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Monday, 30 January 2023 03:13

January 27, 2023

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We don't take you just anywhere. 

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The things hoomans do to animals... This image from Forster a week or so back, grey nurses, one with a hook and thick line caught in its mouth, the other with a metre or so of plastic sheeting caught in its gills. See how thin the shark with the hook appears. Grey nurses don't hurt anyone.

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Sun protection

The places you miss

Typical, you might say. The Sydney and Melbourne iterations of the Nine Publications daily newspapers peg story about how the application of sunscreen on an international super model. So very Herald! Or so very Age! But it was the headline that caught our attention: ‘Don’t forget these two areas when applying sunscreen’.

Now, we thought, this might, at last, be a useful story for us, indeed for all Strã’ans who, like mad dogs and Englishmen, go out in the midday sun. Ocean swimmers are particularly mad in this context.

But it was not to be. The story, as it said, talks about two points on the body that it says are often missed when sunscreen is applied – and they often are – but it fails to mention many others equally important and probably more often missed. Very usefully, it does also make the point that, amongst the rash of skincare products marketed to an affluent market such as ours, expensive products that promise things like SPF 50+ may not be that useful. That’s especially relevant to swimmers.

Why is it so?
This is because SPF50+ is not much use unless the product is water resistant, ie the product doesn’t wash off or break down when you go into the water. Also, the quantities of a particular skincare product applied to moisturise your face, for example, may not be adequate to also protect your skin from the Strã’an summer sun.

The story quotes Professor Adele Green, a public health specialist in melanoma and other skin cancer research, making this point.

'In general,’ says Professor Green, ‘sunscreens are superior to cosmetic products, especially those with a lower SPF rating that aren’t water-resistant (but) it’s very unlikely you’ll be applying the thickness needed to maintain protection. 

‘You should be applying the equivalent of a heaped teaspoon to your face, which will seem quite thick. If you apply it too thinly, you’ll know about it.’

Our personal dermatologist, a pallid man who, nevertheless, is also an occasional snorkeler, in the tropics, says the same thing: people who apply sunscreen suffer sunburn because they don’t apply enough of it, or they apply the wrong kind. And because they miss relevant exposed places.

Professor Green also says, ‘The tops of the ears can be an issue, especially for men, who tend to have shorter hairstyles.

‘For women, the neck is often ignored. You will see women who have paid attention to protecting their faces but below the neck reveals the effects of sun damage.’

We, ourselves, don’t need to be told this. We have had treatment on our ears, from our pallid snorkeler, and we have stood in queues behind too many old farts with beef jerky necks not to be aware of the danger there. We’ve long felt that many of us often miss bits that are important. And we (‘we’ means people generally) often neglect to do it when we’re swimming at off-peak times, eg early mornings, when the sun is low and supposedly benign. How many of your comrades do you see applying sunscreen for early morning swims at 7am?

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Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. You, too, could have this... if you're not careful. (Image from Healthline)

A little dab'll do us?
We do. Our early morning swims always include, before we leave home, little dabs on key extremities: nose, bottom lip, ears, temples, nose, etc. We still wonder how necessary it is in the early mornings, but we do it out of an abundance of caution, having already suffered treatment on the outer ear, and with a bottom lip that’s been ravaged by the sun over the years. Typical for Strã’an boofheads, we grew up on a beach but, until our late 20s, we rarely used sun cream... We are going back a bit now.

