First Week of Summer

Summer kicks off in Sydney with the annual Bondi to Bronte 2.5kM swim.

By 9am the sun is high, the ocean benign and the 2,000 odd swimmers, in waves of age and gender, melee around the southern end of the Bondi Pavillion, signing on, collecting coloured caps and timing chips, packing the gear and stowing it on one of the several minibuses taking down to the finish line for collection at Bronte at the end of the jaunt.

Bananaboat ( has a tent set up populated by a squad of lovelies armed to the teeth with spray on sunblock doing full body spray jobs on anyone who wants one. All the guys are lining up and loving it. The girls are loving it just as much. Surfmuppet is in there in the thick of it…loving it. With a moon tan which is the bane of the ocean front, the muppet always suffers the dilemma of getting the sunblock on that part of the back where you can’t reach around to. So today, a lovely is doing it for him.


Conditions couldn’t be better, especially compared to the last few years when it was howling a southerly and the ocean was boiling with 3 metre swells and strings of bluebottles stinging everything in sight. Not a bar of it this year.

It’s a fast swim and the timings reflect what looks like a slightly shortened course, with various Garmins coming up with 2.1km or thereabouts. All the usual suspects hovering about and when SM crosses the line who’s waiting there grinning only Rumpole, gloating with revenge for being pipped at the post at Coogee.

Walk back to Bondi afterwards with Deano and feast on breakfast at 38 South while admiring the torrents of the beautiful people walking up and down a packed Bondi foreshore.

Do a couple of 5km plus sessions at squad during the week and one at 3.4km following a tangle with the alarm on the iPhone, going back to sleep and then leaping from the bed and out the door seriously late for the pool.

Team meeting after squad on Friday for the Rottnest Island swim – Charm gives it to everyone about having all the logistics for the swim finished by now, including flights, hotels, boats, kayaks, transportation, return trip from Rottnest booked etc etc. Everyone nods sagely and watches while Vlad takes over and gives a pep talk about upping the training now – minimum 20-25km a week from now on.

Surfmuppet hoes into breakfast and nods with the rest of them but nurses a deadly secret – nothing, but nothing organized at all. Drat! The Cobra, his erstwhile kayaker, is laid up with a relapse of an infection from a deadly spider bite of last month when he had to be hospitalized and pumped full of antibiotics through a drip due to his leg having swollen to double its size. The medicos are not sure if it was a spider or a paralysis tick which layed the Cobra low, but the post bite infection is the one doing the damage.

He’s a tough dude, the Cobra, and will come good. About eight years ago surfmuppet was in the corner for the Cobra when he won the NSW Light Heavyweight boxing title, so it will take more than a pesky critter bite to put a halt to his gallop. Good man to have as a kayaking wingman in the giant sardine infested seas off Western Australia.

So on to Saturday’s swim at Balmoral, without kayaker.

Again a beautiful summer’s morning and over a hundred swimmers taking part in the Balmoral Beach Club’s memorial swim for Erik Mather ( who passed away from melanoma a few years ago. There’s a choice of one, two or three loops of Balmoral and Hunters Bay, respectively 2, 4 and 6km. Most of the Vladsters have signed up for the 6km, the blue hats. 2km are in yellow and 4km in green. Charm is in the club officiating, taking names, getting waivers signed and collecting the voluntary $50 bucks donation to the skin cancer charity. More than $10,000 is finally collected for the swim.

Race briefing in front of the beach club followed by a team photograph, in the front of which is an oaf with a moon tan requiring some serious hours under the full moon each month. Whitest man in Sydney some would say.

Balmoral Swim 081213

Water is lovely although a bit cloudy but not too much. Visibility is still good enough to see anything that wants to eat you for breakfast but as it turns out all return safe to the beach. SM spots Fearless Fi and Jai up ahead and shadows them by about 20 metres for most of the swim but cannot close the gap. Gives up the ghost on the third lap, stops to have a gel , the gap opens up to about 100 metres. And so the muppet swims the last lap by himself – gets the heebee geebees a bit in the middle but pushes through it and starts to get stronger towards the end. This has happened more than a few times – don’t know whether it’s the training or just a case of the horse sensing his stable (fresh hay and oats) is close by and sprints for the finish.

Last few hundred metres Scott from the squad appears to the left and Elaine in a kayak to the right – apparently the muppet is weaving all over the place and heading back out to sea so needs a few pilot fish to pace and shepherd him back on course and into the finish.

Get to use the club showers afterwards and then all retire down the road to a café for coffee and breakfast.

Change of stage for Saturday night and it’s the world premier of “The Telling Bones” by Keili Shillington. Keili wrote the play based on a newspaper article she read in 2010 about the mummified remains of two babies being found in a truck by workers renovating an old apartment block in Los Angeles.

The babies were wrapped in newspaper featuring the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932 plus some letters and a ticket to the Olympics. A cold case probably too long in the tooth to be solved. So Keili puts pen to paper and three years later gathers a small troupe to read the play, in character, in front of a small audience in the Pennant Hills Arts and Leisure Centre.

Surfmuppet gets to play the villain Yourgen. The troupe rehearses over four weeks of Monday nights, directed by Keili, with technical assistance from her husband Tony. It’s a dark, dark story and the troupe brings it together and dishes it out on the night. A great success.

And as Keili says to her troupe prior to the audience arriving, maybe they’d be joined on the night by the spirits of the babies who didn’t have a chance to experience life in the real world, but perhaps would get a taste of it through the medium of a small band of thespians, in a small out-of-the-way hall, in Australia, eighty years after their demise.

Roll on summer.

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