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April 21, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere.

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Through a lip, brightly... This image from One Mile Beach, Forster, yesterday, by Turtle comrade, Steve White. See oceanbeachandcountry.com.au

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See below...

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Glistening Dave articulates why we get up to this stuff...

Swimmers' ear

Put nothing in your ear smaller than your elbow

With the water so yukky right now, still recovering from rainfall, floods, etc, we're re-running our story from March 7, 2018, written for us by ocean swimming ENT specialist, Dr Niell Boustred, on care of the ear. It bears attention...

When we were little tacs, our Nan, Chris McKenna (nee Urquhart), taught us some of the basics of life. She taught us, for example, how to eat porridge: by soaking it overnight with a pinch of salt, then covering it with heaps of brown sugar after we'd boiled it up in the morning. It took us half a century to get out of that habit. And she taught us to keep our ears clear of wax by cleaning the ear canal periodically. She did it by sticking a bobby pin inside a hanky and sticking into our ears, twisting it around, and showing us the gunk it found. Now we find that ear wax is our friend, for it helps to protect us from one of the great banes of swimmers everywhere: swimmers' ear. Here, Dr Niell Boustred, an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist, explains it to us...

Swimmers’ Ear is an infection of the outer part of the ear, fundamentally the ear canal. This is a narrow canal which connects the pinna, the visible part of the ear, with the tympanic membrane, or eardrum.

ear diagramThe medical term for this infection is “otitis externa”. It is distinguished from Surfer’s Ear, which is a narrowing of the ear canal caused by benign bony growths. The bony growths themselves develop as a consequence of exposure to cold water, sand and wind and are common in surfers and ocean swimmers. The narrowing of the ear canal can cause water entrapment which predisposes the surfer or swimmer to otitis externa, Swimmers’ Ear.

What follows is a discussion about the ear canal specifically.

The health of the external auditory canal is maintained by the production of wax (cerumen) in the canal which has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is acidic and is a superb waterproofing agent. The skin of the ear canal also protects against infection by being migratory, in other words, it moves from the depths of the ear canal to the outer part of the ear canal carrying with it debris (eg.beach sand) from the ear canal itself.

The ear canal has evolved in such a way that it is self-protecting and it is only really when we adversely affect this host defence mechanism that we are likely to develop an episode of otitis externa (Swimmers’ Ear).

Nanna made me do it

We do need to talk about wax, really, before continuing this discussion.

As stated, it is wonderful stuff. It protects the ear canal by waterproofing it. It is full of antibacterial and antifungal agents and has a low pH. Left in place, the wax will do a great job of preventing otitis externa. For reasons that are, frankly, unclear a significant number of the population habitually try to “clean” their ears in the mistaken belief that wax is, in some way, shape or form, dirty. This is not the case. In the overwhelming majority of the population, canals do very well if left completely to their own devices. Again, there are always exceptions to these biological rules, but fundamentally the advice that “nothing smaller than your elbow should enter the external auditory canal” remains a good maxim.

Occasionally, wax blocks the ear canal or prevents an appropriate view of the eardrum and, in that circumstance, it needs to be removed. It can be done safely by an appropriately trained general practitioner with a gentle syringing. The gold standard for cleaning the ear is to use a microscope and a suction. I think any form of personal attempts at cleaning your ear are inappropriate.

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Early morning swim. Why do we bother?...

Infection

There are a number of factors that are required or may precipitate an infection. We obviously need bacteria or fungi and the skin of the ear canal is a microbe rich environment. These microbes are what we would call commensals. In other words, they are part of the normal microbiology of the skin.

Protracted periods of exposure to moisture may predispose one to an infection but, generally speaking, the precipitating event is a combination of water and trauma to the external auditory canal which classically is produced by earbuds or any form of object, finger, hatpin, wax curettes. In fact, there are fantastically imaginative ways of traumatising the skin of the external auditory canal and therefore precipitating an infection. It is unusual that water exposure per se in an otherwise healthy ear canal would precipitate an infection. Remember the wax etc!

There are certainly patients with chronic skin conditions whose external auditory canals appear to be predisposed to infections, but in the normal healthy individual, water exposure alone is unlikely to precipitate an infection.

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Forster: Johnny displays his superiority over the ocean: the only way to master waves is to scare them.

Leave it alone

In those people who are susceptible to infections, particularly precipitated by periods of water exposure, there are three safe ways to dry the external auditory canal.

One is to use Aqua-Ear or Ear Clear, which are mixtures of alcohol and acetic acid (and available widely at chemists). The alcohol acts as an astringent or drying agent and the acetic acid lowers the pH and creates a microbiologically hostile environment.

The use of tissue spears, the corner of a tissue folded and placed in the external auditory canal, will not dislodge wax but will wick moisture out of the ear canal.

Lastly, a hairdryer on a low setting, both in terms of heat and power, can also be used to dry the external auditory canal. Fundamentally this is only required in those people in whom exposure to water may precipitate an otitis externa.

I cannot stress enough the fact that the ear canal is best left to its own devices.

Pain

Otitis externa itself is characterized by ear pain and usually develops after a period of water exposure almost inevitably accompanied by some form of simple trauma to the external auditory canal. It can be extremely painful. This is because the skin in the depths of the ear canal is closely adherent to the bone and as the infected ear canal tissue swells, it can become particularly uncomfortable.

The causative organisms in otitis externa are usually bacterial initially, but can be fungal and often, after a protracted period of management with an antibacterial, a fungal infection can develop.

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Stormover Diamond Beach (image by Steve White oceanbeachandcountry.com.au)

What to do

Otitis externa needs to be carefully managed. If one develops severe ear pain, particularly if it is exacerbated by simple manipulation of the pinna, I would strongly recommend that you seek the advice of your doctor. Do not attempt to clean the ear canal yourself. I would have a very low threshold for seeking the advice of your general practitioner and, in most circumstances, the infection will respond to relatively simple treatment including the use of appropriate oral antibiotics and particularly appropriate topical antibiotics. Generally speaking these should be initiated only after a swab has been taken. No need to wait for the result, though: initial treatment is empiric. The swab is useful if the condition does not improve.

ear shellCareful in the shore break: a shell wedged in the ear canal following a tumble on the edge.

Lots

As a specialist, particularly in the summer months in Australia, we see a lot of patients with otitis externa. In some circumstances it can be necessary to clean the ear canal. The gold standard for this is to use a microscope and a suction. We often have to pack the ear canal with appropriate antimicrobial agents because the swelling in the ear canal prevents or limits access of ototopical agents. We would occasionally use a course of oral steroids, commonly appropriate oral antibiotics and very occasionally intravenous antibiotics.

Diabetics can be particularly severely affected in this scenario and require prompt treatment and occasionally hospitalisation with appropriate intravenous antibiotics.

Prophylactic

What about ear plugs?

It is not as simple as it may seem

There are certainly patients who appear to develop an otitis externa as soon as the ear canal gets wet and they do appear to benefit from the use of ear plugs. In my opinion, if you are swimming regularly, almost daily, and you are using ear plugs on a regular basis, they could potentially be counterproductive because they prevent the ear canal from cleaning itself, their insertion could be traumatic and they may not be efficient.

This is a discussion that you should have with an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon and really is only for those people who appear to be getting recurrent episodes of otitis externa. There are no hard and fast rules here. Earplugs do not work for everyone and need to be tailored to your specific needs.

Cerumenolytics, in other words the drops that supposedly dissolve wax, are generally unnecessary and irritating to the ear canal and I do not believe really have a part to play in the day-to-day management of the ear canal.
There certainly is a group of people (swimmers particularly) who have a chronic skin condition and who appear to be predisposed to acute or chronic infections of the ear canal, and I would recommend they seek advice and active management by a specialist. Generally speaking the infections can be controlled if the underlying condition cannot itself be cured.

In conclusion, leave your ears alone, seek advice if there is a problem. If the problem is recurrent or chronic or threatening your swimming career, get the opinion of a specialist.

Dr (R N) Niell Boustred
ENT Specialist, ocean swimmer

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It's back!

Mana Fiji returns in September 

mana fiji logo 19 250It's back to the best ocean swimming water in the Pacific... At last, as things slowly return to normal conditions (ie pre-covid, albeit in a qualified way), we're very pleased to announce the return of the Mana Fiji SwimFest – three days of ocean swimming events in the pristine waters off Mana Island's North Beach, a location that we know as Ocean Swimming Stadium. The SwimFest will run from September 15-17, 2022, with our core travel dates September 13-18.

Mana Island is soon to re-open (at the end of July) after being closed for a couple of years due to covid. They're keen to have us all back, and we're keen to be there. The water off Mana Island, off the north-west coast of Fiji's main island, is some of the best ocean swimming water in the world, not just the Pacific (and we've swum in a lot of places over the years). There will be two swim days, with a 10km swim on Thursday, September 13 (solos and relay teams of three swimmers each), and events of 5km, 2.5km, 1km, and 500m on Saturday, September 15.

