Back in Oz

Surfmuppet needs a good crack on the head with a stout piece of timber as he has not updated the blog for a good three weeks. For any of you wondering did he make it across Galway Bay in one piece, the answer is yes, in 4hrs 57mins, exactly one hour slower than last year.

Looks like bludging around the shallow end of the pool paid off. Plenty of drama of course, with the lowlight being Mrs Surfmuppet suffering a compression fracture of the T11 vertebrae while zipping across some big chop in a small fast moving boat on the way out to support el muppetero in the swim.

More to come.

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Galway Bay Encore

Here we go again!

Back in the city of the Tribesmen on the banks of the Corrib for the annual Frances Thornton Galway Bay Swim, to be held this coming Saturday.

Still suffering from jetlag after the long haul from Sydney, arriving chez the parents in Galway on Friday evening. Transiting through Dubai on the way, saw a chap reading the New York Times with a screaming headline about the shooting down of Malaysian Flight MH17, just as surfmuppet and wife are about to board for the final leg to Dublin. Quick check of the flight path on the thingamajig screen on the back of the headrest of the seat in front confirms we’re travelling south of the war zone so hefty sigh of relief. The only sigh of relief as the muppet squeezes his ample carcass into one of the middle seats in the middle aisle for the final eight hours of torture to Dublin.

Must confess to being a little bit underdone this year compared to last year. Then, three months solid training with four pool sessions a week followed by a long swim on Saturdays with the bull sharks in Sydney Harbour, the tiger sharks in Botany Bay and the great whites off Bondi, saw our erstwhile aquanaut in tip top condition as he plowed through to the finish in just under four hours, getting faster and faster as the diving platform of Blackrock in Salthill loomed up out of the edge of the ocean like the turret of a U-Boat back in the day.

This year, alas dear readers, the muppet has not been so diligent.

Despite the urging, the coaxing, the entreaties of coach Vlad, ably assisted by coaches Charm, Martin and lately Victor, which eventually turned into threats, taunting and slanderous and scurrilous accusations of being a total bludger, the muppet limped through training and most Saturdays instead of being in the ocean with the rest of the squad, could be found sitting in his car outside a Coles or Woolworths supermarket stuffing his face with bars of chocolate and tubs of ice-cream while watching episodes of Famous Rap Battles in History on YouTube.

He confesses now to his millions of readers that this, indeed, was not a good idea. In fact, it was a very bad idea. And five days out from the swim (actually four training days out from the swim – shriek!), fesses up that this was a truly bad idea. Any kids reading this epithet, please do what your swim coach tells you to do and don’t be a muppet!

Anyway, as they say, it is what it is.

Joined about 30 of the race field last Sunday for a training swim, 1030hrs kickoff at Blackrock. Almost all in wetsuits, except for four half eejits including yours truly. Andy, aka The Rooster, an English and Rottnest Island Channel veteran, gave us our orders for the day – down the bay to the fifth buoy (1km), sharp right turn off into the bay to the buoy at Fogla (another 1km), then regroup and back again to Blackrock (another 1km). The tide was filling and a westerly wind was kicking up a nice bit of chop.

All leap into the water – surfmuppet gets dead jealous of all the dudes and dudettes in wetties as the cold Atlantic tightens her loving grip on his already shriveled gonads. And they’re off! (the swimmers, not the gonads).

Down the bay we thrash and flail, the muppet keeping up with the back markers of the wettie brigade. The water is about 17/18 degrees and so after a few minutes it’s not bad at all. While the warmth of a wettie would be good, the real reason the muppet wants one is to get those damn hips and legs up high in the water, reduce drag and thus scream along down the bay like a juiced up sea leopard instead of dragging his sorry ass along like a floating brick.

We turn at the fifth buoy, face out into the bay, the rocky hills of the Clare coast in the distance and the laughing is over. The rising tide and the wind is driving a dirty little scut of a chop which is getting bigger by the minute so it’s dig deep for the miners, shorten the stroke and punch on. Battle it out with a couple of wetties with matching yellow caps and get plenty of practice trying to sight the buoy of Fogla in the bouncing sea.

