The 2009/10 ocean swims season is officially over, so here are my five personal favourites from a tally of 15 swims that started in late November with the Dawny swim and ended in early May at Byron Bay.
Top 5 Ocean Swims in NSW
1. Pool to Peak Newport Swim: It was a miserable day on Sunday, January 3, so it was with some trepidation that I drove to Newport on the northern beaches all by myself. Lucky I did. It was a delightful 2 km swim, made all the more enjoyable by the relaxed community vibe. Swims like this seem to be disappearing as the sport grows exponentially and takes on a competitive and commercial tone.
2. Alone again, naturally... oh, except for my old bastard dad (he never reads my blog, God bless him), who grudgingly accompanied me to the Dawny to Cockatoo Island Challenge. This 2.3 km swim takes place in late November in a murky Sydney Harbour. You can't see the bottom. In fact, you can't see past your goggles.
But hey, who cares if a family of bull sharks is checking out the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord as some boofy old Balmain boys charge along the course, which circumnavigates Cockatoo Island in Sydney's inner-west?
My take on this is you can learn to love this swim if you keep the dawn (before the sun rises, not Dawn Fraser) and dusk theory in the top of your mind*.
The Dawny swim has everything - great location, strong sense of community, glorious views of the Harbour Bridge and CentrePoint Tower during the swim and yummy tropical fruit afterwards. Oh, and the fear factor makes you swim faster.
3. The Big Swim - Palm Beach to Whale Beach: I didn't enjoy this 2.7 km sprint in 2009, but in 2010 I had a ball. It always seems to take forever to turn the corner to Whale Beach, but this year I remained focussed and revelled in the beauty of a clear blue ocean on a perfect day.
Around 1900 eejits registered for the event, which annually falls on the last Sunday in January. Another reason why I got a thrill out of this swim was because, with a time of 56.28 - and that's slow, I beat the Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (1.07.09). Say no more.
4. As the season progressed, my times went into crash-and-burn mode. But even though I did my worst time in three years at the Mollymook Ocean Swim Classic in April, 2010, I still rate it as one of the best swims on the calendar.
I love it because it's a destination swim, starting at the northern end of Mollymook Beach and finishing at the southern end. It's also a real community event, with all the locals involved. Overall, it's a great day in a lovely part of the world. Plus, I get to spend the weekend with my sister, her hubby (my swimming partner Davo) and my two nephews.
5. Byron Bay Winter Whales Ocean Swim Classic in the first weekend of May: Read my recent post on this swim. It's sort of like Goldilocks and The Three Bears when Goldilocks finds the perfect chair, the most delicious porridge and the comfy bed. She just can't believe her luck.
Everything is 'just right'.
*The theory is that a shark's meal time is around dawn and then again at dusk. Mmm...
PS The photo is of the Dawn Fraser pool in Balmain - the swim is held in the harbour beyond the enclosure.