Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bilgola Ocean Swim 2012: a Northern Beaches gem

Will I? Won't I? Will I? Won't I? Will I do the Bilgola ocean swim?

Sometimes I do my own head in.

The problem was the prediction for a big surf on Sunday. I don't like big surf. It's scary. I've been dumped, smashed and mashed by dumpers more times than I care to remember. I've also been creamed at Bilgola, which is the reason for the tedious procrastination.

The 1.5 km Bilgola swim starts at 11am. At 8.30 I made up my mind, dragged Miss Hissy into the car and hooned it up the highway to the Northern Beaches. My friend Mrs Loveachat lives at Mona Vale, so we stopped at her place and chucked her in the car. When we arrived at Bilgola we bumped into my friends Mr and Mrs Snorkel. It's always good to have a cheer squad to boost the ego when you stagger across the finish line.

By the way, it was a beautiful day - you can see that from the photos. The surf was up but not as gnarly as I thought it would be so I forked out the $30 late registration fee and joined the other mug punters on the sand at the starting line.

Bilgola is one of my favourite Sydney beaches. It's a sheet of golden sand tucked in between two headlands at the bottom of a narrow winding road, where a small number of luxurious residences nestle in the bushland. A secret hideaway.

At its southern end is an ocean pool where the less adventurous can doddle or do laps. If the surf's up the waves crash over the concrete barrier and flow into the pool. I'm sighing as I think of it. Sublime.

The swim's start and finish was towards the northern end of the beach. The course was clearly marked with cylindrical orange buoys (the best type). Two of these each had a balloon attached so the swimmers had a good guide.

I was in the last wave to enter the water. We were lucky because there was a lull in the sets coming through - the wave of swimmers before us copped some big ones. I made it out to the first buoy much quicker than I expected. The rest of the swim was a delight. It was so different from the conditions in last Sunday's Bondi to Bronte. I managed to get a rhythm going with my stroke as there was no unruly swell to hinder me. Getting back in was harder and I did a naughty thing by ducking back under a wave rather than trying to catch it.

The Hiss, the Snorkels and Mrs Loveachat clapped and shouted as I ran (if that's the word for it) up the beach.

About 45 minutes later the Southerly came in and the weather turned nasty. This is happening a lot in Sydney - sun-drenched mornings followed by rain-soaked afternoons. The Hiss and I drove home in a storm, shuddering every time lightning blitzed the sky. 

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