Monday, 3 December 2012

Bondi to Bronte Ocean Swim 2012: oh no, not this again! A southerly buster causes a commotion

I don't know where to start with this one. Should I talk about the weather in the days prior to the Bondi to Bronte Ocean Swim? In a tick. 

First things first. Early last week a red algal bloom closed both Bondi and Clovelly. In the photos in the newspaper story it looks like dirty blood. Sorry about long link. Too lazy to do tiny url.

Meanwhile, Bruce and his mates in grey suits were out and about doing their Christmas shopping at Palmy and Whale up on the northern beaches. There were shark sightings for several days.

Now, let's talk about Sunday's swim - starting with the weather.

Friday: stinker. Ocean flat as... Saturday: fry bacon and eggs on the car bonnet. Ocean more like a mill pond...

Sunday (swim day): Sydney wakes up to a Southerly and a leaden sky. The temperature has plummeted from 36 degrees max to 24 degrees max. 

That's okay - when it's not blowing a gale that agitates the ocean into a churning white-capped poltergeist.

So, we stand on the beach and look out to sea and reminisce about last year's swim - a horror story that grows more gruesome with each re-telling. 

The 2011 swim was Nightmare on Campbell Pde - an insane Southerly iced the air, 16 degree ocean bore into bone marrow and the swell rock 'n' rolled like the drunk bogans that stumble down George St on a Friday night.

I calm myself with the knowledge that Sunday's water temp is 19 degrees. That's tolerable, though I can see lots of people dragging on their wetsuits.

The B2B wetsuit policy has changed as a consequence of last year's swim, where a significant number of punters suffered from hypothermia. Some poor bugger was raced off to hospital in an ambo and the organisers ran out of alfoil ponchos. I've still got mine - just in case.

Now the rule goes: 20+ degrees water temp and 25+ air temp = no wetsuits; 20+ water -25 air temp = wetsuits allowed; -20 degrees water temp = wetsuits allowed. 

If you want my opinion then keep reading. I reckon Sydney's gone soft. Yesterday I managed the distance in 19 degrees without feeling any detrimental after-effects, and I'm no Spartan.  If anything, I'm a coward who loves a heated swimming pool and a hot shower after a swim. 

This would be my rule: Only allow wetsuits when the water temp is 20 degrees or less and the air temp is less than 24. 

And don't let the wetsuit wearers claim a prize! They have an unfair advantage because they're not only warmer than the other mug punters, they're more buoyant than the rest of us eejits out there freezing off our goolies. 

Put the soft sheilas in an assisted category where first prize is a hot water bottle.

End of rant. Back on task.

Did this swim do it for me? Maybe it's best to compare it to last year's:

1. This year the organisers added three more marker buoys (hot pink witches hats) to take the number from seven to 10. I love this. As I explained in my last blog post, the more buoys the better for this old blind lassie (not dog but laydeeeeeee) who has been known to get lost in the supermarket.

2. Getting in at the start of the swim worked for me. No dumpers or rip/current compared to last year.

3. Chop chop. More chop than suey. More chop than a black-belt ninja. Much the same as the conditions in 2011. I could find no rhythm to my stroke. Throw one arm forward into thin air because the swell has dipped and I am momentarily caught on the lip. Plunge into the suds. Do it all again. Ad infinitum.

4. Slap in the face. Kick in the head. Buffeted and bullied and bashed. 

A total of 1319 swimmers competed in this 2.4 kilometre swim that takes punters on a journey from Bondi to Mackenzie's Point, past Tamarama beach and in to the beach at Bronte. At one point I was being whacked around the head and torso by someone trying to swim over me. No fun.  I can't remember this happening last year but maybe that's because I'm still traumatised.

5. A lovely swim back in to the beach. Bronte can be a difficult beach and is listed as one of Sydney's most dangerous. But yesterday it remained calm so swimmers could get their mojo in the last 500 metres to the finish line. Some punters love a challenging exit. Not moi. 

Value for money: $40 ($50 on the day). A well organised swim - the volunteers did a wonderful job. Before the swim, punters toss their stuff into a plastic bag, write their name on it and throw it in the back of a truck. The bags are delivered to Bronte and chucked on the grass. Surprisingly, it's not that hard to find your bag amongst hundreds. 

Oodles of water safety and friendly surf life savers keeping a watchful eye on swimmers navigating choppy, potentially dangerous conditions.  

Score out 10: 8

Any gripes? Are clubs in the eastern suburbs that strapped for cash that they can't afford to hand out a piece of fruit? 

I know I'm harping about the fruit and I will stop because next week's swim is at on the northern beaches at Bilgola, where fruit is handed out post swim. Yesterday we were offered a cup of yellow Gatorade - and there was no limit (unlike Coogee where it was ONE BOTTLE OF WATER per punter).

The website that promotes the swim is well designed but when I searched the results I couldn't find the placings broken down into category. I like to see where I've finished in my age group. 

And you know how I feel about slippery seals in wetties. And forgot to mention fins. Wearers of fins/flippers should start in the last wave. Those things are lethal weapons when in motion. 

PS: Thanks to Ms Fivestar, who took all the photos for this post. They're gorgeous.


Damien Bodnarchuk B.Hlth Sc Tradtional Chinese Medicine said...

Wow, that was a good swim. I thought it would be 2k, but it was over. I should have done a bit more training. Thanks for posting this. I really enjoyed doing it! Good times!

Shayne said...

Hi Damien,
Try to get to Bilgola this weekend. Always interesting and always a challenge.

Thanks for your comment.


Toni said...

Great comments and, for another perspective, as a triathlete I'll always opt for a wetsuit when possible to get maximum practice in it for my ironman distance triathlon events. It doesn't make me soft and, in fact, I'd argue it's harder in the wetsuit as the additional buoyancy makes you bob around in rough water much more than you ocean swimmers and it's tougher on the shoulders and arms as you have the slight restriction caused by the sleeves. Cudos to the organisers for allowing both options.

Shayne said...

Fair enough. Good to hear another POV. But I still think you're warmer. And softer. Life marshmallow soft...

Shayne said...