North Bondi Saturday 27th April
It’s 0715 by the time the rebel alliance of Impalers hits the water just to the north of North Bondi SLC. The praetorian guard of the squad are all down in Melbourne at the Cold Water Training Camp so it’s left to the remnant to fly the flag at Bondi.
Plan is to do eight laps, from just in front of the boat ramp on the north side across to Icebergs on the southern end.
Earlier, SM has arrived in time to make a generous contribution to Waverley Council’s coffers in the form of feeding the hungry parking meter.
From previous experience the parking rangers around this neck of the woods have passed SAS selection and at the blinking of an eye can morph into inanimate objects to blend into the background like true ambush predators.
Your average bus stop, bush, tree or mound of dog turd along Campbell Parade can instantly transform back into a Ranger who’ll ninja pounce on any unpaid-up car with gusto and relish.
Anyway, the rebel alliance gathers by the side of the SLC and scuttle down to the sand to deposit the kit bags, set out the drinks and goodies, get ready for the morning swim. Simon leads the pack and is joined by Jai, Fearless Fi, Bondi John, Balmain Anna, Deane, Scott and el surfmuppet. Cop a bit of flack when putting on the sunblock, something about not wanting to ruin the snowwhite suntan before strutting the beach in Galway playing the sunbronzed Aussie in July.
The water temperature is in the low 20s as the crew steps out into the drink and skims over the miniscule surf and out to sea towards the boat ramp where we bob around plucking up the wherewithal to stop chatting and begin the morning’s fun. Must have been like this down amongst the slaves on the rowing deck of Ben Hur’s ship. You know, all the slaves having a bit of a laugh amongst themselves before the slave master cracks the whip and it’s all shoulders to the oars.
And they’re off.
Jai, in hot pink bikini, sets off with the muppet in pursuit, the pair being hunted down by the pack along the way to Icebergs. Soon we’re are out in the bay, the sun slowly gaining strength above the northern headland, casting everything in a golden Autumnal hue from the sun’s low angle in the sky.
To the landward side Bondi is slowly coming to life. Here and there the last of Friday night’s party animals scurry around corners to get into bed like vampires searching for a handy coffin before the full scourge of the sun is unleashed.
Water visibility is excellent and the small bit of chop out in the bay is enough to add a bit of spice to the proceedings without being anything much to bother with.
Soon round one comes to a close as the edifice of Icebergs looms up like a multi storied ocean liner anchored up by the rocks. The fasties like Simon, Bondi John, Anna, Scott and Deane await the lasties such as Jai, Fi and the muppet. All one big happy family bobbing around in the gentle swell and then Simon gives the word and the pack sets off north again.
This sets the pattern of the morning.
Jai has enough done by 2 laps and skips away leaving the rest to head on back south for another couple of laps. Other teams of swimmers are out in the bay and so it’s the heads up now and again to prevent mid water head butting contests. Bit of controversy between Simon and Bondi John about how far in towards Icebergs the pod should regroup but soon settled in a gentlemanly fashion.
End of four laps and back into the beach for hydration and energy snacks. By now the sun is well up, high tide, more and more bodies in the water.
See Spot lead his Bondifit stormtroopers off into the distance towards Mackenzie’s point and around to Tamarama. Later, with his full squad, like a skirmish line of infantry, lined up along the beach and changing into the water. Did this for a while with BF – great craic altogether. Later say a quick hello to Spot after our swim finishes just as he’s waiting for the last round of ins and outs to come back to the beach.
Try out an energy gel, with caffeine, and take off like a rocket once back in the water for the fifth lap. Trouble is there is stage separation of the rocket booster tanks half way back across and it’s back to the former pace, with Fearless Fi going stroke for stroke. Deane falls back on laps six and seven which is great as now the muppet gets a bit of drafting practice in, with Fi drafting off him – a happy string of three. Try not to do too much toe tapping but it’s hard with all the bubbles and trying to do the Vlad thing and relax the neck but Deane is fortunately the patient type. Gets his mojo back on lap 8 and surges ahead again.
Suddenly it’s the end, 8 laps done, back in to the beach, the goodies and the temptation to call it a day.
All finished except for Anna and the muppet. She’s going for the 10km South Head Roughwater swim on Sunday May 19 so wants to get as close to this today as she can. Decide to join her for a few more. Turns out it’s another set of four, a total of 12 laps for the morning.
Anna puts up a great show of patience pairing with a patient exhibiting an exponentially decreasing pace and by the last lap it’s going through the motions as the fatigue sets up camp and cooks some snags over the camp fire. By mutual agreement she is released from the bondage of muppet shepherding and zooms off into the blue yonder.
Different channels are taken by different swimmers. Some go out wide, out into the deeper water. Others take a middle course and others again go in closer to the sandbank.This was the muppet on the last two laps as the energy levels dropped. By now the swell has picked up a bit, enough for a playground-like up she rises/ down she goes kind of trip.
A weakened back starts to spasm a bit, courtesy of a rugby injury when playing second row in college back in the day. Must be all that lifting and looking triggering it.
Anyway, start to edge in closer to the sandbar but still far enough out not to get caught up in the break. Have a weird feeling of being watched. A tinge of paranoia arcs up deep in the soul and start to scan about. Then see a big guy on a standup board looking over. And behind him a whole line of surfers. All sitting there on their boards looking at the muppet.
Beginning to feel like a bit of a reluctant hero – why are they so interested?
They’re watching the ocean behind for the next set lining up behind the muppet as he slogs his way back direction Ben Buckler. All that sea water can play tricks on the mind.
Brief moment of quasi fame.
Eventually spot the yellow swim cap of Anna returning from the north end and we join up for the last few hundred metres of the last lap. Anna works out the k’s on her Garmin and while it’s not quite 10km, it’s within a reasonable shot of it. Took about four hours, including the couple of water/ food breaks.
Back on the beach run into some of the BF crew who are finishing up, including Rumpole. He was with the crew who swam around to Tamarama and reported some of the group came across a shark just off Mackenzie’s Point. About 6 ft, slid underneath them and disappeared. Probably out for an after breakfast snack, a bit of brunch.
Good catching up and swapping war stories.