The areas people miss are those that are most exposed to the sun, but not obviously so. This is our list of relevant areas that we reckon many people miss:
  • Extremities – 
    • the ears – all over the outer ear, including ‘the tops’, as Prof. Green puts it, but not only ‘the tops’; we suffered skin issues inside ‘the tops’;
    • the lips – particularly the bottom lip, which tends to protrude more than the top lip (in our case, anyway; maybe we’re pouters… we do have a Germanic smile);
  • Temples – between the eyes and the ears; when you’re swimming, rolling to breathe, one of your temples is continuously being directly exposed to the sun, especially if you’re a monolateral breather (yet another reason to teach yourself to breathe bilaterally), and even if you wear a swim cap, the cap often rides up as you swim, exposing the temples, and usually it covers only part of the temples anyway;
  • Neck – quite apart from the beef jerky back of the neck, don’t miss the base, sides and front of the neck; our uncle spent a lifetime on the beach without a cancer (he had good skin), but when he did finally get one later in life, it was at the front at the base of the neck;
  • Hands and forearms – the backs of the hands and forearms are always exposed to the sun; think of your stroke recovery… where are your arms? And—provided your stroke is not wrenching your rotator cuffs awry—where are the backs of your hands?
  • Upper legs – when you’re swimming, the back of your upper legs (backs of your thighs) float just below the surface, constantly exposed; this is especially the case if you’re an ocean swimmer of the female persuasion… this type of swimmer often floats higher than their boofhead counterparts; boofheads’ legs generally float lower (don’t ask us to explain why…), but that doesn’t mean boofhead legs are safe;
  • Feet – on the beach, the tops of your feet, including toes, under the toenails, and between the toes, always face the sun (Always!); there’ve been cases of deaths from melanoma of people whose primary melanoma turned out to be between the toes or under the toenail, and blokes especially, you should check the condition of the skin on your lower legs between visits to the beach;
  • Lower legs – like the tops of your feet, the lower legs, from the feet to the knees, are always exposed, not just to burn but to skin damage as they seem to cop the majority of heat and reflection of rays from the sand; we always ensure we coat the lower leg all around.

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Types of skin cancer (Image from

The other side
The other thing many people miss – blokes especially because they probably think it’s girly – is moisturiser. We regularly go over these parts when we’re not in the sun with a good moisturiser, as it happens one recommended by our pallid, snorkeling dermatologist (it’s called Dermeze... and we're not being paid for this... and it’s top stuff and it’s not expensive… we get it in 500g tubs, from our pharmacist, Faux June).

Most of these points, we’ll bet, never occur to the majority of people as meriting particular attention. We reckon that because we watch plenty of people applying sunscreen, and it’s rare that we see anyone applying it other than to their faces and their backs, and then only cursorily (and then only if blokes, for example, can find someone willing to apply it to their backs for them… what blokes wish to apply sunscreen to other blokes’ backs?): thin smears applied almost as an afterthought. Plenty of sunscreens also tell you to apply at least 15 minutes ahead of exposing yourself, to allow the sunscreen to sink in and provide the protection you need. But who does that?

We’re all used to the mantra, ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’, from a public health campaign in 1981. Yes, yes, we all slip, slop, slap. But do we do it properly? 

For our part, we have dedicated our lives to avoiding the sun. That’s why we always wear a cap when we swim these days (we have absolutely no protection on our heads… none!). Maybe it seems counterintuitive in our position, professional ocean swimmers as we are, but we try very hard to minimise our exposure, and we try our very hardest to avoid it during the peak of sun exposure during the day. 

And we’re not doing this because we’re told to by a super model; we’re doing it because it makes sense.

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You reckon you reach?... This is reach... And with a noice head, too, and clearing the lungs appropriate... Niko Campbell at Forster.

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Swimmers in San Francisco Bay (not South End Rowing Club swimmers). Image by Gabrielle Lurie (San Francisco Chronical/Getty Images) 

Inclusion in Frisco?

Not when it comes to wetties

This story appeared in The Wall Street Journal of January 23, 2023.

By Robert McMillan (himself a swimmer with the South End Rowing Club)

SAN FRANCISCO—A year ago, Adele Gower used to cherish daily 90-minute swims in the frigid Bay here. Now she can only stand it for 30 minutes.

She abandoned her wetsuit after being shamed by fellow San Francisco Bay swimmers—a peculiar, zealous breed, who jump off boats near Alcatraz Island and swim with seals in the city’s Aquatic Park.

One day while struggling to take her wetsuit off, a swimmer friend—a burly former Marine—came in to help her. “He wades into the water and grabs my wetsuit and he just yanks it right off,” she says.

Ms. Gower recalls the swimmer saying: “You can just let the ocean take that. Let it float away.”

