The day started with a hot sun blazing above us. I played the lonely card and convinced my youngest daughter, Miss Hissy (aka The Hiss), to accompany me on the drive to the northern beaches.
We got to the rugby field at Newport at around 9.45am and caught the courtesy bus to Bilgola beach, which is located at the bottom of a winding road.
It's a pretty spot, rimmed by bush that protects an enclave of luxury homes from prying eyes. The beach is an arc of golden sand that stretches for 400 metres from end to end. There's a pool for laps built into the rock platform at the southern end, a first-class surf club and more recently a cafe in the car park. It's all you need!
The Hiss registered late (I paid) and we smothered ourselves in SPF 30, not even considering the southerly that was on its way.
In the blink of an eye, it arrived. The wind coursed in from around the corner at Newport and brought the clouds with it, at first all misty and laden with the moisture picked up on the journey north.
Then it turned nasty. Dark and leaden, wind in a frenzy, sand stinging our calf muscles and stabbing our eyes.
The surf that initially looked quite orderly, now appeared totally confused. Slush mush. Boom crash. All over the shop.
The swim usually runs in a clockwise direction but just before it started at 11am the organisers changed the direction to anti-clockwise. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed but it made sense because it meant we wouldn't have to swim head on into the wind. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Anyway, this suited me because I breathe to the left. Yay. Small party in my head before the swim even started. It meant I would breathe towards the beach for part of the swim. A better view than out to sea.
The Hiss went in before me with the red cap brigade and my lot, old codgers in the green, waded in last.
By this time, everyone entered the surf to the left of the course (towards the northern end of the beach) because we'd seen the elite swimmers, who went off first, totally stuff up. Most ran straight ahead and found themselves in a current travelling south.
Getting in was fun. I took my time, rinsed goggles, drank in the scene. No rush. It's not like I'm gonna win anything. The women in my age group are friggin' legends.
Once over the sand bank and into the slop it became a hard slog. At first I thought it had started to rain, but the water pelting down in big, hard drops was blowing off the top of the swell.
Several weeks ago, I'd swum in similar conditions when the southerly blew in just before the Bondi to Bronte swim. This was the same deal but I reckon today's conditions were more challenging.
One of the problems for me (and others, by the sounds of the afterswim chat in the ladies' changeroom) was that I found it hard to see the cylindrical orange buoys, even though red balloons were attached to the tops.
At 1.5 kilometres, this is not a long swim. There were five buoys: two at the start/end and three others on the course. I couldn't see the third one, positioned near Bilgola Head to the north. The wind must have knocked it over, and the chop limited my ability to see ahead.
The water safety paddlers did an amazing job, directing eejits like me back on course.
I lost my goggles on the way back in but that's not because of the waves. In fact, coming back in was pretty cool, with soft sudsy waves giving me the push I needed. I should have taken the goggles off and held on to them before I decided to let the wave swoosh me to the shore.
I was tired but at least I hadn't had to deal with big waves that scare the crap out of me (Stanwell Park comes to mind - fear of god waves).
I did see someone collapse after the swim - not sure what that was all about. It could've just been exhaustion. I hope they're OK.
Afterwards, I meet The Hiss and the beach and she tells me she also lost her $28 as new Speedo goggles (bought by me).
I do a mental calculation: $25 + $30 + $28 + $28 = $111.
Don't worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be all right...
Afterwards, I ate heaps of fruit and nicked two bottles of water. It didn't add up to $111.
|A great bag of fruit...|
Score out of 10: I'm giving it a 9. Unique and boutique. Friendly and fun. There were 444 participants, down by around 100 from last year. I had a squiz at the prize packs after the swim and there were a couple of nice Blackmores vitamin baskets in the mix of medals. Regular buses back to the oval after the swim.
Any gripes? Should there be more cans? The old blokes with barrel tummies who've been in this caper forever would say "no". On behalf of the cartographically challenged, I say "yes".