This year, Mana Island Resort will run the SwimFest events in co-operation with Fiji Swimming. This means the events will have FINA status.

It's a terrific event for anyone wanting to get away from the colder months and the chocolatey water that we're copping along the coast currently, following the rain and floods. It's also possible to use the Mana 10km event as a qualifying event for the Rottnest Channel Swim. This makes it the ideal event for Rotto qualification, in some of the best water you will ever get.

Our offer to you

Mana Island Resort is offering massive discounts on room rates to those who book through oceanswimsafaris.com: up to 50% off normal rates. We've packaged the core five days together to include your room, swim entries (both swim days), all meals, and return transfers between Nadi International Airport and Mana Island. See our page on oceanswimsafaris.com for more details (link below).

Bonus: Win back the value of your room!

All those who book and pay for their Mana Fiji SwimFest travel package with oceanswimsafaris.com by July 31 will go into a draw to win the value of their room back! 

We have packages online now. We're open for bookings, so check out the details quick and smart... Click here 

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10km swimmers from the last Mana Fiji SwimFest in October, 2019. Even if you don't wish to tackle 10km, you can still take part as part of the 3x3.3 km relay team. (If you don't have a team, we'll find one for you. )

 

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Get your View gogs

World's best gogs at world's best prices

V825AWe'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 at sale levels. This keeps them at the world's best value gog (in our experience, which goes on a bit). 

Here are 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 – new Swipe hi-anti-fog models $66.50

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.

2022 Heron Island

Dates open for Oct, Nov

We've begun our 2022 Heron Island oceanswimsafaris. They've been heavily booked, which is immensely gratifying. We appreciate your support enormously. It's also hardly surprising given the quality of the water and the sea life on the Great Barrier Reef itself. It's very different from water around the islands inside the reef.

We're off again to Heron next week, in fact. Our April-May and June oceanswimsafaris to Heron Island are sold out, but we are taking bookings for October 19-24, and November 6-11. There is till plenty of availability in most room standards on these dates.

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

Find out more and book… Click here

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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 $66.50 a full pair, which is cheap compared with how you will pay at a spectacles shop.

Be aware: View is phasing out the old versions of prescription goggles, currently selling for $A57.85. Some lens strengths are no longer available, and strengths will not be replaced as they run out. Your alternative is to order the new Swipe Optical goggles, which offer 10 times the anti-fog capacity of the older versions.

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

 


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They're a dour bunch, the Bongin Bongin Dawnbusters, so every now and again, they must bung on promotional days, to keep the punters coming back. Here is one such day, Easter Sundee (one Dawnbuster is a chocolatier)... Glistening Dave image (@glistenrr)

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February 24, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere.

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In this issue, we showcase some of the images of our cobber and comrade Forster Turtle, Steve White, who offers his stuff on oceanbeachandcountry.com.au. These images from dawn at One Mile Beach, Forster, earlier this month. See for yourself, here and below, and farther below...

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Ocean swimmers' dilemma? Or meeja beat up?

oos logoAre you worried about sharks...

Since last week’s tragedy when Simon Nellist was attacked fatally by a white shark at Little Bay, in Sydney, the question people have been asking is, ‘Does this incident make ocean swimmers apprehensive about swimming?’

That is, people who aren’t ocean swimmers have been asking that question. We did a chat on the telly with a reporter last week, and it was the first thing he asked. We’ve heard it in plenty of other places, too. Understandable, perhaps, that those who aren’t in the game should wonder.

It is curious, and sometimes exasperating, to anyone in any ‘specialised’ caper that those outside it should be ignorant of it. Unsurprisingly, the meeja, in its coverage of the incident, ran off with all kinds of lines that, to us, seemed implausible. One thing we have learnt over the years re the meeja, however, is that just because they say it, that doesn’t mean it’s right. We have also learnt that, if something is reported by the meeja as fact, irrespective of its accuracy, then it is indeed fact until and unless it is corrected. That is, those who come behind, eg other reporters researching stories in the future, will feel entitled to regard it as fact unless it has been corrected.

This is one reason why we are writing this now.

Please understand that we do not downplay the tragedy of the fate that befell Simon Nellist. We do seek to balance the context of the incident so that ocean swimmers can see it in a more objective, perhaps more realistic light. If anyone wishes to dispute what we say and to debate it, we welcome your contributions. We’ll put a link at the bottom of this newsletter that you can use to put in your two bobs’ worth.

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More from Steve White (oceanbeachandcountry.com.au)... These feet disappearing behind the break at Forster, earlier this month.

Collateral

There are two dimensions to this. But first, a couple of collateral points that should be discussed.

1. Was the victim an ocean swimmer, and was he ‘ocean swimming’ when he was attacked?

It’s relevant to any understanding of this discussion, since the meeja implied that being an ocean swimmer was the reason Mr Nellist was vulnerable to shark attack; for why he was there and open to attack when he was; and for why ‘ocean swimmers’ might feel apprehensive about going back into the water. The meeja also reported widely that Simon Nellist was ‘training for a charity swim’ the following weekend, that swim being the Murray Rose Malabar Magic, scheduled for Malabar beach the following Sunday. Malabar is just around the point from Little Bay. They are very close. Indeed, the first Malabar swim under its current tutelage ran from Malabar around the point to Little Bay. Swim awgies subsequently cancelled last Sunday’s swim ‘out of respect for Simon and his family’.

We are not convinced that Simon Nellist was ‘an ocean swimmer’ as we know it; certainly, he does not appear to have any record of participating in formal swim events. We have searched our annual tallies, which, when we ran oceanswims.com, we would compile with the help of the meticulous Colin Reyburn, and we cannot find him in any swim over the past three years. We also searched the Malabar entries and results going back to 2015, and we can’t find him there, either. Was he entered for the swim on the following Sunday? Awgies tell us that he was not. Indeed, they told mainstream meeja people so, as well, but many of these MSM still reported that Mr Nellist was, in fact, to take part in Sunday’s swim. Perhaps they had better information, but the source was never cited, as far as we could tell.

This is not to say that Mr Nellist was not an ocean swimmer. Or, indeed, that he would not eventually have entered the swim on Sunday. But the meeja appear to have had no certain basis for claiming so or for perpetuating what certainly looks like an inaccuracy. There are plenty of ocean swimmers who don’t take part in events; who swim only informally with or without cobbers. No-one has any handle on who they are, which is part of the glory. He could have been one such swimmer. However, we asked someone who knows or knows of many, many Eastern Suburbs swimmers, and they tell us they know or have met no-one who knew Mr Nellist. He ’certainly (was) not part of the ocean swim fraternity’ in the Eastern Suburbs, this person told us. Malabar swimmers paid tribute to Mr Nellist on what would have been swim day, last Sunday, in a memorial ring in Long Bay (Malabar), so perhaps he was known to them, although another swimmer we know who’s hooked into the Malabar scene said they didn’t know him, either. This distinction may seem like splitting hairs, but it is relevant to whether 'ocean swimmers' should feel apprehensive about swimming in the ocean.

Swim awgies also tell us that they have learnt enough from their contact with investigators to accept that Mr Nellist was a regular swimmer over that course between Little Bay and Malabar.

white forster rays 220211 600 02Rays, startled off Forster by Steve White...

2. Was the victim engaged in ‘a training swim’?

There are several aspects of the incident that struck us as discordant with the practices of 'ocean swimmers'. Mr Nellist was swimming a bit after 4pm, heading north-east into a sea breeze, just a couple of metres off a rock shelf in water that was bumpy from chop and reflected swell. He was wearing a wettie, although we don’t know whether it was full length of short legged and/or sleeved. Neither do we know whether he was wearing fins, or whether he had with him other equipment, such as spear fishing tackle. However, most ocean swimmers, if they are ‘training’ for an event, would swim earlier in the day, in calmer conditions – if only to simulate conditiions on event day – and they would stay farther out from the rock shelf in smoother water. At this time of year, experienced swimmers usually would not wear a wettie.

Was he on a training swim? Or even a regular informal ‘swim’? It doesn’t seem likely that that’s what Mr Nellist was doing. It seems more likely that he was swimming or mooching along the rock shelf looking at the sea life, enjoying the scenery and the water, perhaps even that he was spear fishing, and that that was something he may have done regularly. If you’re interested in sea life, you need to stay in close to a rock shelf to see it and, if you’re fishing for it, to get within catching distance. There’s much less of it that’s easily observed out wide. We saw the horrific videos on social meeja that had been captured by bystanders to the incident, and it appeared to occur five-10 metres from the rock shelf. That’s not normally ‘ocean swimming’ water. (We stress that we did not go looking for these videos; they came into our timeline, probably because of the practice of social meeja platforms to know the kind of thing that might interest you. Looking for these things is not the kind of thing that interests us.)

