Sunday, 21 February 2010

And they say ocean swimming makes you look younger: Malabar to Little Bay

I can't remember who told me that (see headline) but I bet it was some cocky bastard who swims faster than me. And today that was almost everyone.

It's about 10 hours since I struggled through the Malabar to Little Bay Stockland Challenge. I feel like an old ship wreck - crusty, rusty and full of salt water.

I've got a cold (that's my excuse this time) so that didn't help.

But the conditions in the Tasman Sea (Hello New Zealand) were choppier than a slicer dicer. It was uncomfortable all the way and I had trouble spotting the small, orange, conical buoys, which were supposed to keep the swimmers on course.

It looked calm from the shore. Little Bay is a pretty spot and I'd like to go back there with a snorkel and fins to check out the reef.

Up the hill from the beach (one of the few undulations in a flat and arid south-east Sydney) there's a huge Landcom/Stockland medium density housing development on the land once occupied by Prince Henry Hospital. If Davo and I do the swim again next year, there'll be nowhere to park because today we rolled into a sandy, vacant lot earmarked for development.

It was stinking hot, but the vibe was fun where the swim started at Long Bay/Malabar (better known for its maxium security correction centre). Talking of suburbs and reputations, Malabar used to be the exit point for much of Sydney's virtually untreated sewage.

I remember how it used to smell - like shit - because my mum and dad's card-playing friends, Merle and Vic, lived nearby in a house with a lilac coloured bathroom that had a fluffy mauve toilet seat and a toilet-roll dolly. As a child, I adored that bathroom.

Sadly, M and V are long gone, but these days the site at Malabar apparently 'treats and discharges' the sewage via 'deep ocean outfalls'. The Malabar outfall is 3.6 km out to sea.


But back to the swim. It was difficult and tiring. The first 1 km out from Malabar beach past three well-placed buoys seemed to take forever as the swell rose and then fell away sharply. I felt like a cork bobbing in a bowl of water.

I thought the right-hand turn at the headland, which is home to a golf course, would make things easier.
I was wrong. The swell became even more of an impediment to progress. It was hard to see the buoys so I had to focus on the splashing arms of those swimmers in front of me. When I wasn't swallowing water I had my head up, and had to stop a lot to get my bearings (you think I'd learn).

I was happy when it was over.

Will I do it next year? Now I say 'no'. But ocean swimming is like childbirth, after a while the memory of the pain recedes. And then you go and do it again.


Sandie Hudson said...

Shayne, just reading your post makes me feel old. I'd never make it past the first wave, you know the one that comes rolling onto the shore.

Madness. I'll stick to writing my two stories and editing at the sametime I think. LOL.

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