales (above) – One of the most unusual, special experiences you can ever have swimming in the ocean. The humpbacks migrate over winter from Antarctica to Tonga to give birth and generally frolic around. Tonga is one of the few places in the world where we’re allowed to get in the water with the whales (under rules, of course)… Click here

August 25-31 – San Sebastián, Spain – Swim the Basque country, with its rich mix of culture, food, and history. And the swimming’s terrific, too. That's San Sebastián, above -- A romantic evening on the bay of la Concha... A must-stop during anyone’s trip to Europe… Click here

September 12-20 – Costa Brava, Spain – Swim Catalonia, and France to Spain around the end of the Pyrenees. Another journey through history, art, culture and food, and some of the clearest water you’ll ever swim in… Click here

October 20-25 - Mana Fiji SwimFest - Packages will be ready soon, so watch this space… Click here

October 26-Nov 2 - Yasawas Fiji -  Packages are online now… Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff? We received a lot of constructive feedback after last week's newsletter. Check it out... Click here

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

We received this feedback from Peter Trefely after last week's newsletter...

To the writer of Ocean Swimmer. I am a swimmer and enjoy the articles but I have difficulty with the idiosyncratic spelling that continually pops up. It seems to be a bit of self indulgence. Maybe people bred in Australia can figure it out but people for whom English is a second language will have no hope. Perhaps you don’t care. You may not be interested in communicating with people born overseas. It would nice if you could use standard spelling so everyone could understand your articles. Or are you purposely excluding “foreigners”. Publish this and see what other people think.

We posted Peter's comment in feedback to last week's newsletter, and that itself generated a deal of feedback on feedback. Controversy indeed. Check it out... Click here... And have your own say... Click here 

Also, Peter Nickless still hopes for reaction to his question: "Are Jammers fair dinkum for ocean swim races?  Like to know what others think."

(Also see posts at the end of this newsletter.)

Swims open to online entry...

Coming soon...
  • Mar 9 - Port Noarlunga (SA)

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For swim results... Click here

If you have a link to results that we have not listed, please send it to us... Click here

List your swim group...

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  • Bruce MacDonald Comment Link
    Bruce MacDonald
    Friday, 13 December 2019 22:40
    When I read your Pluto Pup article I thought I was reading about my own misspent youth at Newcastle Baths.I believe you are 2 or 3 years younger than myself but my mum and Hazel Harvey would have done the registration and handicapping.I was a bit disappointed you didn't mention the life threatening 3 storey timber diving tower but perhaps you were too young at the time.
    I am guessing you are about Stephen Dawson's (Stocko Boy) age.I can recall Stephen after fossicking in the Cowrie Hole rock shelf and finding a small octopus showing the rest of us how it changed to brilliant blue and yellow colours as he stroked it on the palm of his hand.
    The Ocean.........more fun than 68 Christmasses. Swim 'til you drop.

    os.c: Steve was in our class at Stockton Primary. Interesting that he survived that blue-ringed occie incident, which we'd not known about till now. We first heard of blue-ringed occies from the Sunday papers after an off-duty soldier picked one up on the rock shelf at North Head, placed it in the palm of his hand, and he was gone.
  • Bob Hill Comment Link
    Bob Hill
    Friday, 13 December 2019 22:37
    Hi Ocean Swims: “The Set” film that you referred to in our newsletter, despite Rod Mullinar’s hockey tonsil scene (on Caves Beach... or was it Fraser Park?), is now seen as gay landmark in Oz films...

    I also remember one critic describing the Hazel Phillips’ breasts in her nude beach scene (definitely Fraser Park) as “2 running fried eggs”

    os.c: The scenes we witnessed definitely were Caves, not Fraser, Bob. But they used a number of locations around the area. They shot around there because one of the financial backers was Caves's John Quinney, Art Mawson.
  • Helen Connolly Comment Link
    Helen Connolly
    Friday, 13 December 2019 21:11
    Fair suck of the sav mate, we're Aussies. This is how we speak and write- with lots of slang. We like to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously. This ain't the place for strict political correctness. If there's anything you don't understand, just ask us, we're happy to fill you in. Editor - perhaps you need an Aussie translation at the bottom of each article. EG. Straya = Australia. Kiwi = People who come from New Zealand. Or a large flightless bird. Depends on the context.

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