One of the aspects that does seem undisputed is that Mr Nellist was a diver (a dive instructor), so it's reasonable to assume that his primary interest was the underwater world. That would be more consistent with wearing a wetsuit, and perhaps fins, in water that was c. 24C and so close to the shelf. Swimmers (other than triathletes) wear wetties generally to keep themselves warm, and in water that warm, you need warmth usually if you’re not swimming consistently, ie you’re mooching around looking at stuff, stopping and starting, and you’re not generating body heat sufficient to keep you warm over time and distance.

All that said, we don’t believe that Mr Nellist was an ‘ocean swimmer’ as we understand the term; and it’s misleading of the meeja to portray the event as an attack on an ‘ocean swimmer’. Mr Nellist was there, we believe, for some other purpose. It appears, judging by reports, that there was no-one around who was with Mr Nellist or who knew with certainty what his objective was. Perhaps he was doing a regular shore mooch along the shelf, around the point and into Long Bay and back. But he does not appear to have been an ‘ocean swimmer’ as we know it. Thus, we believe that the meeja got it wrong in portraying the incident as an attack on an ‘ocean swimmer’.

Attacks on users of craft in the ocean, and on spear fishers, are different stories. See below…

white one mile dawn 220210 portrait 300Our artist, Steve White... Self Portrait.

Two dimensions

Answering the question about whether swimmers would be apprehensive about going back into the water, there probably are two responses, to do with the experience of swimmers.

Experienced swimmers would secure the incident in perspective more readily than non-swimmers or even newby swimmers. Their perspective would be that there is always a risk of this kind of incident, but it is very, very rare, and it can be minimised by smart swimming. Smart swimming is to do with where and when you swim: the rules generally are pretty-well accepted, and reinforced over the past few years by excellent work by the NSW Department of Primary Industries – 

  • Be careful swimming in enclosed salt waterways and estuaries (such as harbours, river mouths) especially in the early morning and the late afternoon/evening. That’s shark feeding time, when they are more active, looking for food, ie don’t swim in such places at those times.
  • Don’t swim in the ocean near the mouths of harbours and estuaries during or after heavy rain: the water is likely to be turbid and any hungry sharks might take a bite to find out what you are, because they can’t see you to be sure.
  • If you see a lot of bird activity, hovering, diving, fishing, etc, stay clear, because that indicates a school of fish that may be rounded up by larger animals, such as sharks and dolphins. The birds are opportunists who spot this action and seek a bit of it. If you swim into a school of fish, get out of it quick and smart. You don’t want to get in the way. 
  • Fish like to shoal just behind the break, which is why (and this is our hypothesis) many such incidents take place in that break-and-just-behind-it area, such as involving board riders. Swimmers, once through the break, are a bit farther out. Perhaps that makes us a bit safer: we’re less likely to get in the way of a shark chasing fish. Again, our hypothesis.
  • Best to swim with cobbers, so you can keep an eye on each other. That doesn’t mean you can fight off sharks with your bare hands, but perhaps there’s some greater safety in numbers.

waves collide 300Waves collide... Image found on the electrical internet; not sure whose image (sorry)...

Two bob

We’ve written before about the use of craft. Most incidents involving sharks happen to people using craft, such as surfboards, boogie boards, etc. Not sure why, but our guess is that, again, sharks aren’t sure what you are and will mistake you for something, eg a seal or a turtle, and will take a bite to find out. Usually, they’d find out quickly that you’re not what they’re interested in, but that’s a bit late for you.

There’s also discussion about whether wearing wetties put you more at risk, whether wetties make you more like a seal, for example. Sharks apparently have poor vision, and they can’t be sure. They like to eat seals and turtles, and people in wetties look more like them than newd swimmers. 

For all these reasons, our hypothesis is that ‘ocean swimmers’ – that is, swimmers doing distance in cossies, cap and goggles – are safer in the water than other water users, because we are more obviously not their normal food. We are less likely to provoke tasting.

In the case of last week’s incident, while initial reports were that the shark was ‘4.5 metres’, later reports, from authorities, cited ‘from 3 metres’. Authorities work this out from bite sizes, etc. If so, three metres for a white shark is not huge, and it’s possible that it was a young shark going through the phase of diet change and working out what it is they prefer to eat. We’ve read reports that cite white sharks at this phase of their lives as being the most common protagonists in ‘attacks’. Older sharks, the story goes, are more certain of these things and less likely to act with aggression.

This places the incident, perhaps, into the category of ‘just one of those things’. 

Birds

The other aspect we noticed from the videos of the incident were the gulls hovering overhead, close in and just above the incident itself. The first thing we thought, apart from the tragedy on the video, was that the Mr Nellist might have stumbled into a clump of baitfish and got in the way of the pursuing shark. We don’t know for sure, but it’s possible. We see plenty of this action on the Mid-North Coast, where we hang out a bit, and it’s usually other birds as well as gulls, but this time we could see just gulls. Were they lured by the action, or had they been there because of a clump of baitfish. They were there pretty quickly, so it suggests they were on the scene anyway. If the victim was spearfishing, perhaps they too had been attracted by a bag of catch attached to the victim if not a ball of baitfish.

Another thing you notice from the incidents in recent years is the number of times sharks ‘attack’ divers and spear-fishers. They are thought to be after the bag of catch that fishers often attach to their dive belts. Some fishers these days leave that bag at the end of a long line, so if the shark wants it, they can have it and leave the fisher alone. We spoke with one such experienced spearfisher on the mid-North Coast; he showed us the scars on his hand from where he had, some time earlier, fought off a shark that was after his bag of catch. He niow keeps his catch bag on the end of a 15 metre line. If the shark wants it, he says, they can have it. But perhaps this was another factor with Mr Nellist in his wetsuit (we’re not sure whether he was also using fins). The shark may have thought he had a bag of catch, hence where it attacked, which appeared to be around his waist. In recent years, there've been incidents in the Whitsundays in North Queensland of sharks attacking divers around their waist, apparently looking for their catch.

Experience

Experienced swimmers have the relevant factors in mind when they swim, so the answer to the question about being apprehensive is, not so much apprehensive, but perhaps a little more wary for a while. White sharks, on dit, usually don’t hang around the one area. Any shark that’s there one day is not expected to be there the next day. That said, up in Forster, we have a white shark that seems to be our resident, judging by the frequency with which this particular shark triggers the Shark Smart alerts, which these days cite the shark’s tag number, if it is tagged.

The answer for the less experienced swimmers is to take note of the above. By all means, be apprehensive, careful, but it’s no reason overall not to keep on swimming. There’s been an explosion of ocean swimming since the pandemic arrived, especially over winter, and this is not a reason why that should not continue. We fear that this incident places 'ocean swimming in a bad light, wrongly.

There are a lot of sharks out there in our ocean; there are a lot of species of sharks. But there are generally only three species that cause problems along the coast: Bulls (can be very aggressive, but usually hang around in turbid water, such as estuaries, preferring warmer water from around Sydney north), Tigers (which usually go, we understand, for distressed or injured prey, and also prefer warmer water), and Whites (who like cooler water as well). Of the rest, they generally just mooch about, and if you stay out of their way when they’re hunting, they won’t be interested in you, except perhaps for some occasional, mild curiosity. There are plenty of instances around of people swimming with these species of shark with no adverse consequences. Indeed, in Forster, we’ve found ourselves swimming with Bulls and Whites (usually smaller ones); the Whites are skittish and take off at a rate of knots; the Bulls just mooch along and couldn’t care less. We don’t seek these instances out, but sometimes they happen.

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Bongin, dawn today, and the DawnBusters look for all the world as if they're waiting for a spaceship to collect them and take them to another dimension. Image by David Helsham (@glistenrr)

Deterrent devices

We're sceptical about some of the 'deterrent' devices on the market. From what we’ve read, we understand the larger shark shield devices are effective at repelling sharks, but they're cumbersome, perhaps too cumbersome for ocean swimmers, especially swimmers in groups. We’re highly sceptical of the smaller ankle and wrist bands also on the market. The point about all of these devices is that they appear to attract before they repel when the shark gets too close. The issue is the range, the point at which the magnetic or electrical field that they emit and which causes the shark eventually to turn away. It’s generally pretty close. We wonder, for example, if you have such a device on your ankle, then how safe is your head and your outstretched arm if the shark will come into to a matter of centimetres before being repelled?

The most effective appear to be the shark shields, but they’re large and come with a trailing antenna a metre or so long, so you might need to be careful that the antenna doesn’t contact the bottom or other swimmers. This raises questions about practicality, quite apart from effectiveness.

To anwer the question from the start: Should ocean swimmers be apprehensive about going into the sea: You always need to be careful, but this incident does not appear to have targeted 'ocean swimmers', and we see now reason why we should not keep on swimming.

If you’d like to comment…Click here

(PS: We use an icloud email address these days because our oceanswimsafaris.com email address is too easily caught up by anti-spam systems.)

