I love to swim – it has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. There’s lots of exercise that I find difficult because of my dodgy back and knees, but I find swimming just fantastic and try to do some laps every day to keep the body and mind straightened out. I also find swimming a great meditation; I love the daily baptism of plunging myself into the ocean and the suspense of gravity and noise when I am in the water – just me, my breathing, and the big blue.
Summer magic Brunswick River
Now, I know people who have seen the Jaws movie once and never gone in the ocean again – I have purposely never watched it. Those kind of folk often ask me if I am not either mad or scared to death every time I am out there for I love deep-water ocean swimming. My reply is that it is a calculated risk and I have far more chance of being run over by a bus (I actually say that I know more sharks driving around in Mercedes, but best not to go there!).
My local swimming spot is either Torakina Beach or the river at Brunswick Heads – it’s a beautiful watery playground for everyone. I have asked the Brunswick old timers about the risk of sharks in the river and their reply has always been the same, that it is too shallow and tidal and they have never seen one there, but that you do get them in the main part of the river that is deeper and calmer.
So yesterday found me doing my usual thing and striking out at high tide to do my laps in the river – swimming across and bridge to bridge. It was a bit later than normal, 6.30pm, and not too many people about. I was half way across when I heard some people on the bridge shouting and waving their arms and pointing behind me – I even heard a scream! I turned, and my heart sank, there was a large black shape in the water about two metres behind me. In that instant, I knew there was not a lot I could do and panic stricken I swam as fast as I could to shallow water and basically just surrendered to my fate. It was then that two black shapes surfaced beside me and I realised that they were dolphins – a mother and baby and, now I know that I really must be bonkers, because I carried on swimming and they came with me.
When the panic had subsided it actually became quite magical for every time they submerged and I put my head under the water, I could hear them talking to each other in squeak language. The thought did then cross my mind that if there were dolphins in this part of the river, where I had never seen them before, there could also be sharks. It was then I saw what they were probably after, a run of mullet, and I decided that it probably really was time that I got out of there.
Two of my granddaughters 5 and 6 enjoying the Brunswick River
My advice to those who would like to swim and either are afraid or can’t get their rhythm right:
- Get yourself a silicone swimming cap – it keeps the hair out of your eyes, makes you more buoyant, and your hair doesn’t get messed up. There is no way that I could swim every day if my hair got wet every time.
- Buy some decent goggles that fit – it’s important to be able to see and not be irritated by water getting in your eyes.
- Pay for some swimming or stroke correction lessons. I do this every few years because, even though I am a good swimmer, we get into bad habits, or learned to swim such a long time ago that techniques have changed and the experts can give you tips that put less strain on the body. For example – when I learned freestyle sixty years ago, the arm came right out of the water, straight like a windmill – hence the other name for it ‘overarm’. If you watch good swimmers these days they don’t do that anymore – the elbow if just lifts up straight from the body before stretching into the water. This puts a lot less strain on the shoulders, is more efficient, and you actually swim faster.
I have never had a swim that didn’t make me feel better so I thought I would share with you some of my favourite swimming spots.
You’ll have to take my word for it on this one – me swimming with the dolphins Torakina Beach 2014
Poulati, Sifnos, Greece – magical walk through the herb scented hillsides from Ardomonis, along ancient Byzantine pathways to this crystal clear cove.
Adrina Beach, Skopelos, Greece (known to us as A Dreamer Beach, Skoffalot)
Symi, Greece where I just flopped into the water from our lunch table
Komodo Islands, Flores, Indonesia on our way to Pink Sand Cove
Nissaki, Corfu, Greece
Victoria’s villa, Ahmed, Bali in the shadow of Mt Agung
My best swim ever on beautiful Sifnos – from Chryssopigi monastery to the taverna on the beach in the fading evening light when the sky and sea became opalescent.
Parsley Bay, Sydney where I taught my children to swim
The Ladies Baths, Coogee, Sydney
Bronte Baths, Sydney
Number 3 grandchild, Nielsen Park, Sydney – still a favourite spot for swimming and picnics.
North Bondi with my fellow ocean swimmers, Karen and Sue. I still swim with them every Tuesday morning when I am in Sydney
Camp Cove, Sydney
Perhentian Islands, Malaysia – some of the best snorkelling I have ever done – live coral, wonderful fish and turtles.
Sarakiniko, Milos, Greece – very hard to beat this spot – it was magical
My Mum and Dad (in their 80’s) at Torakina Beach – must be in the genes!