Monday, 27 May 2013

Byron Bay ocean swim 2013 and stuff about turtles frozen into a solid mandala off The Pass as I pass by

The bikes at the beach shack are not in the best condition.

Why has it been so long between drinks?

a. tired b. lazy c. sick as a dog d. loss of interest in blogging e. busy at paid work f. all of these excuses

The answer is "f".

Byron Bay seems so long ago that it's going to be hard to extract the highlights from my wispy memory.

As is tradition, Ms Onyabike, Mr and Mrs Snorkel and I gathered at our rented beach house out the back o' Byron on the first weekend of May.

Because Ms Onyabike didn't arrive until Saturday night, the Snorkels and I went hard at it on Friday night and all day Saturday (so she'd feel like she'd missed out on a really good time).

We went to a lovely little Japanese restaurant, O Sushi, that has alfresco dining plonked in front of the camping shop next door. The food was so good that I soon forgot about our surroundings.

On Saturday I scooted down to the Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club at 8.07am - just in time to join the tail end of the large group of swimmers who stroll along the sand to Clarke's Beach and the Pass where they peel off into the ocean for the swim back to the club, jettisoned by the north-running current.

Because I arrived after the hour I trotted along the beach until I caught up with Mr Ocean Swims himself. We had a chat about his double hip replacement and peripatetic life that involves running swimming safaris around the world. Go to for details.

Mr Ocean Swim's first stop is Vanuatu in June, and from there he and his partner Mrs Sparkle jet off to Europe where they head up tours around the Mediterranean. I am NOT jealous. I am jealous. I am NOT jealous... I am... 

I enjoyed the swim back to the club at a cruising pace but later learned there were nine green turtles "chilling" off the Pass. Arrrrrrghhhhhhhhhh.

Saturday at Main Beach

Sunday at Main Beach
Creatures hide when they see me coming! Or if there's no place to hide they FREEZE.

I can just imagine me swimming over the top of nine turtles frozen into a mandala. "La de da da da... mmm? What was that? It looked like a mandala. No way. I need more sleep. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

God, George Clooney could be next to me doing breaststroke and I'd miss him. "That debonair grey-haired bloke with the blue eyes and extra super white teeth who kept winking at me? You're pullin' my leg?"

A fellow swimmer swore he saw a couple of wobbegong sharks amongst the turtles. Go'orn, pull the other one.

I didn't see a thing except a school of silvery fish (could have been bream) on my way back to shore.

I dived into the ocean on two more occasions that day - the experience was made more pleasurable by the absence of the unpleasant current that often hugs the shoreline and makes it nigh impossible to play in the shallows.

Ms Onyabike flew in (off the broom) on Saturday night. We went to the pub and fuelled up on carbs - strictly no booze - for the 2.4km Sunday hike.

Sunday morning was typical Byron Bay weather - a bit cloudy, possible squalls, intermittent sunshine.

The air temperature would have been mid 20s. Pleasant enough. No probs hanging around on the grass in our cossies before the buses arrived to deliver us and the other (mostly old codger by the looks of it) punters to the starting line at Wategos Beach.

If you scanned my blog about last year's swim, you'll know it was cancelled because of the dangerous conditions (I swam the course anyway, along with 600 other eejits).

This year's conditions were supposed to be challenging, but fortunately the surf was mild and the shore break far more gentle than 2012's neck breaker.

At the Pass

I don't know if it had something to do with last year or if the punters were revolting over the $65 entry fee, but numbers were down. Around 1750 signed up for the event but fewer made it to the start line.

Ms Onyabike and Mrs Snorkel opted to swim with toys - snorkels and fins - while Mr Snorkel swam with the snorkel, which he refuses to declare to the organisers because he wrongly claims that it doesn't give him an advantage*.

At Wategos we were greeted by a pod of eight frisky dolphins surfing the bombora that often forms close to the Pass. These stars of the sea put on a show, leaping and diving over and into the waves. They made my heart burst with joy. Oh to be a sleek shiny grey dolphin with fins, powerful tail, smiley eyes and snout and an optimistic disposition.   

Alas, I am not a dolphin but a mere human. For me, this year's swim was a challenge. I hadn't trained for three weeks leading up to the event because of a dreadful lurgy that lingered for the duration of April.

I ploughed through the ocean, doing the best I could but feeling like rubbish from the very first buoy.

Thank goodness the current carried me - and everyone else, mind you - up the coast towards Main Beach. Turning in to the shore, I bore the full brunt of exhaustion. It was a long swim in.

Afterwards, I checked my time to find I'd finished in 39 minutes. Not too bad. That's 38th out of the 83 women in my age category.

In the ladies change rooms after the swim I met Irene, 71, from Brisbane. This amazing woman has swum the English Channel three times in a relay team and plans to do it again this year.

Irene began her swimming journey aged 57.

If that's not inspiring, and awe-inspiring, I don't know what is.

*Whatevs. Let the old fella believe what he likes. I beat him by a good nine minutes.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Byron Bay Ocean Swim Classic: we're heading north

Canned last year but fingers crossed for 2013.
Today I'm off to Byron Bay for the Winter Whales ocean swim with Mr and Mrs Snorkel. Ms Onyabike will join us tomorrow as she has taken up study again after a 30 year hiatus and has a major assignment due today.

I mean, why would you put yourself through that? I'm sure there are more fulfilling pastimes to ward off dementia. Like swimming?

(Note to self: drink less and start doing crosswords)

This will be our sixth annual pilgrimage to BB for this destination/journey swim from Wategos to Main Beach.

Last year's swim was cancelled but I did it anyway.

I re-read my account of that exhilarating yet terrifiying experience.  I might just be a little bit unhinged.

Here's the link to that post, if you can be bothered.

Hopefully, this year's conditions will be more forgiving though BB is displaying its usual quixotic nature - I hear it's going to be partly cloudy, possibly raining and partly sunny.

Who knows?

Life's a lottery.  And don't believe Hot Chocolate - Everyone's NOT a winner.

Let's catch up next week.