We’ll post comments at the bottom of the online version of this newsletter... Click here

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Gog prices slashed

Xmas sale extended

We sold another pair of Selene Swipes this morning. A lady at the beach whom we hadn’t met before. She’d been using another brand, which she said ‘kept fogging up’, and she kept ‘losing the seal’. We felt her pain. The great bain of ocean swimmers, other than dangerous things in the ocean, is gogs that don’t work.

V825AWe were introduced to this lady – let’s call her ‘Robyn’ – by our cobber, Terry, who uses our gogs, currently View Selene Swipes, and had been recommending both us and them to her over a cuppa at Beach Bums, our post-swim joint of choice. ‘Robyn’ called around later; we took her into our garage, opened our boot, let her try on a pair, gave her the spiel, and ‘Robyn’ walked away with her very own pair of Selene Swipes – Clear Blue ones, which are lighter and v. good for early morning swimming – two sets of blue ear plugs (which have a strap behind the head to make sure you don’t lose them; she’s giving one set to Terry), and an oceanswimsafaris silicone swim cap.

Lovely lady.

She called us a bit later and said, ‘You’ve under-charged me’.

‘How is that,’ we said.

‘You’ve charged me only for one set of ear plugs.’

The second set was an afterthought; she wanted them for Terry, who, in his mid-80s, swims daily in Forster’s ocean pool, the Bull Ring.

'Robyn' came around again shortly after and gave us the undercharge amount.

That’s the kind of punter we deal with in ocean swimming: high quality.

caves hams moon night 220216 300Full moon last week over Hams Beach, Neville's Navy glistening in the distance. 

It’s the gog

The incident got us thinking about how many Selenes we sell, of all the gogs that we offer, and particularly since they were released with Swipe anti-fog technology.

We’ve been selling Selenes in their original form since c. 2005, and they’ve always been our most popular gog for their comfort, quality and durability (they have a soft, wider silicone seal that doesn’t leave Rocky Raccoon marks around your eyes). We had regular Selenes and mirrored Selenes. We still offer them.

At Malabar a few years back, where with Mrs Sparkle we were running a stall (actually, Mrs Sparkle was running the stall; we were standing around chatting to people), a lady approached us there and said she felt it was about time she got a new pair of gogs. She was already using Selenes. We asked her how long she’d been using her current Selenes, but she couldn’t remember. She thought about it for a bit, then she pointed at her husband, and she said,

‘Longer than I’ve had him’.

So we said, ‘How long have you been married?” And she said, ‘Nine years’.

We sold her a new pair. But the fact that she’d been using the same gogs for at least nine years is the mark of someone who looks after their gogs – who respects their gogs – and of the quality of the gogs in the first place.

The rest is history

The original Selenes were supplemented by Selene Swipes in November 2019. Since then, we’ve sold over a thousand pairs of Selene Swipes alone.

The Swipe technology involves a coating on the inside of the lenses that provides an extra-high anti-fog capacity. When we start to use new Swipes – we use Wide-Eye Swipes – we generally get around 30 uses out of them before we need to do anything other than just put them on, dry, and keep them clean.

We respect out gogs, you see. We even have an essay on Goggle Respect on our website. It’s a guide to looking after and getting the best out of your gogs.

Since that time in November 2019, when we began to offer gogs with the Swipe technology, we have sold almost 2,000 pairs of goggles, over 50 per cent of which are Selene Swipes. People who start to use them never go back. In all the years we’ve been selling Selene gogs – 17 years – we have had only one punter who didn’t like them and sent them back.

That said, no gogs are any good over time if you don’t look after them. Check our essay on Goggle Respect (you find it under Buy Goggles on oceanswimsafaris.com)… Click here

And to buy your new gogs… Click here

Sale

V630ASA non mirroredIt's well into the New Year, but we've extended our 'never-before' sale of View gogs. We've kept most prices down at pre-Xmas sale levels, except for one model (Swipe Wide-Eyes non-mirrored) which we've brought into line with our most popular Selene Swipes. We realised we'd droped that price too low in the first place. But at $35, it's still triffic value for the quality of gog.

Here are some of our bargains…

  • View Selene Swipes – down from $40 to $35
  • View Wide-eyes Swipes – down from $40 to $35
  • View Wide-eyes Swipe Mirrored – down from $45 to $39
  • View Xtreme masks – down from $40 to 35.95
  • Prescription goggles – new Swipe hi-anti-fog models $63

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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Heron Island
Historic derrick, Heron Island.

2022 oceanswimsafaris

Dates open for Heron, but uncertainty o/s

We continue watch developments with Covid-19, as we're sure are all of you, too. There are some developments that encourage us — we are confident in domestic travel into Heron Island, for example (we don't expect state borders to close again, apart from WA) — but there remains uncertainty about some international travel. While our regular destinations mostly are 'open', entry restrictions applying currently muddy the waters a little. It's not simply a case of 'Are we able to go there?', but 'What restrictions will apply to us when we do go there?' And, Are we able to easily transit 3rd countries en route and back to destination countries? This applies to Fiji and French Polynesia, while Tonga has a considerable cloud hanging over it (pun unintended, but applicable) following last week's volcanic eruption. We must wait and see.

In the meantime, We are taking bookings for our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris in 2022, thus March 14-19 (sold out), April 24-May 2 (sold out), June 12-17 (sold out), October 19-24, and November 6-11. There is till plenty of availability in most room standards for October and November.

Best get in quick and smart.

Find out more and book… Click here

newsletter divider

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 $A63 a full pair, which is cheap compared with how you will pay at a spectacles shop.

Be aware: View is phasing out the old versions of prescription goggles, currently selling for $A54.50. Some lens strengths are no longer available, and strengths will not be replaced as they run out. Your alternative is to order the new Swipe prescription goggles, which offer 10 times the anti-fog capacity of the older versions.

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

 


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bongin dawn DHD 220218 600
We consider ourselves privileged to have as our cobbers two of the most gifted photograrphers you could imagine, in ocean swimming, David Helsham and Steve White (see Steve's stuff above). This is Dave's image of Bongin Bongin Bay on Fridee last week. Dave is a man of few words, but he doesn't need them...

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January 22, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere.

bongin jesus light dhd 220120 600
A master manipulator of light, Glistening Dave was at Bongin Bongin Bay to capture the Jesus light bursting through the heavens. @glistenrr

 

 

Postcard from the Ocean Pool

oos logoOcean pools under climate threat

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The Bogey Hole, in Newcastle… It seems one of the purest of ocean pools in that there is virtually nothing done to contrive it; it seems completely naturally formed. There is a stairway to get down to it, not formed by nature… But it's not naturally formed at all. It was hewn from rock by convicts in 1819 for the pleasure of the commandant of Newcastle, one Major Morissett. Read a more complete history of the Bogey Hole through the link above, but this dates the heritage of NSW ocean pools from the early 19th century.

 

NSW’s ocean pools are an amazing asset and legacy, an iconic collection of recreational infrastructure running the entire length of our coast. But these special places are under threat. Along with the natural ravages of time and tide, ocean pools are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This piece, by Nicole Larkin, was published originally in the magazine of the National Trust, then republished on the Trust's website

Ocean pools are a deeply Australian phenomenon enjoyed by generations of swimmers, sunbakers and sightseers. NSW, in particular, has a greater concentration of ocean pools than anywhere in the world, with 60 pools between Yamba in the north and Eden in the south. In fact, if you count all saltwater swimming enclosures, such as harbour pools, netted enclosures and wharf structures, the state has about 120 ocean and harbour pools. The next closest is South Africa, with 80 saltwater enclosures nationally.

NSW’s preponderance of ocean pools reveals our deep affinity with coastal spaces and landscapes. With more than 85% of us living within 50 kilometres of the coast, it’s not hard to see why ocean pools have become such an iconic and well-loved feature. They embody many of the values we associate with the coast and the complex factors that converge there.

Ocean pools provide a tangible link between land and sea, allowing us to connect closely with the open coast. Sitting in the intertidal zone, they are exposed to currents and waves. Like natural rock pools, they fill and drain with the tides, retaining part of the sea, along with fish, crabs, jellyfish and other marine creatures. Ocean pools are designed and constructed for simplicity – just enough to create a protected space to swim. In some cases, pools are no more than one wall built along a rock platform.

Bronte pool 600
Apart from those created by nature, such as Newcastle's Bogey Hole, the Bronte pool is one of the more iconic. It also was the site of the the first surf lifesaving instruction in Australia, when Major John Bond and Capt Arthur Holmes began to give instruction and demonstrations in rescue and resuscitation techniques, and in 1894 were instrumental in establishing a life saving society in Waverley. The Bronte group, Australia's – and the world's – first life savers, even trained recruits from neighbouring Bondi. (Pic by Sam Hood)

A long and optimistic history

Our fascination with coastal places is not new. For millennia the coast has been a focus of habitation and activity. And while our ocean pools are, of course, post-colonial structures, some of them were certainly built on places of indigenous significance. The pool at The Entrance was listed as a state heritage item because it was known to Aboriginal people as a natural saltwater fish trap. It’s likely that other ocean pools along the NSW coast also had their beginnings as fish traps.

