Saturday 4th May
Down here in the south, Autumn advances steadily to where Winter is waiting around the corner with her horde of glacial goons. On the trip down from the northern end of Sydney, through the leafy suburbs of Hornsby, Wahroonga, Turramurra and Pymble, the leaves on the trees have changed into a colourfest of yellow, ochres, red and a bit of green remaining. The colours rival the sunrise which has the eastern horizon ablaze in red and yellow. Ominous given the old nursery rhyme of a red sky in the morning is the sailors warning. But as it turns out, false alarm, the day though grey in the early morning is lit up with the sun by 1o30 when the cloud cover clears and all is sunny again.
7am by North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, the Impalers gather. Vlad prepares his kayak while the swimmers change, stow the goodies besides the bags, slap on the swim caps and googles, wade into the ocean. Conditions are perfect for the planned 10 laps of the bay. Water temperature is a 21.6 degrees – warmer in the water than outside – tide is low, almost no surf or waves of any description.
Out over the rocks at the northern end to the boat ramp, lots of sea life darting here and there or just looking up at the bipeds thumping past overhead. Gather in a pack ready to set out for the south – Fearless Fi, Bondi John, Simon, Katarina, Rachel, Justin, Deane, Martin, Big John and a few others, just over a dozen all up. Vlad gives the pep talk, points out a navigational marker, an apartment block to the east of Icebergs where an airliner is conveniently just passing over, and the pod is ready to go.
And they’re off.
Plan is to do six laps first off, then back to the beach for hydration and feeding. Another four laps after this, more optional for anyone who hasn’t had enough.
Visibility is excellent and if it wasn’t for the overcast sky, conditions would be unbeatable.
Fearless Fi shows the other back-of-the-backers a clean pair of heels and hounds away down the bay in the wake of Simon. As she says afterwards, didn’t know what came over her because it came back to haunt her in lap 3 plus. Sure hasn’t the muppet blown up on more than a few occasions himself. Fi soldiers on regardless.
As the laps are knocked off one by one, the team regroups and sets out again. The fasties are usually setting off just as the lasties make their appearance and Vlad shepherds the lot up and down, up and down. Come across other swimmers occasionally and a pack of kayakers makes an appearance at one stage. A recreational fishing boat drifts along on the current.
Coming to the end of lap six, angling in towards the beach more, come across a huge school of what looks like mullet just off the middle point of the bay. They obviously don’t know what to make of these lumbering beasts up on the surface and are swimming all over themselves trying to get out of harms way. Fair few sand whiting about as well but not in big schools like this one.
Welcome break for some water, energy snacks and then back in for the next four laps. Fi has had enough and swaps swimming for the kayak, giving Vlad a go in the water. By now a reasonable wind has come up which has a bit of bite to it so it’s no hanging around on the beach, back into the drink. As we depart, a woman sitting with a child on the sand remarks that she thinks we’re all mad. Could be something in that.
Deane and the surfmuppet go stroke for stroke for the entire 10 laps despite both trying at different times to pull away from the other. In the end a kind of non verbal detente is agreed upon. Both are finalizing entries for the Southhead Roughwater Classic coming up in two weeks so this could be the makings of a good partnership on the day.
End of lap 7, down at the southern end, Fi giving Deano and the muppet a lecture on being too slow, need to put a bit of commitment into it, swim faster scurvy dogs. All from the relative luxury of the kayak. So it’s back up north again – not sure which way the current is running but it definitely seems to be a faster swim heading north.
Soon it’s the final lap and Vlad starts it off with a bit of butterfly and backstroke, then vanishes into the gloom once into freestyle mode. Fatigue starting to set in but Deane and the muppet slug it out for final line honours, neither prevailing over the other. Slow swim back into the beach from the boat ramp, see a big blue groper hanging around the rocks with the other fish, looking cool. Some of the others, led by Rachel, decide to do a few more laps but SM has had enough. Still a bit left in the tank, not totally wasted like last week and thus ending up flayed out on the sofa at home, eating Timtams and watching TV for the rest of the day.
Sun is now starting to come out as we pack up. Run into the Taxman as he prepares to hit the water with the 1030 Bondifit crew. He won the trip to Vanuatu in one of the competitions over the season and is pretty chuffed about it. Enjoy!