Cold-water immersion is having a moment these days, with growing numbers of fans plunging into low-temperatures to try to feel better. But in San Francisco, the chatter about chilly water goes much deeper than in most places.

It is home to the great wetsuit divide.
We’re here, we wear gear. Get used to it!’
The wetsuit has a long history in San Francisco, popularized by Jack O’Neill in 1952 to ward off hypothermia in surfers. With the water hovering just above 50 degrees this month—and air temperature in the 50s too—that is just one of many hazards Bay swimmers face: they could exhaust themselves fighting strong currents, be bitten by aggressive sea lions, or even cross paths with the occasional ocean tanker. And yet, some Bay swimmers refuse to wear these potentially lifesaving devices because they consider them a form of cheating. Or, even if they like them, as did Ms. Gower, they don’t want the hassle of wetsuit shaming.
The wetsuit split is legendary in Bay aquatics. Some local triathlete pages call wetsuits “wuss suits.” Over the years, in actual cold cases, wetsuits have mysteriously vanished from the changing room at the South End Rowing Club, a 150-year-old home to many Bay swimmers.
Later, the suits turned up in garbage cans or, in one case, hanging outdoors from a nail on the second floor of the building, according to Bill Wygant, a member and past club president. He denies involvement in the disappearances, but adds: “They knew the risk.”
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(Image by Jillian Savage)

Tom Linthicum (above), a swimmer called “Reptile,” has made the mile-and-a-quarter water trek from Alcatraz to San Francisco more than 200 times, but never in a wetsuit. With a wetsuit, he says, “you’re not really enjoying the cold.” For swimmers such as Reptile, the bone-numbing cold of the water is the whole point, and never something to be avoided.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be in that water and to let your body react,” Mr. Linthicum explains. “There’s nothing like it. I have no desire to ever wear a wetsuit.” He says he harbors no ill will toward those who do.

Mr. Linthicum’s wetsuit-less code has led to tough moments. On some days, he concedes, he stares into the dark cold water of an early-morning swim, and a part of his mind he calls his “land brain” begins whispering.

“The land brain wants to go home, take a nap, forget about it,” he says. During times like this, he instead channels his “reptile brain,” which he believes to be an evolutionary vestige.

“The reptile brain just comes out and says, ‘enjoy the water; enjoy the cold,’ ” he says. “Our ancestors may never have had a warm shower in their entire life.”

Swimmers have been known to drop in the South End Club’s showers due to the effects of cold and Mr. Linthicum has seen more than one sent to the hospital. From time to time he can’t feel his feet when he emerges from frigid water. But that is neither here nor there. “Whatever happens to you after the swim—as long as you got the swim in—it doesn’t matter,” he says.

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South End swimmer Adele Gower. (Image by Jeff Cooperman)

The South End Club’s president, Fran Hegeler, says while hypothermia is a serious condition, regular Bay swimmers learn to identify early signs and get out of the water, and to swim with a buddy. San Francisco’s annual Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon recommends participants wear wetsuits.

In 50-degree water, the first stages of hypothermia can kick in after just 10 minutes, according to John A. Downing, a professor of biology with the University of Minnesota’s Large Lakes Observatory. “Wetsuit shaming. I find that hysterical,” he says. “Why would you shame someone for trying to stay alive?”

The UK-based Channel Swimming Association, which keeps official count of English Channel crossings has set the gold standard on what is and what isn’t permitted in competitive open-water swims. For a channel journey, swimmers may wear goggles, one cap, a nose clip, ear plugs and one swimsuit. Wetsuits and any material offering “thermal protection or buoyancy” are forbidden. Body grease is OK, according to the organization’s website.

The South End Club, which currently has about 1,700 members, including this reporter, has likewise maintained a minimalist attitude toward swim gear. Goggles only became standard in the 1980s.

“In the old South End, people used to think you were a sissy if you swam with goggles,” Mr. Wygant says.