The main catalyst for ocean pool building was the introduction of the Municipal Baths Act of 1896, which empowered local councils to provide public baths. Many councils took this opportunity to build ocean pools to attract residents and grow their rate base. A second wave of ocean pools was built in the 1920s when the government rolled out public works projects to provide jobs and support to the community. Of all the post-war and depression-era projects, ocean pools were among the most optimistic and idealistic. The result is a legacy of unique recreational assets of great social significance and natural beauty distributed along NSW’s 2,100 kilometres of coast.

wylies 600
Another of the iconic pools: Wylies Baths, at Coogee, just alone the coast from Bronte. (Pic by Nicole Larkin)

Precious but vulnerable

Today, many ocean pools are in a fragile state due to their age, construction and location, where they bear the full brunt of the elements. On top of this, climate change is making matters worse. Severe weather, including more frequent and intense east coast lows and coastal flooding, will accelerate the weakening and erosion of ocean pool structures. Poised as they are at the very edge of our shores, ocean pools are at the forefront of coastal impacts. They are, in a sense, the canary in the coal mine.

In 1994, the National Trust commissioned a survey of Sydney’s ocean and harbour pools, which led to five being recognised on the state heritage register. Others, however, remain unlisted. The National Trust report emphasised that the heritage significance of saltwater pools primarily lay in their continued function as places of recreation and exercise, rather than just their fabric. Critically, the survey also recognised the significance of pools as a group, similar to the way that lighthouses up and down the coast are recognised not only as important individual items but also part of a broader network.

We should consider NSW’s ocean pools as a true string of pearls along our coast, and as the threats continue to mount, we need to ensure these amazing public assets are conserved, protected, and in some cases revived for future generations to enjoy.

Nicole Larkin is a Sydney-based architect with a deep interest in the ocean pools of NSW. She is working with the National Trust’s Landscape Committee to help protect these precious places.

Thank you to Therese Spruhan (@reseyspru) for drawing our attention to this blog through her Twitter stream.

ocean pooling 22 250

 

 

For more on ocean pools, you should also see Kate Mills's running blog of her quest over January to swim every ocean pool on the NSW coast… Click here

forster fishermans pool 220116 600
We went trekking along the cliffs south of Forster with Johnny Goldfinger and his cobber, Dave, looking for a legendary ocean pool. Found it! Dave and Johnny went for a swim. Guess which one is Johnny…

newsletter divider

Gog prices slashed

Xmas sale extended

It's well into the New Year, but we've extended our 'never-before' sale of View gogs. We've kept most prices down at pre-Xmas sale levels, except for one model (Swipe Wide-Eyes non-mirrored) which we've brought into line with our most popular Selene Swipes. We realised we'd droped that price too low in the first place. But at $35, it's still triffic value for the quality of gog.

V825A

Here are some of our bargains…

  • View Selene Swipes – down from $40 to $35
  • View Wide-eyes Swipes – down from $40 to $35
  • View Wide-eyes Swipe Mirrored – down from $45 to $39
  • View Xtreme masks – down from $40 to 35.95
  • Prescription goggles – new Swipe hi-anti-fog models $63

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

newsletter divider

The Perennial Question…

What makes blueys spawn?

You know we've been on about this for yonks: what makes bluebottles spawn so that they are bobbing ararnd on the sea offshore, just waiting for an onshore breeze to blow them in onto beaches in plague proportions. Why are they there sometimes, but not others?

The answer is not, 'Oh, they're blown in by the nor'-easters!' Yes, they are blown in by onshore breezes of all persuasions. But what makes them be there, ready to be blown in. What makes them spawn? What makes them be 'born'?… Professor Julius Sumner Miller would say, 'Why is it so?"

Just this morning, the ABC News website – nowadays, our most trusted source of Strã'an news – reports a plague outbreak of red stingers in Port Phillip Bay, in Melbourne. The story goes into what's causing this plague, such as what are the conditions that prompt them to spawn and 'BE THERE' ready to pounce on unsuspecting swimmers.

These are not blueys; the report says they are 'Lions Mane' jellies, although they look a bit different to the Lions Manes that we've seen before. But never mind that, the experience of these jellies may be similar to the provenance of blueys, so knowing more about these ones may help us to understand others.

Read more about this fascinating story… Click here
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Heron Island
Historic derrick, Heron Island.

2022 oceanswimsafaris

Dates open for bookings, but still some uncertainty

We continue watch developments with Covid-19, as we're sure are all of you, too. There are some developments that encourage us — we are confident in domestic travel into Heron Island, for example (we don't expect state borders to close again, apart from WA) — but there remains uncertainty about some international travel. While our regular destinations mostly are 'open', entry restrictions applying currently muddy the waters a little. It's not simply a case of 'Are we able to go there?', but 'What restrictions will apply to us when we do go there?' And, Are we able to easily transit 3rd countries en route and back to destination countries? This applies to Fiji and French Polynesia, while Tonga has a considerable cloud hanging over it (pun unintended, but applicable) following last week's volcanic eruption. We must wait and see.

With our first overseas oceanswimsafaris not until May 2022, we are hoping that conditions will ease in plenty of time for clarity and convenient air bookings. 

Subject to this, we are planning our two oceanswmsafaris to French Polynesia in May (both sold out, we're sorry), two oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with humpback whales, in August (first oceanswimsafari August 2-10 open for bookings now). We're also waiting on details from Mana Island Resort for the Mana Fiji SwimFest in September.

In the meantime, We are taking bookings for our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris in 2022, thus March 14-19 (sold out), April 24-May 2 (sold out), June 12-17 (sold out), October 19-24, and November 6-11. There is till plenty of availability in most room standards for October and November.

Best get in quick and smart.

Find out more and book… Click here

newsletter divider

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 $A63 a full pair, which is cheap compared with how you will pay at a spectacles shop.

Be aware: View is phasing out the old versions of prescription goggles, currently selling for $A54.50. Some lens strengths are no longer available, and strengths will not be replaced as they run out. Your alternative is to order the new Swipe prescription goggles, which offer 10 times the anti-fog capacity of the older versions.

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

 


newsletter divider

forster turtles fahey 220116 600
To look her best at her regular early morning swim, Forster Turtle Wendy Fahey sports her fluffy polar bear stole as both glamour, and added protection from the Ekman-style cooler water.

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December 7, 2021

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We don't take you just anywhere.

forster wave david 600 01
Photo essay: Bursting through: David Cowperthwaite emerges from the back of a wave, Forster, early morning swim.

forster wave david 600 02

forster wave david 600 03

Postcards from the Pool

oos logoIf ever there was a day…

goble sally 400It's into winter where Sally Goble is swimming at the moment; on the healing power of the pool…this piece from Sally's blog, Postcards from the Pool

I am exhausted, humiliated, full of rage and regret. I am full of self doubt and self loathing. I do not understand why things have come to be the way they are. Was it my fault? Did I do wrong? Was I not good enough? Not young enough? Not smart enough? Not cute enough? Not the right fit? Not what was wanted? I lie awake in the middle of the night staring into the darkness listing my failings. The anger I feel makes my jaw hurt.

If there was ever a day for the sky to be blue, it was today.

I have come here to be rescued, and the sun is shining.

I am not judged here.

I can float on my back in a star shape here, and I know what to do with my body in order to balance in a near-perfect effortless equilibrium, so that — even though I am in water — I may well be resting on the most comfortable of beds.

I have no doubts here.

I am not fast but I am fearless, and can withstand the cold that makes others falter. I watch others shake with cold and wonder if I have superpowers. I am not afraid of the pain. I do not need a shower to bring the pink back to my cheeks. I am strong, and I do not tire, and do not get bored. As I swim my lengths, I watch others sitting on the poolside chatting. The longer I swim, the happier I am. I press on, determined to exhaust myself so that I have no energy for anger.

I am not alone here.

The leaves, suspended in the pool, seem to wave at me as I swim over them. The dimpled stainless steel lining sparkles blue, and silver, and gold: trying its best to cheer me up. A plane drifts by above, watching over me. The wind has died down and I’m alone in my lane, so that when I turn my head to breathe, the ripple-free smooth silkiness of the surface makes me gasp. Nature is working as hard as it can to make me happy today.

I am swaddled by the water here.

Protected, embraced, enveloped, comforted. I swim and swim and swim until the whistle blows. A silent conversation between me and the water with no fear of judgement.

The sun shines on, my jaw is unclenched.

Sally Goble
Postcards from the Pool

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Punter power

bongin bins dhd 600 01
Finishing off the redevelopment of the curtilage of Mona Vale beach, Northern Beaches Council in Sydney thoughtfully installed a set of bins for use by beachgoers. Or perhaps less than thoughtfully… Pic above is the day after the bins were installed, and pic below is the next day — the next day! — following a publicity campaign shaming the council, led by our cobber, @glistenrr. No marks for brains, Northern Beaches Council, but full marks for response. It seems someone influential must have been offended as well as Dave and his Dawnbuster comrades.


bongin bins dhd 600 02

newsletter divider

Gog prices slashed, delivery fees waived!

