Stroke for stroke with Rumpole goes Surfmuppet out to sea in the 2.4km at Coogee last Sunday. Eyeball to eyeball. Mano a Mano. Mexican standoff with Rumpole forcing the pace and the muppet keeping up with him. Squad mates once with the legendary seadog Spot, Rumpole always had the edge and is indeed the faster swimmer. With the muppet trying to quell the competitive urge in favour of pacing over the longer distance, this was not the race plan in mind on this glorious day in late Spring when the swimming masses congregate in Coogee for the 800m, 1km and 2.4km festival of surf swimming.
The great white arrives up the hill from the beach just after 8am that morning. Snags a decent park under the trees on Melody Street, just as the Journo rounds the corner into what turns out to be her favourite parking street. She gets one up 50 metres up the street and it’s time for a good yarn heading down to the beach where the ocean is behaving itself with a bit of chop. Turns out looks are deceptive and the chop presents a few technical challenges on the way out.
Blackdog has already registered and is dishing out his wisdom to all. More yarning as the usual crowd gathers. Not too many seem to be doing the double so the muppet gets ready for the 1km with a solitary warmup. Ocean is 20 degrees plus so no plunge shock, mild shore break, bit of seaweed hanging around the northern end of Coogee Bay where both swims start.
Out to sea, Wedding Cake Island lurks in the foreground. Lots of ocean breaking on the far side of it so it promises to be a bumpy ride in the circumnavigation.
Goggle technical glitch on the way out in the 1km – trusty pair of Aqua Sphere Kaiman, worn in the all the training for Galway Bay and in the swim itself, and the training since – hence of sentimental value – playing up. Left google filling up. Have to stop three times to clear it, eventually the seal works. Happened in training last week also. Getting passed by heaps but not overly concerned as the 1km is more of the entree to the main course.
Other than this technicality, clear visibility, plenty of sea life around the rocks as the pack heads out to sea, turns to starboard, hounds down the course, then rounds a couple of buoys on the southern end of the course and back into the beach. Chop going out hard to breathe both left and right so it’s a matter of switching sides a lot until it eases off after the southerly turn. Working on pacing, long stroke, catch etc etc.
Intermission – between swims the crowd swells and it’s the usual Wedding Cake Island carnival atmosphere. Lots of stands selling goodies, from T-shirt and hoodies, to…all kinds of things. Buy a pair of View V820S goggles off Miss Sparkle on the Oceanswims stand. She swears by them as do a lot of others, including the Taxman. He did a double at Toowoon Bay the day before so sits out the 1km, waiting to “at my command, unleash hell” in the 2.4km.
50-54 age wave is packed…so much so the organisers decide to separate the boys from the girls. All that mid-life-crisis testosterone making the boys a bit toey, bull elephant seals out to piss all over each other to see who’s boss. The ladies, delicate sea blossoms that they are, sashay to the back en mass and the bulls face the ocean and let rip on “Go”.
Large section head about 40 metres north up the beach where there’s a rip and the muppet follows. A few bigger sets brush off the duck diving skills but soon the pack has cleared the surf and it’s the long slog out the back, due east towards California.
And this is when Rumpole pops up on the port side. It the Olympic scouts were out looking for aging males for the synchronised swimming team for the Rio 2016 Olympics, then the pair would be a shoe-in. Stroke for stroke, eyeball for eyeball, breath for breath.
The pace is too fast for SM, so backs off while bearing down on the turning buoy lining up the island. Lots of water safety out trying to marshall the punters away from the rocks where the seas are breaking against the wedding cake. It’s busy. There’s jet skis, paddle boards, zodiacs zipping about, a chopper somewhere off in the distance, and lots of jelly blubbers under the water. Lots. SM doesn’t mind the old jelly blubbers. Kinda like benign space creatures out of Star Trek. Other swimmers profess to hate them…get slimed out by the sensation of the beasts sliding over their skin. Preferred to bluebottles any day of the week for the muppet.
As the island slides by there’s a nice rhythm going and no sign of Rumpole. Turning west at the bottom of the island, the 50+ ladies catch up in the shape of a train of three or four of them, drafting on each other’s toes. SM tries to hook up onto the back of the train but only lasts half a minute or so.
Soon it’s the run-in to the beach and the hunt for a wave to catch along the way. Always enjoy this swim. Sun is beaming down and the sea is blue and foamy. Over the line and having a drink, turn around when…surprise, surprise…a few seconds behind comes in one legal eagle Olympic synchronised swimming candidate. Don’t know what happened but the muppet got the jump on him in the latter stages of the race. Doubtless an anomaly which will be corrected in the Bondi to Bronte on December 1.
And so another Coogee Sunday morning ends…lots of tale swapping with Rumpole, Dolphin Paul, Nic Ola, Leanne, Fearless Fi, Damien, Scott and a whole lot more. Breakfasted with the Dalcassian warrior princess and the Taxman, then back to Melody Street and away to fight another day.
Postscript – battle of the goggles. Took a while for SM to finally decide on Aqua Sphere Kaiman (www.aquasphereswim.com/au/) after testing out lots of other makes. The View (www.viewswim.com.au/swimming-goggle.asp) pair are not bad although the field of vision feels more restricted than the Kaiman. Swag of Kaiman purchased on Wiggle (www.wiggle.com) earlier in the year means the View go into the bag as reserves for a rainy day.