Around 25 years ago, the South End’s anti-wetsuit culture sparked a rubber rebellion, he recalls. Protesters, angry with a club policy that bumped wetsuit-free members to the front of the line for certain swims, protested the rule in the only way they knew how. “They all dressed up in wetsuits,” Mr. Wygant says. They were chanting, ‘We’re here, we wear gear. Get used to it!”

Letting your wetsuit float away can prove costly. Ms. Gower, who was encouraged to do just that, held on to hers. It sells for $600 new, although she got it used for $125.

The South End Club still doesn’t allow wetsuits in its changing room. Ms. Hegeler, the president, says she isn’t entirely sure of the reason for this rule.

“It’s an old club,” says Ms. Hegeler, a former wetsuit-wearer herself. “There are certain traditions that are upheld.”

(Editor's note: We've been a guest of the South End Rowing Club, and we've known a couple of them for many years. They are a decent bunch of characters: oss.c)

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Swim start in Ocean Swimming Stadium, Mana Island.

Travel to swim in exotic locales in 2023

Vigorous response to travel packages

We're rapidly filling travel packages for our oceanswimsafaris in 2023. Packages are online for The Philippines (May-June), Sulawesi in Indonesia (June – just one room left), whale swimming in Tonga (August), Mana Fiji (October) and for Heron Island (three dates in June, October, and November).

What’s on…

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Sea life in French Polynesia. You, too, can swim here.

French Polynesia, May, 2023 (Both oceanswimsafaris now full, we're sorry) – We have two oceanswimsafaris to French Polynesia. These have been rolled over several times since the pandemic hit, but we'll to get them away finally in 2023. One is full, but the other (May 18-27) has two spots available. Check the details and get in touch quick and smart… Click here

The Philippines, May-June, 2023 – We’re off to The Philippines to swim with whale sharks, etc. We stay on the island of Negros Oriental in a five-star resort, which we use as our base for swims around the area over some of the best coral reef you will ever see, and in some of the clearest water. This location, at the northern end of the Celebes Sea, offers the highest diversity of marine life in the Indo-Pacific. We already have good sized group booked. Looks like it will be much fun. Dates are May 29-June 6… Click here

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Very nice water in Sulawesi.

Sulawesi, June 9-17, 2023 (Just one room left – Hurry!) – We’re heading to get back to Sulawesi, the weird-shaped island in the nor’-eastern Indonesian archipelago. This is at the southern end of the Celebes Sea, the other end from our venue in The Philippines (see above), again in the area of the greatest diversity of marine life in the Indo-Pacific. More glorious coral reef and tropical water, lots of turtles, different banquet every night, and some of the most panoramic views you will ever get from a resort room. Just 1-2 spots (1 room) left… Click here

Tonga, August, 2023 – Come with us to swim with whales in Tonga. This has proved to be one of our most popular oceanswimsafaris. In 2023, we have filled our first set of dates; now we have a second set of dates open (August 7-15). We spend three days swimming with whales and two days ocean swimming around and between islands in the Vava’u archipelago.  Dates are August 7-15, 2023… Click here

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The end of a big day, San Sebastián.

San Sebastián, Spain, August, 2023 – Back to Spain! We’re planning on running our San Sebastián oceanswimsafari over the week of August 22-28, anchored by the annual 3km swim around the island of Santa Clara. San Sebastián is one of the ancient world’s most colourful cities. San Sebastián sits at the point on the Basque/Spanish Atlantic coast where the Gulf Stream hits the coast, so the water at that time is comparable with NSW-SE Queensland and Perth in summer. Have you heard of pintxos? Excellent food in San Sebastián, and we make it another focus of our visit there. The Basques have their own, very special cuisine… Click here

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Dr Lanie Campbell explores the entrance to a sea cave off Catalonia's Costa Brava. Not many punters get to experience this.