Xmas sale! Get in now

We've been celebrating over November the new swimming season with a never-before sale of our fave View gogs. Now, leading into Xmas, we're making the sale even better: buy three or more items from our online shoppe, and we'll refund your delivery fee completely!

V825A

Here are some of our Xmas bargains…

  • View Selene Swipes – down from $40 to $35
  • View Wide-eyes Swipes – down from $40 to $32
  • View Wide-eyes Swipe Mirrored – down from $45 to $39
  • View Xtreme masks – down from $40 to 35.95
  • Prescription goggles – down from $65 to $54.50

If you buy three or more items, we will refund your delivery fee completely!*

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

* Delivery refunds apply to Australian orders only, we're sorry. Refunds will be made to your account after order is finalised.

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heron 1711 swimmer 600
Random swimmer, Heron Island.

2022 oceanswimsafaris

New dates open for bookings

At the time of writing, we still know very little about omicron other than that it has the authorities worried, albeit perhaps not quite as worried as they were a week or two ago. We're keeping an eye on it. 

Subject to covid-related travel restrictions, we are planning our two oceanswmsafaris to French Polynesia in May (both sold out, we're sorry), two oceanswimsafaris to Tonga to swim with humpback whales, in August (first oceanswimsafari August 2-10 open for bookings now). We're also waiting on details from Mana Island Resort for the Mana Fiji SwimFest in September.

In the meantime, We are taking bookings for our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris in 2022, thus March 14-19, April 24-May 2, June 12-17, October 19-24, and November 6-11. All but the October and November oceanswimsafaris have only a few spots left available, so if you're interested in March, April-May, or June, then best get in quick and smart.

Find out more and book… Click here

newsletter divider

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 $A63 a full pair, which is cheap compared with how you will pay at a spectacles shop.

Be aware: View is phasing out the old versions of prescription goggles, currently selling for $A54.50. Some lens strengths are no longer available, and strengths will not be replaced as they run out. Your alternative is to order the new Swipe prescription goggles, which offer 10 times the anti-fog capacity of the older versions.

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

 


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forster wave dump 600
Finis, Forster

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November 29, 2021

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We don't take you just anywhere.

bongin rain 211126 dhd 600
The story of November: la Niña over Bongin Bongin Bay (Image by David Helsham @glistenrr) 

Into the chop

oos logoHe (or she) who hesitates will stop

There was a nor’-easter blowing this morning, not a heavy one, but there was a bit of a bump, as you’d expect when the beach faces nor’-east, into the puff. We swam to the pole, 150m down the beach, warming up, and we regrouped. And Johnny, in charge today, said, ‘We’re gonna swim in different directions to see which way is the easiest to swim in these conditions’. He said, ‘We’re going straight out for 2 x 50 strokes, then back along (parallel with the beach: oss.c) for 80 strokes x 5, then we’ll see’. The first 50 strokes x 2 would be straight into the chop; the 80 strokes x 5 would be across it; then we’d run in with it towards the back of the pool, way down the other end of the beach; then back across the chop again to the start.

Well, most, if not all of us could tell Johnny straight out which way is the easiest to swim in a chop: it’s certainly not against it, and not across it, either, particularly if there’s a swell running with the chop. But swimming with it from here, just behind the break, would take us straight back to the beach, which is not what we’re here for, unless we’re doing ins and outs, which we weren’t, or unless one of us has spotted something largish, moving lithely beneath. Anyway, most of us are too stiff in the joints to do ins and outs.

We all love Johnny, although Noel refers to him, with great affection, as ‘Knucklehead’. Noel refers to everyone with great affection as Knucklehead. But we know how much thought Johnny puts into the session when he leads it, which isn’t every day. Normally, Noel runs us. Noel used to play first grade rugby league, and he runs a session much as the conditioning trainer did at Leichhardt Oval back in the ‘70s. But Noel is away today, visiting a cobber farther up the coast. Anyway, we’re happy to go along with someone (ie Johnny) who has bothered to think about how we swim each morning, what we should do, what we can do so that it’s not the same thing every day, thus boring, so that we don’t have to (think about it ourselves). So off we go. We swim out, directly into the chop, towards the shark drum lines.


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Johnny: Heavy is the burden of leading the Forster Turtles.


Some days later, sipping our cuppas in front of the surf club, we spot the shark contractor stopped by the drum lines. As a rule, the contractor is called out only when the drum line is activated by a shark. He (…or she; we can’t tell from the beach) uses an open twin outboard with a screen. There are two of them on board, and they stop by the drum line booee whilst they check the motivation of the call. As a rule, the motivation is a shark that’s taken the bait on the drum line. The contractor is called out to release the shark, but then, if it’s a listed shark, eg a white, like Bubbles, then s/he is supposed to tag it, if it’s not already tagged, then drag it a couple of kilometres out to sea, then release it. The thinking is that, once released, the shark will swim merrily off to another beach. That’s all well and good, except that, early in the drum line experiment, they tagged and dragged a white out to see, released it, then found it on the same drum line again the next day. That was Bubbles. Bubbles is our resident white.


It's stuff like this that goes through our minds when we’re swimming early morning, and during the post-swim cuppas, where stories grow out of all proportion according to how long the cuppa lasts. In truth, we don’t worry about it all that much these days. It’s chat fodder, but it’s not anxiety-inducing. We figure that, with all the early morning swimming on our beach going back years, and years, and with all the creatures jammed into the area, if something was going to happen, most probably it would have happened by now. That’s not to say it won’t happen one day, but all of life is a punt, and the odds appear stacked against it pretty heavily. (That’s to do with us swimmers, not board riders or other craft users.)

(Touch wood.)

So when Johnny sends us straight out towards the drum lines, we’re thinking more of stroke than of imminent death.


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Dawn drama at Bongin (image by David Helsham @glistenrr)


It is an intellectual exercise to work out which is the best way, ie direction, to swim in bumpy chop. Certainly, not straight into it. That’s a misère.

Across the chop is more difficult. Much depends on which way you breathe. Most swimmers of a certain age breathe only one way. This is despite us lecturing for many years about the need to breathe both ways – bilaterally – for precisely this type of occasion. If you’re swimming across a chop that’s coming from your left, and you breathe only to your left, then the chop will interrupt your breathing pattern. You’re at risk of taking gobsful of water rather than air, as an unpredictable bump rears up in your face just at the moment you’re turning to breathe. This can be uncomfortable. It means either you take in the sea water, possibly going down the wrong way or, if you’re quick witted and you miss the mouthful, you also miss your breath. Either way, it’s disruptive to your stroke.

Experience tells us, as well, that breathing away can cause these same problems, because you can’t spot those suddenly arising bumps rearing up. You’re still likely to take in water and to miss your breath. But breathing away does seem to reduce that risk.

Unpredictable bumps also can interfere with your stroke. While swimming is a mechanical exercise in search of rhythm, you’re always anticipating the water when you’re recovering and when you’re about to plunge your leading hand back into the water for the next stroke. Suddenly, the water isn’t there and you have nothing to grab, so you miss that stroke entirely, or it ends up as half a stroke. This can be due to body instability in an erratic swell, or instability in the water itself. Where did it go? It was there a moment ago!

Instability in the stroke leads to instability in your body position, your breathing, your rotation and your kick (don't get us started now on the scissor kick, the kick favoured by so many boofheads). It moves all the way down your body. Mind you, the concepts of rotation, and certainly kick, are absolutely foreign to most mug swimmers, so they’re probably nothing for you to worry about.

The other tendency in swimming across the chop – and this stems directly from body instability – is to hesitate. You hesitate when you find the water beneath your entering hand suddenly disappear, so you wait for it to reappear so that you have something to grab on entry. This is a major error. Hesitation means you lose your forward momentum, which in turn means that when you eventually restart your stroke, you’re staring from a much slower base.
You must keep swimming, never mind whether you sense the water there or no. Not only do you maintain your momentum, but you realise how important a role your entering hand plays in supporting your body stability in the water: it’s like an anchor, not weighing you down, but stabilising you against the flow, the pitch, the roll of the water, so you continue to cut through it, not be tossed around by it. In any case, even if you sense the water is not there, so you tend to hesitate, you must bear in mind that, if it’s not there now, it will be in just a mo. Have confidence.


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What some eejits do to Wobbegongs: Forster, early morn.


We all know that swimming with the chop or the swell is easiest. That’s a given: it’s coming from behind, so it picks you up feet first and thrusts you forward. Given it’s generally coming from behind fairly evenly, the you don’t have the problems of erratic water ahead, so the chop shouldn’t interfere with your breathing or your rhythm, and your body position is unaffected negatively as your supple stroke webs seamlessly with your breathing, your rotation, and your kick. Doesn’t it.