Spot it outlined against the grey granite of the Clare hills in the background, a black stick bobbing up and down in the murky green water. There’s a figure on it! Yes, it’s the Rooster, resplendid in blue Speedos and yellow cap, standing on the buoy like Captain Ahab, exhorting his troops onwards. He stops a converging group of swimmers, including the muppet, and we get our orders from him to aim to the left of the diving platform, off up into the golf course, as the tide and the wind are strong enough now to blow you back down the bay if you swim straight for it.

With “Onwards me hearties” ringing in our ears from Rooster, our gang sets off for the final K. Muppet as usual doesn’t listen and soon finds himself drifting off down the bay. Course correction and starts tacking into the chop, then parallel to it, back into it, etc. Soon we’re pulling up to the U-Boat conning tower, avoiding the throngs of kids bomb diving off the high platform. Mick, another swimmer, asks for volunteers to go down the bay again and the muppet, conscious of his disgraceful lack of sea time, agrees and we pile in another 2-3 k’s up and down. Coming back up the bay is a long slog with the tide, wind and chop dishing out the punishment but the sun is out and climbing up the ladder onto Blackrock platform at the end, it all seems worthwhile.

Now it’s time for that delicious Galway piece of culinary delight, a punnet of curried chips at Salt n Peppers chip shop on the prom.  Doesn’t get any better than that!

Donations to a worthy cause can still be made on –

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Cae and Ben the Channel Men

Famous day today with two of the squad swimming the English Channel. Cae Tolman left Dover at 0200hrs and Ben Hutt at 0300hrs, GMT. Start in the middle of the night, end in daylight on a French beach somewhere near Calais. Best of luck to both of them.

Back in Sydney it’s Wicked Wednesday in Victoria Park pool . Air temp is around 6 degrees so stripping off and tip toeing across the cold concrete pool deck is the order of the morning. Water in the pool is delicious – far warmer inside than outside.

Program today is warm up and drills to about 1,200m, main set of two times 3x150m, 3x250m, 3 x100m, total 3km. 600m warmdown plus a couple of extra laps thrown in to bring the tally up to 5km.

The squad swims the last of the darkness out of the night and slowly the sun rises through the palm tree fronds and assorted other foliage of Victoria Park.

The first burst of sun over the horizon is a decoy, a ricochet off a wall of glass on a high rise
somewhere east until, in full glory the winter ball of fire burns away all pretenders and emerges triumphant through the tree line.

Hopefully when the sun rises on the other side of the world Cae and Ben will be powering away mid channel with Calais firmly in their sights

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Mutant Dog Paddle

Definitely the coldest morning of the winter so far.

“Surfmuffin!”- a call from the cold wasteland on the edge of darkness as Marty materializes from the pool deck and jumps into the frigidly lukewarm water of Victoria Park pool, 0605hrs.

Ok, SM knows the weight is still a few kilos above 100, but “muffin”?

Start of the training week and it’s sets of 500 after the warm up and drills are over, with 3 x 200 in between, with pull buoys and sea claws (paddles) thrown in. All up get 4.2k done. Vlad patrols the dark edge of the watery universe as his charges traipse up and down, up and down, in search of the magic formula to perfect technique and Apollonian conditioning.

It was like a swim wear fashion show in the middle fastie lane – fluorescence green with black tiger stripes from Nicola and a purple on white print from the new fast girl who goes into the slow lane when her boyfriend shows up for a swim. Not to mention all the other ones. It’s one thing to get your ass handed to you on every lap as the nymphs from the deep end glide effortlessly past but the fashion parade certainly eases the pain.

The muppet is gazumped again by Jai and in trying to claw back the metres to get onto her toes tries a form of mutant dog paddle in a forlorn hope of speeding up – and it works!! Might even trademark it and do a video for YouTube targeting hopelessly slow and backward swimmers wanting to steal a few metres on their training buddies by hook or by crook.

The mutant dog paddle is a mixture of freestyle and doggie paddle. So, both arms are out in front by default but instead of the stroke ending just in front of the shoulder like your average mongrel, the stroke is carried through in the fashion of your normal free-styling humanoid. The catch up configuration is important, with early vertical forearm (getting technical here) emulating the downward stroke of the canine style.

