Sunday, 20 February 2011

Malabar Magic Ocean Swim: a nice swim on a sweltering day in Sydney

I feel like I'm entering a different country when I head along Anzac Parade to the eastern suburb of Malabar. Unlike much of Sydney, the terrain is flat - with a moderate hill as you enter Malabar. And then there's the huge median strips that divide the left and right sides of the road, turning it into more of an avenue. I'm sure property developers have eyed the median strips off. And I bet it kills the RTA bigwigs to see so much unused land. It could never happen today.

It appears the developers have sized up and made a claim on every other piece of available land. The sponsor of today's swim, Charter Hall, is developing a massive swatch of land in an area near Little Bay, around the corner from Malabar. Little Bay is also being developed.

Just an aside - I recall that back in the olden days when my Aunty Merle and Uncle Vic lived in Malabar, it wasn't such a desirable suburb because the sewerage plant spewed out effluent close to the shore. I remember the smell. Peeeuuuw. But that's all changed now the crap is pumped further out to sea.

Back to my points about Malabar's points of difference - the other thing is a lack of big shady trees and trees in general. I guess the environment was originally shrubby and windswept. Still is. 

I guess you get used to where you live in Sydney - we all have our tribes and familiar places. I've never been an eastern suburbs girl, except for two years in my 20s when I shared houses in Paddington and Rushcutters Bay. Other than that, I've spent my life in the inner west and the hillier and leafier northern suburbs. When I was growing up we surfed at Narrabeen, Dee Why and Bilgola.

Today I got that weird feeling again of being somewhere alien as I parked and strolled to the beach to register for the Malabar Magic Ocean Swim, with all proceeds going to the Rainbow Club, a charity that helps disabled kids. Actually, before I got to the beach I took a wrong turn and ended up at a rifle range (more land for the developers to ogle). Strange place.

But Malabar Beach is pretty and Long Bay is just that - a long bay. It must be about 1 kilometre in length, because the swim was 2.37 kilometres out and back in to the beach.

When I arrived the 1 km swim was in full swing. The weather was muggy and stinking hot, so many people seeked shelter under the few low spreading trees on the grassy picnic area that runs down to the beach.

Radio announcer and comedian HG Nelson was commentating on the event, as he did in 2010 when the course ran from Malabar around to Little Bay. As I walked to the late registrations tent I heard him announce that the winner of the 1 km event completed the swim in 10 minutes! As the results aren't up on yet I can't give you his name or the exact time, but I do know he's from Japan. He went on to win the 2.37 km event. Incredible. The other elite swimmers finished in around 11 minutes.

While I was getting ready for the 2.37 km swim (applying sunblock) I met a lovely man who'd just done the 1 km swim. He told me that almost every day he and his friends swim across the bay and back - with their dogs! Is that sharkbait or what?

Unlike last year, when the conditions were stomach-churning choppy, this year there was barely a bump on the water's surface. All was calm as the starter gun went off for my age group (we were the second last group to go - the elite swimmers were already half way around the course when I dived into the water).

For me, the nice thing about this swim was the short run into the water at the start and the short run to the finish line at the end of the swim. Malabar Beach is a narrow strip of sand, so swimmers could almost swim to the finish line - that's how close it was to the water. This suited me down to the ground because I tend to lose precious seconds in the runs to and from the water. And I need every second I can get!

I agree with Mr Oceanswims who, on his website described the swim as one for those who like swimming in pools, but I still think the new course is superior to last year's difficult trek from one beach to another.

The Southerly change was meant to kick in this afternoon, but it's still sweltering in Sydney tonight. We didn't get a summer over December, but we're sure getting it in February. YUCK. I'M SWEATY. WHERE'S THE WIND? 

I forgot to take my camera to the swim, so the photo is from
Go there and have a look. There's video of the swim and a blog.

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