There is a skill to be developed in feeling the following swell as it runs onto your feet, then up your legs, like a creep in the back row at the movies, through your core and on through your chest, your neck and out the end of your head, ahead. That skill is to do with the suppleness that allows your body to take on the shape of the swell rolling through so that, as it travels along your body, you tend to surf down the face of it. It picks up your feet and it thrusts you forwards. Your body takes on the shape of the swell. Indeed, there are few more inspiring sensations in ocean swimming than surfing down the face of a following swell in deep water.

We used to experience this when, as a youngster, we rowed surfboats. As you felt the following swell lift the blunt end of the boat, which the technical types refer to as the ‘stern’, or the ‘tuck’, you felt the boat surge forward, so your stroke changed from one of powerful grabs and swirling finishes to faster taps as you kept the boat even and running down the face of the wave. Then the boat drops off the back; it seems to stop dead, and it's back to the powerful grabs to rebuild the pace till the next swell surges through.

In swimming, it’s the same: running down the face with a longer, chasing stroke, then pulling it together with more powerful grabs when you inevitably drop off the back and prepare for the next swell to come through. Goodness, it feels good.


forster course 211118 400What happens when your GPS is confused by the earth's magnetics. The course actually was c.800m.


But straight into the chop?

Another misère, but this time in the negative. Or so it might seem. We return to surfboats…

Rowing into a chop, the boat tends to stop each time it hits a bit of bump. The tendency is for the crew to start again, building up momentum with shorter, sharper strokes till they reach a running speed. The problem with a bumpy day, but, is that you’re continually hitting bumps that tend, each time, to make the boat stop. The way through this is not to shorten the stroke; if you shorten the stroke, it’s then continually restarting. The solution is to lengthen the stroke, and to finish each stroke with a flourish and a slight pause (not a hesitation) to give the boat run to get through those bumps. The stroke will tend to flow, but because it is a little longer, and ends with that bit of extra oomph, the boat running more evenly and the sharp end of the boat (known to the technical types as the bow) cutting through the bumps rather than being stood up by them.

Ditto swimming. Straight into a chop, the tendency is to cop the stop, then restart each time after you’ve dropped off the back of a bump into the trough. We’re reminded of a swim from Palm Beach to Whale Beach, 15 or more years ago, when we swam from Palm Beach to Little Head directly into a 2-3 metre swell, with sou’-east chop on top. It was so bumpy that we reckon we travelled greater distance up and down than forwards. (That swim also was one of the occasions on which awgies did not have a marker booee off Little Head, thus we were free to cut the headland as close as we liked. As we rose and fell on the chop-topped swell, we felt as if we could have touched the rocks as we rounded them. Good grief, it was fun! Other awgies would not have run their swim in those conditions, but Whale Beach awgies always have favoured the adventurous course. It is, after all, The Big Swim.)

Like the surfboat, we have found the best course through head-on chop is a longer stroke, head flat, thus optimising your streamline so that you cut through the chop rather than be tossed around by it. You must finish each stroke with a bit of extra push, and that, combined with the streamline, allows you to cut through the chop rather than the chop holding you up.

And, like swimming across the chop, the secret is to keep on swimming. Just because you feel the chop hit you front on, and you sense the water ahead dropping away, it’s important that you don’t hesitate in your stroke. You must keep on swimming, because your entering hand acts as the anchor that pulls you through the chop, but if you’ve hesitated, there’s no anchor, and you’re left at the mercy of the chop.

This goes to a massive flaw in our own stroke. For years, we’ve been obsessed with swimming ‘catch-up’ in ocean swims. Catch-up is leaving the leading hand out there till the recovering hand catches up to it. This is in the interests of streamline. In chop, however, it’s hesitation: the hand enters the water, but it delays the grab, in the interests of maintaining the streamline, thus the run. Our friend, Roger, a water poloist and former hack from the Gold Coast, told us once, many years ago, that he swims anything over 400 metres essentially catch-up. More accurately, it’s more like ¾ catch-up. And in normal, calmer water, that’s fine. It’s essentially about streamline and lengthening the stroke. But the thing about the sea is that it tends not to be normal water most of the time, and when you’re facing directly into a chop, if you keep, in effect, hesitating with your grab, then the chop will stop you. So you must keep the stroke going, the grab after entry to anchor your pull through the chop, and in the process finding a new ‘catch-up’, a modified catch-up, where you strike a new balance between stroke length and maintaining the swim action.

And, you know something? If you do that, you’ll find the chop much easier to bear, and swimming into a chop will become fun; not the chore you’re used to or you’re expecting.

Johnny never did tell us the result of his experiment. Last we heard of him, he was bushwalking in the Snowy Mountains. In the rain, apparently. But Johnny’s like that. He went kayaking in the outback in heavy rains a couple of months back. He’s his own fellow. And we suspect his ‘experiment’ was a ruse: he was just thinking up something for us to occupy our minds whilst we swam. He succeeded in that.

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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.

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

Meanwhile, our November sale continues…

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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Swim buddies, Heron Island.

2022 oceanswimsafaris

New dates open for bookings

Yet again, a new version of Covid raises uncertainty about overseas travel. This time, at the time of writing, we know very little about omicron other than that it has the authorities very worried. We're keeping an eye on it.

In the meantime, We are taking bookings for our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris in 2022, thus March 14-19, April 24-May 2 (Full), June 12-17, October 19-24, and November 6-11

There are only a few spots left on our March and June dates; April-May is full; there is plenty of room still in October and November. If you fancy them, you’d best get in quick and smart.

There is plenty of room left in our June and November dates, and a few spots left in October, but they are filling fast.

Find out more and book… Click here
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Body surfers, Forster.

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November 9, 2021

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We don't take you just anywhere.

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The view off Forster Main Beach last week (see story below). 

Stingers, stingers, and more stingers

oos logoBlueys – The mystery deepens

Blueys. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, they’re with us, and they ain’t goin' away.

Yet again, we are searching for the answers to some of life’s great questions –

  1. What makes bluebottles be there, floating around offshore, ready to be blown in to the beaches by an onshore breeze?
  2. What makes them spawn in abundance so that they are floating about out there, often in plague proportions?

Astute observers will note that these are two sides of the same question: Why are they there when they are there? Why not always or never? Why more so sometimes than at other times? What makes them spawn?

Special subject…


We have asked this question/these questions several (many) times in the past, but the best anyone can come up with is, ‘Oh, they get blown in by the nor’-easters’.

That is true. But why aren’t they blown in by all nor’-easters, or by all sou’-easters? The answer to that question is that they aren’t always there, floating about insouciantly, ready to be blown in.

Another question: Why are they in some places but not in other places, even nearby?

Case study: In Forster, where we swim a bit in the ocean, we swim mainly at the town’s Main Beach, which faces nor’-east. You would think that we are particularly vulnerable to bluey infestations. In the last two years, however, we have had very few problems with them, despite what incessant black nor’-easters blowing over the height of summer, and often at other times. Yet at One Mile Beach, barely a kilometre away, and which faces east, they have experienced repeated bluey invasions over the same period. Why them and not us?

Juli Berwald’s book, Spineless (Riverhead Books 2017), attempts to answer this question, inter alia (albeit not in specific reference to blueys at Forster). But it can’t, because, it says, no-one knows what makes jellyfish spawn.

What we do know, Berwald says, is that jellyfish (blueys ‘n all) come from polyps, and polyps clone to make new jellyfish.

Berwald quotes one researcher, Lucas Brotz, at the University of British Columbia, who has done a paper on the growth of jellyfish populations in coastal regions worldwide. Brotz theorises that one of the causes of an increase in jellyfish numbers is the increase in hard surfaces around shorelines; or, put another way, increasing development. The reason, he says, is that jellyfish polyps like hard surfaces to live on and the increase in structures such as wharves, artificial reefs, even buoys, moorings, breakwaters and concrete shoreline provide rich opportunities for them. And all of those hard surfaces, with untold (hectares) of undersides, are potentially brand-new habitats for jellyfish polyps.'

Berwald writes: ‘Jellyfish scientists have compared the jellyfish polyp to a Trojan horse. By building habitats for the polyps, we are inviting them into our bays and ports and beaches. They arrive and plant themselves, appearing as benign guest. And then, when they get the cue, they release an invasion of medusae (juvenile jellyfish, if you like, which become jellyfish: oss.c) before we can react.’

 

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A bluey. (Image: David Helsham Design @glistenrr)

But what is ‘the cue’?


Berwald says: ‘Despite all the artificial jellyfish habitats we’ve constructed, we’ve observed the polyps of only a miniscule number of jellyfish species in the wild… just over two dozen species.

