Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The joys of that first swim of summer

OK, it's been summer here for a while but I've been busy cat sitting as well as being lazy on my annual break. But it's time to talk about swimming. Some people swim all year. Summer or winter, they disrobe and don the bathers and hop into the gym pool, or council pool, (always indoors and reeking disgustingly of chlorine) and laboriously do laps and laps of freestyle, backstroke, butterfly or whatever takes their fancy.

That's hard work. Needless to say, that's not me.

The laps are hard work but also disrobing when you know it's single figures outside, or at least well under 20 degrees. Eww. And the chlorine puts me off. Not only for olfactory reasons, but my psoriasis hates it.

No, for me swimming is a purely summer pleasure concerning salt water only, and thus to be looked forward to immensely. It is, for me, the best part of summer, which is usually too hot for me to get decent sleep or exercise after 7am.

I don't swim at a gym or council pool. I don't do laps. I do enjoyment at my local river baths or at one of Sydney's beaches, with or without surf.

It's all about the sheer joy of being enveloped in, and moving in, cool water on a hot day.

It was nearly two months ago when I slipped into the silken, calm, warm water at Balmoral beach for the first time this summer. It always surprises me, small-brained creature that I am, that immediately I'm in the water I become a mermaid or an otter, totally at home with the concept of propelling myself around with arms and legs, playing no-touch-the-ground with the sand. I don't even think about it.

There's a joyous weightlessness about swimming. In the water, I'm my sylph-like 20-something again, rather than a 55 year old trying to kill off the last 5 kilos that will take me back to my 30 year old weight. I feel energised, young, and, cellulite or not, gorgeous.

It's something to do with the sun on my skin, the salt water, the feel of sand beneath my feet (and at the unnetted part of Balmoral, the knowledge I'm shark bait. That sharpens you up).

Balmoral Beach, Mosman, Sydney. In November, few people were swimming during the week.

That first swim was definitely the Ahhhhhh moment. The water, at low tide, was warmed by the sun but I didn't have to go out far for my feet to no longer touch the sand. I did some exercises using my limbs against the heaviness of the water, I swam back and forth, I lay on my back and drank in the sun, the salt, the happy shrieks of children on the beach, and I felt totally at peace.

So during the summer I lazily swim in the river baths five minutes away or Balmoral, fifteen metres here or there of freestyle, or my own creations, sculling like a rower on my back or doing an underwater dog paddle sort of thing with my head out of the water. In the baths at high tide I dive or bomb from one of the platforms - bombing takes me back to my 11 year old self, the one who was unselfconscious.

Our local river baths.

One thing I don't like is putting my face in the water to swim; never have. My eyes hate it and I forget to breathe properly. When I dive or bomb my eyes are squeezed shut and don't open until my head pops up out of the water. I can manage very well with goggles and a snorkel however.

In the surf I love to feel the waves pounding against me. The big ones, eyes firmly squeezed shut, I dive under. The lesser I jump up with, lifted high and often with my arms wide and a big grin on my face. Then there are those that I body surf, or surf with a boogie board. And of course I mistime it here and there and get dumped by the surf, rolled along the sand clamping my eyes and nose shut, trying not to breathe until I'm rolled unceremoniously onto the shore (to the delight of teenagers). An hour in the surf, pushing and pulling against the tide, is hard work. We usually take our surf beach days in two 30 minute swims in the morning. That's enough to work up a huge appetite for lunch at a local cafe. (We love North Narrabeen beach by the way. My grandparents lived there when I was a kid and it's always felt like home.) My skin feels amazing after an hour in the surf, and so does my mind.

North Narrabeen, 9am on a Sunday. Bring it on!

Summer, I love you. When I'm in the water.


  1. Given how hot it is there right now I can see why you'd be happy in the water.

    1. Oh yes, more water planned for this weekend. It's going to be a scorcher!