Thursday, 18 April 2013

Coogee Island Challenge 2013: the inaugural Cold Water Challenge (which is rather warm)

The ocean is often at its warmest in April so calling this second swim in the Coogee Island Challenge series the "Cold Water Challenge" is a misnomer.

I don't know why I bother getting caught up in semantics; the thing is the conditions on the beach for last Sunday's swim were bloody perfect.

"Bloody Perfect Challenge".

Coogee Surf Life Saving Club usually hosts just the one swim per season, in November. This year, for the first time, the club has introduced another event towards the end of Sydney's carnivale of ocean swimming.

They chose a great day for it.

Cloudless sky, light winds, 21 degrees in the soup and around 28 degrees on da sand.

No surf, except for a shocker of a shore dump. One punter referred to it as a "neck breaker". It gives me a neck ache just thinking about it.

Imagine a massive body of water that, on its arrival on shore, collapses all at once. Immediately, after smashing on to the beach the beast beats a hasty retreat, gouging out a heap of sand as it goes.

It's the opposite of the crystal tubes that form when the waves roll in, in perfect sync, each one furling in on itself in an elegant and gradual fashion. 

Other than the bad-ass dump it was mild conditions though not so glassy further out towards Wedding Cake Island, the famous clump of rocks that sit roughly in the middle of Coogee Bay.

Last year I wrote a spiel on Wedding Cake Island, which can be found here*. It's not really an island - like Gilligan's Island or Treasure Island - but that's what it's called. Misnomers all over the shop. 

On Sunday, Mr Oceanswims approached me (nah, I probably approached him) with his theory on the choppy conditions and uncomfortable swell that often gave swimmers heading out to the island an unpleasant surprise.

He believed the location and configuration of the rocky reef caused the ruckus.

His explanation was far more eloquent than the above. If you visit the oceanswims website and blog, I'm sure he will have a far better explanation of this basic concept.

It's not rocket science. Of course water flowing around a teeny island will be disrupted by its presence.

Swimmers in the 1km swim didn't cop any swell because the course was plotted further in, well away from the island.

I did both the 1km and 2.4km swim. I wasn't going to do the shorter swim if the conditions weren't "noice".

I'd driven to Coogee early. Glorious glorious day. How I love life when the sun shines and it's the school holidays so the roads are empty of cars filled with harassed parents driving their kids to sporting fixtures all over Sydney.

Strolled to the beach with a smile on my face, caught up with some peeps, had a chat and lathered on sunscreen because it was already a scorcher.

I'd never heard of a swim starting earlier than the advertised time but this one began at 9am (it was down for 9.15am). Afterwards I heard a few people complain that their friends had missed the start.

I can empathise, having recently missed the start at Caves Beach (all my own fault). However, it is always a good idea to get down to the beach early so by the time the swim starts you're fully briefed and feeling in control of the situation.

I found the 1km a bolt. I didn't relax at all and felt puffed as I ran up the beach at the end. When I checked my time later it was a respectable 22 minutes and I finished 6th out of 28 in my age and gender group.

Should I mention that 1st, 2nd and 3rd all came in under 20 minutes? But not that much under. It makes me wonder if the course was longer than 1km because the fastest finisher in my age group and gender was 18.06. I expected her to swim faster because she displays piscine-like characteristics.

Since I started competing in two swims per event, I've started 'eating' that gloopy stuff that promises to give you a starburst of energy fuelled by the power of a million suns. I have this delusional belief these packets of caffeinated slime will make me a faster swimmer.

The clockwise course was clearly plotted. A cylindrical green can followed by three pointy cans would guide swimmers out to the island. They would then chuck a right around a red cylindrical can and travel around the back of the island. A right turn around a second red can would direct them from the island towards the shore.

On the way they would pass three more pointy cans before charging through "a gate" formed by two cylindrical cans. A short run up the beach would lead them to a blue pergola and timing pad on the sand.

Simple as.

Mr Oceanswims was right about the chop. There it was, just before the island but it didn't interfere too much with my stroke.

I enjoyed the longer swim more than I thought I would. It's funny though, I didn't see the island at all as I swam around the back. I breathe left, a disadvantage, so made an effort to breathe right. But I couldn't find the bloody thing. I didn't want to stop because all crusty old ocean swimmers know what happens once you stop... yeah, you got it... another old codger cruises by, a winning smile on their mug.

Back on the beach, I was sure I'd gone well in the 2.4km. The slime had done its job.

I had a quick shower and met Mr Mild Mannered and The Lawyer at the Coogee Bay Hotel. We sat in the courtyard that faces the beach, drinking Peroni (them) and Bulmers Cider (me).

The Lawyer beat me soundly in the 1km swim - he made that clear without having to say a word. All guesture - a raised eyebrow, a knowing smile.

Mr MM had opted out of the 1km swim because he can't handle the pressure. It's not because of me (because I am not his equal in the ocean) but I'm sure this loss of confidence has something to do with The Lawyer. That man has perfected the courtroom patter - make 'em feel comfortable before you make 'em squirm.

We didn't then have the 2.4km results.

I arrived home and checked online. I was so disappointed with my time (nup, not mentioning it here). I thought I'd sprinted home, ahead of the pack.

That's it. No more gelatinous gloop. I'm chucking it out. I swear I am.

Next swim will be gloop-free.  

Talking about that next swim, I usually do Mollymook which is on this weekend. But this year I'm having to give it a miss (unless I jump in the car at 6am and drive the three hours down the coast).

The weekend after that (April 28) swimmers are spoilt for choice with swims at Curl Curl, Warriewood and Cronulla. And then it's off to Byron Bay on May 5!

Here's the link to the November swim at Coogee:;postID=2935075405816568596;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=21;src=postname

Here's the low-down on Wedding Cake Island from the 2011 post on the swim:

If you know Coogee, you'll be familiar with Wedding Cake Island; in simple terms it's a big lump of rocks/reef (about 15 metres long and 400 metres wide) that juts out of the ocean about one kilometre from the beach. Check it out at this scuba-diving website:



Bourkeyy said...

Looks like you were a bit too relaxed on the 2.4k swim - probably needed some muppet lurking around trying to take you on:-)
Good report

Shayne said...

I think you might be right!

Amelie said...

This is cool!