Will have to do the video as mere words do not do justice to this revolutionary concept in swimming technique.

Talk in the sheds afterwards was on how fast swimming condition is lost even after a week. Then it was all about the fashion parade and James’ return to the pool after a fantastic sojourn and much adventuring in exotic Thailand.

Meanwhile the World Cup progresses and muppet’s new work colleague, Diana from Columbia, is getting more and more excited as her team advances to the quarter finals.







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Port Macquarie Stone the Crows

Back again after a long absence.

Surfmuppet spent the weekend up the coast at Port Macquarie visiting the mother-in-law in the company of the wife. Drama on Friday night when the mother-in-law took a bit of a turn and the ambulance had to be called to cart her off to Port Macquarie base hospital.

The muppet drafted behind the ambulance in his car and spent a few hours early Saturday morning being told to go home by the MIL. Kept in for observation and then home in the morning.

Down to the pool early Saturday afternoon and find it deserted so had the pick of the lanes. Blue skies, warmish winter sun, light breeze, what more could you ask for?
Did 4 x 1km, between 20 and 21 minutes a K.

Follow Coach Vlad’s instructions to start doing longer sets to get into the rhythm of a distance  swim as the four weeks out marker for the Galway swim is passed.This advice was imparted was just after 50s Friday finished at the Victoria Park pool, Friday morning.

The muppet was promoted for the sprints to the rarefied waters of lane three where all the super fasties live. Right down the back where he belongs struggling to reach the end of each 50 before the last of the fasties depart for the next one.

Back to Port on the Saturday afternoon, and a few other swimmers jump into the pool during the session but there plenty of room for everyone. On Sunday morning, back into the pool prior to hitting the road to Sydney. Few more bodies lapping away and SM manages a 1×1.5km and a 1x1km before heading off back south.

Run into Port Macquarie Neil in the dressing sheds prior to the start of the session and had a great chat. Met him over the last couple of years on the NSW summer swimming circuit. Year before last he finished right up top of the league table with 80 or 90kms raced for the season which is a lot considering he had to drive from Port all over the state and the country to find races to enter.

Tells how last season top rankings brought a lot of Kiwi’s and Western Australians into the mix and they won a lot of the top berths. He’s thinking about whether to have a go again in the coming season but will have to target 200km to be anywhere near the top seeds.

Prior to the swim, spent breakfast chatting to the MIL over the table, when a strange gleam comes into her eye. Outside, in the trees of the garden, the call of arriving crows. She leaps up from her chair and disappears off into the house leaving the muppet with a piece of toast hanging from his mouth and a bewildered look on his face.

He goes looking and eventually finds her on the top balcony overlooking the garden armed with an evil looking catapault…for the crows. The MIL and the crows have an understanding that she doesn’t have to fire it, just signal her intentions by drawing on it like an English archer facing the French heavy knights at the battle of Agincourt.

The crows head for the hills. Turns out the beasts show up to attack the nests of a pair of doves and lyre birds which used to hang out in her garden. She watched once as the crows attacked the baby doves in the nest and ate them alive…so she got tooled up.

Walloped them with small pebbles collected from Shelly Beach. Now the crows know whats what and hightail it out of there as soon as they see her coming.  Baby dove off the breakfast menu. Reminds SM of the granny in the old Clint Eastwood movie, “Every which way but loose” when the granny runs off the Hells Angels with a pump action shotgun.

This time last year the muppet was a lot better prepared for Galway Bay and came steaming home with plenty of puff left in the tank. This year it could be a different story but that’s life in the big city for you.

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Confessions of a Swimming Bludger Part 1

The southern Autumn is well progressed and the fall of the leaves and drop in temperature has seen the muppet take on the aspect of a bear starting the long sleep of hibernation earlier than most.

He’s been a rare site on the pool deck, making it to a desultory one of two sessions a week , then a fortnight, and finally one training session a month. Result is any gain over the summer months has been squandered eating TimTams in front of the TV or horsing down platefuls of food at the dinner table.

