My eldest daughter Precious Princess (PP) used to be a reasonably competent ocean swimmer. She often placed in her age group and took home medals and prizes including towels, goggles, free parking vouchers for the parking station in Manly (handy for the Cole Classic), tote bags and the occasional $$$ cheque.
After the HSC, she stopped swimming to study the fine arts of partying and nightclubbing.
That was two years ago, so I was surprised when she asked if she could join me for The Big Swim, a 2.5 km destination swim from Palm Beach to Whale Beach. I guess she must have graduated.
I registered for her online, expecting her to pull out on the day.
But she didn't.
Davo, whose arm is in a sling following his unfortunate accident on a kiddies' flying fox, drove us to Palmy this morning, a kind gesture considering he won't be back in the water for another six weeks.
We arrived and joined 1700 other punters on the start line - a higgledy- piggledy mess that had no real beginning or end. Usually, swimmers are contained in a clearly defined 'starting pen', so I'm not sure what went wrong today.
The line seemed to shift further south after each wave of competitors went off. Most figured out that the rip, with a sandbank either side, appeared to be their best option.
The start gun sounded unexpectedly just after 10am, surprising the elite swimmers. Fifteen minutes later PP rushed into the surf with the other 12-19 year-olds, grabbing the top of her cossie which looked like it was about to fall to bits.
Davo said he'd catch the shuttle bus around to Whale Beach, where he would have a towel at the ready for PP if she emerged from the water minus cossie.
My group, the 50-59-year-old chicky babes, raced into the surf just as a set of waves hit. Bad timing. I was starting to get despondent as wave after wave rolled in. Finally, I made it through and found myself striding out to the first can at about 400 metres. Then came the slog to the headland through chop that increased as we turned the corner into Whale Beach.
By this time, the last group of swimmers to enter the water, the 40-49 year-old males wearing hot-pink caps, were cutting a swathe through my purple-capped age group.
These blokes are deep in mid-life crisis and feel they have to bludgeon, kick and swim over anything in their path. Today it didn't bother me, as it allowed me to swim in the wake caused by many of them. The water was gorgeous and clear, so I had a chuckle when one of the pink caps swam past me, his belly hanging low in the water - obviously keeping him buoyant.
Coming into the beach at the end of the swim was a chore because I didn't want to get dumped by the neatly spaced but powerful waves. I turned around to check if any waves were bearing down on me and dived back into two. They definitely weren't body-surfing material.
PP was waiting on the shore, cossie intact. She managed a respectable 40 minutes, not bad considering her lack of swim fitness. I wonder if mosh-pit fitness counts for anything?
Photo: Davo, in sling, and PP, in her five-year-old swimming costume, before the swim.