Last Friday some of my work colleagues were kind enough to take me out for drinks to welcome me back to Opportunity. We had a great night in Cruise Bar in Circular Quay, overlooking the opera house across the inner-harbour waters of Sydney cove. At the back of my mind though, I had a nagging suspicion that each additional beer would be regretted the next morning...
And so it proved when I dragged myself out of bed and headed down to Bondi beach for the first of three ocean swimming lessons. This short course is intended to teach you techniques for swimming in surf, which will in turn give you the confidence to compete in Sydney's ocean swimming races which are spread throughout the Australian summer.
There were four of us on the course, including myself and my German friend Babette. We were thrown (not literally) straight into the water by Mel, our very aussie coach, and told to swim 200m out into the Bondi surf. This was pretty 'exciting', not least because my hangover was playing havoc with my swimming stroke. After struggling back to shore Mel pointed out things we were doing wrong (drowning/sinking were only the least of them) before throwing us (literally this time) back in the water again.
Mel is a great coach, and like many great aussie sportsmen, unfailingly enthusiastic. He taught us skills for spotting where the rip current is pulling the water out to sea - good place to swim out - and where the waves are crashing over the sandbanks - good place to swim in... if you can avoid/survive being bundled by a monster wave.
Other techniques include using your arms as a board to 'surf in' on the top of large waves, entering the water with jumping, wading and porpoising techniques (which impresses people watching on the beach!) and breathing in such a way as to be able to look behind you and spot when you're about to be hammered by a huge wave.
This was all great advice and really interesting stuff, though I was a bit bemused when he got us to run along the beach and back to keep warm - ok, it was cloudy and the aussie guys were shivering but I was more likely to collapse from exhaustion than catch cold.
After the hour and a half long session had finished I felt absolutely on top of the world. This is surf swimming at one of the best locations in the world, with some of the wildest surf! The regular swim club joined us for the last hour and it was a great feeling 'competing' with these guys and girls. On top of which, to feel so pumped at 1130 on Saturday morning is something I'm not used to. and very welcome!
I'm really going to stick with this and join the regular club when my courses finish. My hope is to do the Bondi classic competition on the 6th of January. A bit ambitious, but I'll see how I'm going over the next few weeks, and it would be a good one to start with as you don't have to swim past rocks/cliffs as you do in the beach to beach swims.
And finally... thanks to my sister, Kirsty, for the following. Very amusing... and seasonal...
CHRISTMAS DISORDERS and CAROLS
1. Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear?
2. Multiple Personality Disorder --- We Three Kings Disoriented Are
3. Dementia --- I Think I'll be Home for Christmas
4. Narcissistic --- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me
5. Manic --- Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Treesand.....
6. Paranoid --- Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me
7. Borderline Personality Disorder --- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire
8. Personality Disorder --- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm GonnaPout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why
9. Attention Deficit Disorder --- Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy- can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?
10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder --- Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, JingleBells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells,
11. Oppositional Defiant Disorder-- You better not cry - Oh yes I willYou better not Shout - I can if I want to You better not pout - Can if I want toI'm telling you why - Not listeningSanta Claus is coming to townNo he's not!!