Cheering on from the sidelines as the rest of the gang get back from their Rottnest adventure and plough ahead with training schedules for a whole cluster of them swimming the English Channel this year and in 2015.

Just looking at the pictures on Facebook of last weekend’s Cold Water Training Camp in Melbourne (training protocols developed at Belsen Bergen concentration camp circa 1944) is enough to have the muppet a-shivering in his trackies and shrinking back to bed with a blueberry muffin and a mug of hot chocolate for company while watching season 4 of Game of Thrones on the iPad under the doona and the blankets.

That’s fine and dandy but then in a rush of blood to the head he signs up for the Frances Thornton Galway Bay Swim, starters gun the morning of 26th of July.

The “congratulations you’ve been accepted” email arrives on Thursday to muppet’s initial amusement and then a growing sense of horror.  So our sullen hero has no choice but to slink out of a warm bed at 0440 hrs Friday morning for the grin and puke anaerobic squad session at Victoria Park open air pool at a frosty 6am.

Torture by water in it’s purest and simplest form.

The last 8 months spent in salt water – ABC pool and Ocean.In recent months bludging around the back of the slow lane. Now into Vic Parks freshwater for 50s Friday Sprint session.

Freshwater means sinking water.

Especially for portly middle aged gents with poor swimming technique and questionable work out ethic.

And sink the surfmuppet does.

There are very few places to hide in a swimming pool.

Especially when there’s a coach at either end of the lane, armed with a stopwatch and the bark of a drill sergeant. Vlad’s wife Viktoria takes the session ably assisted by swimmer -turned-traitor-coach Jai.

Both make the transition from happy-smiley-great-to-see-you to snarling harpies of the deep within the space of a few short minutes.

After warmup, sets of 12 x 50s, like a smorgosboard for water slaves until you pass out somewhere between 0730 and 8am.

Two fast, one slow, one super fast, two slow, three fast, hup two three four, la la la la la.

Half the squad at one end of the lanes under the tutelage of Vicky, the rest at the other end under the lash of Jai.

Go. Go. Go.

The muppet gets some respite by switching ends of the pool in the hope of confusing both coaches as to which group he belongs to.

Falling too far behind in one group, latch on to the back of the other group.

Lurk in the bludgers corner by the lane rope and the wall, far enough down in the water than his head might be mistaken for one of the floatation buoys on the lane rope.

Busted and withers in shame under arched eyebrows of contempt from the Medusa sisters.

Note to self – check out getting a swim cap the same colour as the lane rope floaties for future camouflage purposes.

The goal was to last to the end of the session and the waiting bacon and eggs breakfast in Toby’s Estate cafe on the other side of the screaming traffic of City road.

Make it, Woohoo! – man, Toby cooks the rashers in such a way that they curl up into delicious compact cylinders of deep fried oil, fat and pig meat.

Lovely and crunchy, filling in at speed the big calorific hole left by wildly thrashing around in the pool for an hour and a half.

Joined in discussion in the changing rooms pre breakfast with Swifty Scott and Channel Cyril as to why the big difference between salt and fresh water.

Cyril reckons Scott has the goods with his good kick to keep the lower half up in the water, high elbows and low body weight.

Then the topic turns to weighing scales.

Cyril – I’ve the same weighing scales for 13 years and have never seen 80kgs on them.
Scott – Well, I’ve had the same weighing scales for 15 years and have never seen 75kgs on them.
Muppet – Well boys, I’ve had the same weighing scales for the last 25 years and have never seen 99kg on them.

Silence in the dressing sheds.

12 weeks to go til questions will be asked of the muppet by 13 kilometres of the North Atlantic’s best cold, briny water in Galway Bay.


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Terrigal Easter Saturday 2014

Greg, a true warrior of the sea, disavows the lure of Easter Sunday choclust to brave the monster swells off the Central Coast.


Nasty shore dump along the beach Nasty shore dump along the beach

Easter weekend in Sydney, and finally after 30 days of rain and showers over the previous 45 days, the forecast was for fine and sunny weather for the extra long weekend.  Of course the presence in Sydney of the future King of Australia (even if he is English) and his wife and son seems to have helped bring out the sunshine.

