Let me take you back to the North Bondi 1 km and 2 km Ocean Swim in 2009.
Last year the event was held on Sunday, February 8, the day after the bushfires in Victoria had attracted national attention.
On that Sunday morning the crowd at North Bondi had no idea of the devastation being wreaked by the wild blazes down south, though there was a minute's silence at 9am to commemorate those who'd lost their lives. The count was around five in the morning, but that was just the beginnning. When it was all over later that week, the death toll was 173 babies, children, women and men.
At the 2009 swim, the temperature in Sydney was in the high 30s. It was stinking hot and cloudless. In contrast, the water temperature was around 16 degrees. It was bloody ball-breaking freezing (and I don't even have balls). After last year's swim, several poor sods suffered serious hypothermia and had to be wrapped in alfoil to re-heat their frozen bones. One was rushed to hospital.
This year was a different story. It's been raining all weekend in Sydney, though the humidity makes it hard to breathe.
Davo, my friend Ms Five-Star-Around-The-World and I arrived in overcast and drizzly conditions, wondering about the debris that would have flowed into the ocean over the past few days. It was there when we went in for a pre-swim dip - bits of leaf and wood, polystyrene balls and other junk. But the water was clear and (thank the Lord) a pleasant 20 degrees (my guess).
To cut a long story short, which I find hard, the swim was a dream.
Davo and I followed the rip that runs beside the North Bondi rockpool out to the first buoy and it was magic. I often dive into an ocean swim and think, why the hell am I doing this? Today, I thought, this is just what I want heaven to be like. The rip gave me a gentle push as I observed rocks, reeds and schools of small fish on the way to the first buoy. Davo says he saw a ray, but I missed it.
The rest of the swim was a joy until I got tired towards the end (too much wine last night?) and swam wide (always a good excuse for not beating Davo). I didn't even mind the woman who swung a left at me around Mackenzies Point, almost dislodging my goggles.
Coming in was easy because the surf was small and there were no strong currents. Apologies to the hardcore ocean swimmers, but for me these are perfect conditions.
The North Bondi swim is always inspiring PLUS swimmers get a goody bag full of freebies, which doesn't often happen at other events - anybody want a sample sachet of chilli beef-jerky?
To finish on a more solemn note, I feel so bloody lucky to be able to do this. What a great way to celebrate life.
PS: pic from http://www.oceanswims.com/ from the 2009 event, I think.