Costa Brava, Spain, September, 2023
 – And back to the Costa Brava, the wild coastline of Catalonia between Barçelona and the French border. We’ll swim from France to Spain around the end of the Pyrenees, follow the most spectacular coastline in the world, and sample some of the best food and wine you will find anywhere. We’ll immerse ourselves in the world of Salvador Dalí, who was native to this area. And we'll visit our favourite wine bar in the entire world, run by Pau, a cigar-chomping (outside only, thankfully) sommelier and ex-war photgrapher. There’s something for everyone on this oceanswimsafari, whether or no you’re a swimmer. Sadly, 2023 dates are full, but we've had already considerable shows of interest for 2024. Dates September 12-20… Click here

Mana Fiji, October 17-22, 2023 – We are off to Mana Fiji for a five-day carnival anchored around a 10km (solos or 3 x 3.3km relay) swim on the Thursday, and a choice of 5km, 2.5km, or 1km on the Saturday. Mana’s North Beach is Ocean Swimming Stadium of the Pacific, one of the best stretches of water in which you’ll ever do a swim event… Click here


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We sail around the Northern Sporades, in the wake of Jason and his Argonauts.

Greece's Northern Sporades – We pioneered oceanswimsafaris around these lesser known (to Antipodeans) Greek islands, around locations for the movie, Mama Mia. Imagine, lazing around these islands, in some of the world's clearest water, on a yacht for a week. We live aboard, but we have some nights on land, and we dine each night at a different taverna by a different little cove. We can take groups of 6-8, but if you have around double that number, we can use two yachts. This is an oceanswimsafari done to order. Give us a yell... Click here

Lots on offer; lots to do; lots of swimming in some of the world’s most beautiful water.

Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, June, October and November, 2023 – See below.

Our advance deposit scheme

You can reserve your place in any oceanswimsafari with an advance deposit of $500 per head. When we finalise the packages for each trip, we’ll give you the option of accepting or declining. If you don’t wish to proceed, we’ll refund your advance deposit in full. But in the meantime, you will have your space set aside.

See for more.

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Get your View gogs

Best gogs, etc, at best prices

V820ASA BR and all colours 600Yet again, still, we're continuing our 'never-before' offer of View gogs. The folks at View have adjusted their prices in a small way recently, so we have had to adjust ours correspondingly, but we've kept prices down. We reckon these are the best value gogs you will get, in terms both of quality and price. This is in our our experience, mind you, bu this does go on a bit. 

Some of our bargains…

  • View Selene Swipes – $36
  • View Wide-eyes Swipes – $36
  • View Wide-eyes Swipe Mirrored – $42.50
  • View Xtreme semi-masks – $37.50
  • Prescription goggles – Swipe Optical goggles – choose your lens strength in each eye – $68.50

Here's the link to order your new gogs. Click now and we'll get them away to you quick and smart… Click here

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Not a bad joint for a swim.

2023 Heron Island

Dates open for June, Oct, Nov

Our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris were heavily booked in 2022. We've had some terrific groups come with us, and we're looking forward to tip top conditions in 2023. We're heading to Heron in June, October and November. June is the beginning of Manta ray season around Heron. October and November are early in turtle-laying season.

Best get in quick and smart. It would be good to have you with us.

We're taking bookings now for our 2023 Heron Island dates –

  • June 14-19
  • October 25-30
  • November 8-13

Find out more and book… Click here

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Fish school.

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New model Swipes

Prescription gogs now in Swipes

vc510 swipe lens 370Big news from View: our very popular prescription goggles now also come with high-anti-fog Swipe technology.

Our Swipes, so far in both Selene and Wide-Eyes versions, have been a big hit, offering what View (the makers) describe as 10 times the anti-fog capacity of other gogs. We've been using them for almost two years now, and we know that it works. We've sold over 1,000 pairs of Swipe gogs since their release just prior to Xmas 2019, so many of you must agree, too.

Now the Platina prescription goggles come in Swipe versions, too. Lenses come in strengths ranging from -1.0 to -10.0, and +1.5 to +6.0, and you can have different strengths in each eye. Just select the strengths you want when you order your gogs online.

View's new Swipe prescription gogs are available at $68.50 a full pair, which is cheap compared with how you will pay at a spectacles shop.

You can order your new Swipe Optical (prescription) gogs online now… Click here

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Last modified on Monday, 30 January 2023 03:54
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