Sunday, 7 April 2013

Swim for Saxon Ocean Swim - Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club: dirty water, politics and OH&S

Four surf rescue craft at Queenscliff.
Saxon Bird died at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships on the Gold Coast in March 2010. During the surf ski leg of the event a stray surf ski hit the 19-year-old. It took rescuers 55 minutes to recover his body in treacherous conditions.

This is the third year of the Swim for Saxon Ocean Swim, which honours the memory of the champion athlete who trained at Queenscliff. 

On the commemorative plaque dedicated to Saxon is a quote from TS Eliot: 

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

This swim was a first for me. Before today, I'd only ever walked to the far northern end of Manly Beach.  

It's a pretty stretch of sand that ends at a small headland - on the other side is Freshwater.

Manly Lagoon is located a couple of blocks back, next to the golf course. The lagoon isn't usually a problem, except after the rain when runoff flows into the sea at Queenscliff. 

The fund-raising Babe Watch is growing in number.

Sydney has copped a drenching since Wednesday. Today the clouds were still around, bunched like juicy grapes, but the big stretches of blue convinced them to drift out to sea. 

A sign at the ocean pool warned swimmers to avoid taking a dip there for at least 24 hours after the rain. I should have photographed the pool - the water was a yucky green. 

Another sign near the beach had the same message for the ocean. Its advice: wait 24 hours before diving in.

Oh well, not to worry. The organisers weren't. The mild pollution didn't stop them from going ahead with the two swims on offer - 800 metres and 1.5 kilometres. 

Other than murky water, the conditions were benign. The surf was non-existent and the water temperature a warm 23 degrees.  

I'd entered both the swims ($40 for the two), though I wasn't feeling too chipper. Back to my old wine guzzling ways the night before! 

I packed in a high carb energy bar on the drive down to the beach, hoping that would fill the tank with enough fuel for the 800 metre dash. God, I love those bars. They're so junky. This one contained cocoa powder, rice bubbles, brown rice oil and lots of other stuff that, to me, tastes like a compacted bowl of Cocoa Pops. Cocolossal!

Prior to the 800 swim, I noticed some commotion on the sand with a couple of camera crews hovering around. It dawned on me that this is the federal opposition leader's stomping ground. The northern beaches is blue ribbon Liberal territory and Tony Abbott is the hero, the man most likely to become Australia's next prime minister when the nation votes in September. And he's a member of the Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club. It made good political sense for him to be down on the beach.

In his budgy smugglers.

I would have squatted too. Smart move Tony.

I know I've said it before, but I just love it that our high profile pollies can saunter about in almost the all-together without anyone batting an eyelid. Could you imagine Barack Obama, David Cameron, Francois Hollande or Stephen Harper running around in their swimmers? 

What about Kim Jong Un? I'd like to see the roly-poly dictator with all his milky pale flubber on display. I think it'd soften his image. Add depth. Make the guy more human and cuddly, and less like an overfed nutbag despot with an itchy trigger finger. He might belly flop into the ocean and decide all he wants to do is turn back the boats.That's what a dunkin' in the deep blue does - it gives you a new perspective on life.

Anyway, our "almost" (sorry Julia, but it's pretty much signed and sealed) Supreme Leader is down there on the sand, posing for photos with young children and pretending not to notice the cameras trained on him as he checks his goggles and adjusts his... cap. 

I took a couple of pics. I reckon the old Tone's lost tone (the Abbott has lost abs) and put on a few kilos since I last saw him strutting his stuff in the budgys about two years ago. Take a look at the little handle of chubby love above the hip. And I reckon he's sucking in his tummy. 

That's what time on the campaign trail does to you. Tony's had to throw back one too many schooners and Chiko Rolls to prove he's just an ordinary bloke who'd move to the western suburbs if he didn't have the long commute.

But enough of Tony. He did the 800 metre swim. Dunno if I beat his time. I hope I bloody well did. (He did it in 19.56, which is slow. I did it in 16.43, which is average)

What to say about the 800 metres? Murky warm water. No movement in the ocean, not even a nudge into the shore. 

No fruit or water afterwards.

I bought a red drink and sucked on one of those phlegm-like energy products that promises you an instant buzz.

The 1.5 kilometre swim took ages to start because of the five minute breaks between each wave. 

It was supposed to start at 10, but got underway at 10.15am with the youngest wave heading in first. 

My wave didn't start until 10.45am. 

Every swimmer wore an ankle timer. The organisers could have asked everyone to sign off after the swim to ensure all swimmers completed the course safely, rather than count everyone on the start line. I mean, how do you get an accurate head-count when people are milling around and changing their positions on the start line?

There were heaps of rescue people on the water. And four inflatables.

It was over the top OH&S. Totally unnecessary on a day like today. The worst that could have happened was if one of the swimming tragics (older types) had a little episode.

The second wave sprints to the shallows.

Running through the shallows.

The swim seemed longer than 1.5km but it was just me. Too much red stuff - on the day and the night before.

Because the tide was out, competitors had to run into the water through the shallows. I was mindful of the troughs and worried about twisting my ankle, which slowed me down.

I got out to the first red buoy and lost my way because I didn't have a handle on the location of the next buoy. 

I ended up, along with other swimmers, heading towards the furthest red buoy when I should have been swimming to a closer yellow buoy first. What a pain in the bum.

It was all a bit of a murky blur and the swim back to the beach wasn't helped at all by a total lack of swell. 

I went searching for water and fruit because I was sure the commentator mentioned it was available for free for competitors. But I couldn't find it.

No fruit, no water. 

Rating out of 10: 7.5

Any gripes: No fruit, no water. No nothing*.

Why the late start? And the five-minute wait between each wave wasn't necessary. Nor was the head count, which would've been unreliable anyway. Better to give us a number and call it out. That's a good idea. 

The poor water quality wasn't the fault of the organisers. It was just a shame swimmers had to compete in less than pristine conditions.  

This swim is to honour a beautiful boy who died in tragic circumstances.  I'm aware of that and understand the organisers wanting to get it right. They want everyone to be safe in this swim.

But today the conditions were calm, and at this end of the season the participants are die hards who know what to expect, especially in calm conditions. There's no need to be hypervigilant, unless it gets nasty eg: Freshwater two weeks ago. 

Next week it's the Coogee autumn swim. I've heard the swell is going to be massive by next weekend. Wait and see. 

*Apparently there was fruit and juice - I don't know how I missed it because I wandered around looking for it. My apologies to the organisers for not giving credit where credit is due.

Sausage sambos after but where was the free fruit and water?


jamesgos said...

Hey mate - nice report. I am James Goswell from Babewatch. If possible could you pls email me that photo of our team from the weekend for us to use on our website Cheers - my email is

Shayne said...

No worries.

Troy Andrew said...

Hey Shayne, I saw our life members pushing trollies of apples/bannanas , apple & black current juice around. Sorry you missed out.
Thanks for attending and your report.
Regards Troy.

Jacki said...

It wasn't just me who had a hard time finding the fruit and water, then!

Lovey race report. :-)

Shayne said...

Thanks for the comment Jacki. I thought I was the only one. Maybe if they just had the fruit and juice on the beach like all the other swims do.