The swim last weekend at Coogee around Wedding Cake Island was cancelled due to large swells caused by an east coast low. I was quite disappointed that this swim was cancelled, as I wanted to do the trip around the island one more time before going overseas again. So it was a relief that the Terrigal swim was on despite the large swells forecast. That east coast low from last weekend had combined with Cyclone Ita out near New Zealand to push large…

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Gallic Gaff

Noon Saturday at the Coco Cubano Cafe Crows Nest

Surfmuppet doing a writing exercise from the Faber Academy course, all day session, break.

Outside, lunchtime crowd saunter about all sunglasses, sundresses, t-shirts, jeans, shorts, thongs and talk while others stuff their faces at nearby hostelries.

Juicer juicing, coffee grinder grinding, people bullshitting all around, clatter and clash of the chefs and kitchen hands in the open plan kitchen, slam of presses and drawers.

The samba, salsa or whatever the fuck caribbean jungle voodoo beat and forty something trumpets and horns blaring out in a madwoman’s cacophony of cuban secret police mental torture procedure numero diez.

Muppet is trying to look weekend lunch time sunny day early autumn crows nest cool.

Inside fuming, doing a Bobby Sands impersonation, starving with the hunger, the Sandinista waiters in military style shirts flitting here and there ignoring him.

Fuck them all, will sit here doing this stupid fucking exercise and buy a bag of chips on the way back to the afternoon session.

High, rickety bar stool cum card table chair sways underneath the muppet’s ample 100 odd kg.

Waiter, early 50s, touch dishevelled, appears at his shoulder, points to his menu and mumbles something in what muppet takes to be a cuban accent.

About time too.

“Yes, I”ll have a big breakfast”

…Pause to check if there’s intelligent life on mars in the dark eyes.

“…And a juice”

Points to the menu.

Nothing. The man is obviously retarded and just smiles at him, mumbles something in what muppet now realises is a French accent.

What the fuck is a frenchman doing working in a cuban restaurant in Crows Nest?
If he’s a waiter, the age of him means he’s doing it tough and he’s not a very good waiter anyway, probably won’t last til close of business before he gets fired. Best to go easy on the poor bastard.

Doesn’t have the Fidel Castro army shirt on.
Maybe he’s the owner!
Doesn’t have to wear the shirt.
But if he’s the head honcho, should be a bit more switched on.
This place is definitely going to bankrupt city, Havana.

Muppet repeats the order with emphasis on the BIG breakfast and a JUICE.

Frenchie smiles at him, shaking his head and does that gallic index finger waving thing.

“No, no, mon ami, I don’t work here. I only wanted to borrow your menu. That’s if you’ve finished with it of course.”

Gigantic hole appears under the muppet and he disappears into the depths of the underworld where the halfwit dirty eejits live.

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Wicked Wednesday

Surfmuppet gets to training this morning.

Loading everything into the car by 515am to get to the pool by 6am, he places his morning brew on the centre console between the front seats while hitting the button to start the engine of the great white. Moving suddenly, elbow catches cup and it’s hot tea all over the leather seats, the spare change well in front of the console now a swimming pool of English breakfast, white no sugar.

A few minutes of fuck this and fuck that, a clean white towel stripped off the starlit washing line and soon it’s a hot, brown towel after mopping up the deluge while the car zooms along dark suburban roads, direction Sydney.

Watch strap snaps (ok, with a little help) after getting caught in the action of humping the swimming gear backpack up onto the left shoulder after parking in Woolloomooloo. Soleus brand, purchased at a booth on the Manly promenade after missing the wave at last year’s Cole Classic and sneaking into another (Cole Classic 2km ).

Watch ends up in the shadowy waters of Woolloomooloo Bay under the  austere gaze of warship L100, still tied up at dock, the dawn later revealing a mysterious large grey marquee style tent in the middle of the deck, aft of the big squat bridge superstructure.

Big John, Lord of the Channel, is in the dressing room when the muppet finally makes it to the ABC, ready to grace lane 1 with his presence. Always great to see the big fella back at training. It must be hard to get back into training after completing a big swim like that and then taking extended time away from training to get on with life in the real world. Big John loves a chat but the clock is ticking and mistress Charm anxiously awaits her flock of minions poolside.

Welcome back to the land of the lane crawlers.

Despite the spilled tea, broken and drowned watch, the surfmuppet has a truly enjoyable 4.15km set of sets. Wednesday is an anaerobic threshold day, lots of heart warming sets designed to get the blood flowing and the lungs pumping. Starts off at number 6 in the lane, then number 4, number 2 and finally number 1, head honcho, in the last set of 8 x 50m. Mind you there’s three other squad lane of superior speed, fitness and talent to the right of lane 1, but what the hell, never going there so will take all the morsels of vain glory going in the minnow lane.

Muppet mantra these days is relax and work on the stroke – long stretch, glide, catch, pull etc, relaxed arm out of water recovery, clean entry, slight catch up with the arms, build a sense of forward momentum with the centre of gravity higher up the meat sack, feel of swimming slightly downhill.

Anyway, it works, catch up with all the other bastards in the lane and still lots in the tank at the end.

So relaxed at times the muppet looks for diversion – like counting the number of aerials on top of the bridge of L100 across the narrow bay. Loses count at somewhere between 8 and 12.

Dawn sky continues to brighten behind the sea of aerials, with narrow bands of red and ochre cloud, until her golden majesty finally climbs over the edge of the eastern horizon at about 7-ish.

Afterwards in the ABC cafe, tea with Charm, sharing the table with Rachel, Big John, Blackdog and a fastie from lane 2 who had scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast – nice chap, can’t recall his name.

Followed by a stroll in the warm Autumn sunshine back through the domain to where the great white awaits in silent vigil by the kerbside.

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Autumn Spreads Her Wings

Walking down to the pool this morning at 555am, the darkness over Wooloomooloo Bay, tide is out and on the other side of the water against an eastern night sky with a hint of a dawn ray, the silhouettes of a Navy Frigate and an odd looking commercial vessel, forecastle ringed by blue lights looking more like they belonged in a disco than on a mysterious sea going vessel.

Wasn’t so long ago, when the land was submerged in the golden days of summer, the sun would be over the horizon by now and the mammals and reptiles, fish and birds of the emerald city would be wakening from their slumbers and rousing themselves for another day at the hustings.

But Autumn in Sydney has many advantages not the least of which is a warm ocean, clear visibility and one hopes the worst of the summer blue bottle plague hordes departed for other  environs.

Not too many at squad this morning at the ABC pool. Squad has started morning sessions at Victoria Park pool also so there’s a few heading over there now. Some of the battle hardened sea warriors of the Rottnest Channel have not returned yet to training since last Saturday week. Congratulations to all who went west to test themselves in the Indian Ocean.  The yarning will go on for months, into the deep winter when more than a few of them will take off to the northern hemisphere to do the English Channel. Four weeks before the muppet piked out of it, wasn’t happening training wise and the head was elsewhere. Next year perhaps. Cheered on from the sidelines nevertheless.

One of the highlights was Deano, all greased up for the race, with “No Shark Cull” painted onto his back, giving the Western Australia prime minister a serve about his government’s policy of putting out baited drum lines to capture and kill large sharks off WA beaches. Link below to his interview after having a go at the premier.

To date, 70 sharks have been reported caught and killed, many of them smaller ones outside the cull parameters (over 3m and ugly with big teeth), the thing being once their on the hook they can’t be got off without killing them anyway.

The death toll includes three Mako sharks, a pelagic species which, like the great white, is considered under threat and hence normally protected. But they’re over 3m, very ugly and have lots of vicious looking teeth so it’s off with their heads too. Most if not all swimmers and water people seem to oppose the cull on the grounds that the ocean is the realm of the big, ugly and toothful, so man up and leave the beasties alone.

Back to working on the technique for the rest of the Autumn and into the winter.

Relax, relax, relax…and remember to breathe.

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