‘Entire fisheries profit from two species of edible jellyfish, but the locations of the polyps that produce those medusae remain mysterious. We don’t have accounts of wild polyps of the box jellies that brutally sting swimmers in Australia every summer, of the spotted jellies that can proliferate into swarms of millions of medusae in the Gulf of Mexico, of the stocky barrel jellyfish that surf the seas of the United Kingdom, or of the invasive nomadic jellyfish that blooms by the kilometre in the eastern Mediterranean.’

We think Berwald is mixing up the terror of estuarine waters along the north Queensland coast with the much more pervasive but far less (but still) deadly bluey (our fave!). In the US, our blueys are their box jellies. Be that as it may, the question is the same: why are they there?

‘Lots of questions remain unanswered,’ Berwald writes. ‘What do wild polyps eat? What east wild polyps? How long do they live? Why do they die? What causes them to clone, to produce podocysts, to produce medusae?’

‘We just don’t know. And that’s eerie,’ Berwald says.

 

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A real nasty: a box jellyfish. Keep away from this one.

Why are they there?


The question comes to mind for a couple of reasons: we’re coming into summer, and reports of blueys in swimming areas along the coast are re-emerging from their winter slumber; they follow more frequent reports of blueys appearing on beaches in cooler months, even through winter; and an encounter we had last week at Forster, out behind Haydon’s Reef.

We were swimming around the reef last Tuesday, looking to catch up with Fluffy en famille, when suddenly it hove into view: a jellyfish, a stinger, that we’d never seen before. In our waters, you get used to seeing blueys, jimbles, purple people eaters, salps, etc. But this was right out of the ordinary. It sat there, about a metre below the surface, and we didn’t see it till we were right over the top (our habit is to keep our heads down when we swim, so we don’t see a lot ahead; it’s part of the lot of the ageing swimmer: you lose flexibility in your neck). A metre below, it’s not threatening, but as we stopped to look, it started… to move. You notice very quickly how manoeuvrable jellies often are, how deliberate they appear to be. Perhaps they’re just responding to the hydrodynamics of one swimming over them. And believe us, the hydrodynamics of this particular one (us) swimming around the joint are quite definite. Maybe it’s like they’re sucked into our slipstream, and what appears to be them responding and moving deliberately are just involuntary responses caused by the currents.

It does spook you a little, though, and you move back instinctively to put more distance between you and it.

It’s quite a beautiful, dramatic jelly, with lots of fair maiden’s fine hair floating about behind it. We had our Brownie Starflash-in-a-plastic bag with us, so we got a few images on burst at 30 frames over 3 seconds. Plenty of options. We sent an image to the chap at the Australian Museum who we thought would be most appropriate to identify it for us. He got back to us quick and smart, but he said we should send it to Lisa Gershwin, at the University of Tasmania, who is the acknowledged authority on jellyfish, and has produced an app to help us identify them.

We did that as well, and Lisa, too, got back to us quick and smart.

‘Ha! I think that’s one of my babies!!!!!’, Lisa said. ‘It looks like it might be Desmonema scoresbyanna, a species I named and classified around 2008. It is fairly uncommon, known from South Australia through NSW.’ That tallied with a report we’d seen from the local newspaper, the Great Lakes Advocate, in 2016, when it was sighted, apparently for the first time, off the breakwall at Tuncurry, across the lake mouth from Forster.

Lisa was not absolutely sure, though.

‘The reason for my lack of certainty is that the photo is pretty fuzzy, so I can’t make out the defining character, the arrangement of tentacles,’ she told us.

lion s mane jellyfish 300‘Desmonema has tentacle clusters in a straight line, where Cyanea, the lion’s mane, has horseshoe shaped clusters. Every time I’ve seen a milky white lion’s mane, they’ve turned out to be Desmonema. But you just never know, it could be a milky Cyanea.’

We’ve seen several images of the lion’s mane, and it doesn’t look like that to us, although we’re no expert and, depending on the images you’re comparing, we can see how the two might be confused. See for yourselves: compare the image at the top of this page with this one here, at right (lion's mane)…

A lion's mane.

The lion’s mane jellyfish can grow to several metres in girth, and it would be hard to mix them up on that basis. The Desmonema we spotted would have been c. 7-8cm wide in its bell, with gossamer tentacles extending half a metre behind.

Stung


Our cobber, Steve White, a Forster Turtle, reckons he was stung by what we saw, also out around Haydon’s Reef, on October 31. Steve normally has his own Brownie Starflash with him, but not on this occasion so he caught no images. He said it gave him a very sharp sting around his mouth. The pain was debilitating and lasted for two hours, although it left him with no scars or other marks. Didn't really matter much with Steve; he's a quiet sort of chap. Meanwhile, the mystery continues.

We took the opportunity of the contact with Lisa to ask her about the bluey: what makes the bluey be there when they are there, ready to be blown into shore by an onshore breeze.

At the time of writing, we haven’t heard back further from Lisa, but we live in hope. We have tried by email to ask her about the bluey a couple of times in the past, but received no response. Perhaps our emails were lost in the cybernet, including yesterday's follow up when we sent her another four images of last week's Desmonema.

Meanwhile, anyone out there who has some reasonably authoritative information or advice, please get in touch. Just so long as it’s more illuminating than, ‘Oh, it’s blown in by the nor’-easters’.

Why do we go on about blueys?


Well, if we have some idea about what make blueys be there, ready to be blown into shore, then maybe we can start to predict their arrival in swimming waters. That could mean swimmers could avoid being stung. And whilst to some punters, getting stung by a bluey is a badge of honour, to others it can endanger their lives.

In Hawai’i a few years back, the organisers of the Waikiki Roughwater swim started to anticipate the arrival of their version of blueys which, as we've noted, they call a box jellyfish, by the proximity to certain moon phases. In a briefing note to entrants in 2014, the Roughwater organisers told punters, ‘We scheduled this race around the box jellyfish window 8-11 days after the full moon and we do not anticipate that they will be around on race day…’

Organisers said this arrival time window had been ‘discovered’ by Dr Gail Grabowsky, and they began to schedule the swim to avoid it where possible. The Waikiki Roughwater always takes place on the first weekend in September, the Labour Day Weekend in the US, officially the end of the summer holidays. Waikiki generally ran on Monday, with the Maui Channel swim on the Saturday. Thence, the two events sometimes swapped days, so that Waikiki could be safer, or at least organisers could try to optimise the chances that it would be safer.

As we say, ‘box jellyfish’ doesn't mean the same thing to ‘Mer’cans as it does to Strã’ans. If we had ‘box jellyfish’ hanging about the swim course, we wouldn’t be starting at all. That said, there are many versions of ‘box jellyfish’. They all appear to be classified as ‘life threatening’ by Dr Gershwin’s app, The Jellyfish App. In Hawai’i, the ‘box jellyfish’ is a form of Irukandji (alatina moseri). (We tried to find out more about blueys (two versions appear to plague our waters, physalia species A – described as ‘rare – or physalia physalis) from the app, but it doesn’t seem to work very well on our iPhone, which carries the latest ios. Our access to information from it was very limited, although it appeared there was more there.) The Jellyfish App, indeed, lists two bluey-like stingers. One, the 'Blue Bottle', is listed as 'Rare', whilst the other, which it lists as 'Portuguese Man-o-war', is what we would refer to as a 'bluebottle'. No-one would refer to our 'Portuguese Man-o-War' as 'rare'.

Anyway, that’s all well and good, but we’re still in the dark about what makes blueys be there when they’re there.

Any advice would be appreciated… Click here

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Fancy running into this on your next early morning swim?… Another lion's mane. Mind you, it could all be in the lens and its depth of field. 

lion s mane jellyfish 02 600

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Gogs prices slashed!

Big response to new season sale


We've had a terrific response to our new season sale of our fave View gogs. We were absolutely inundated with orders after our last newsletter, and now we're all stocked up ready to go again.

V825A

Just for November (but on sale now) here are some of our bargains…

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

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Swim buddy, Heron Island, June, 2021. (Image by Anne Henshaw @annehenshaw)

2022 oceanswimsafaris

New dates open for bookings


What a change comes over the travel environment as vaccination numbers grow! We now are confident that the border crossing into Queensland will reopen by mid-December, making possible our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris from March onwards. We’re also quite confident that travel to Pacific states – specifically French Polynesia, Tonga, and Fiji – will be possible from early-mid 2022, which would open the way for our oceanswimsafaris there in May, August, and September respectively.

We have now posted our 2022 dates and packages for –

  • Heron Island – March 14-19, April 24-May 2 (Full), June 12-17, October 19-24, and November 6-11
  • Tonga – Swim with Whales – August 2-10, August 9-17
  • Mana Fiji – September 13-18 (Packages available soon)

We had to cancel three Heron Island oceanswimsafaris in October/November this year when the Queensland border remained closed, but all those booked have now been rescheduled to oceanswimsafaris next year. (That’s why our April-May Heron oceanswimsafari is already full.)

There are only a few spots left on our March 14-19 Heron Island dates, as well, so if you fancy them, you’d best get in quick and smart.

There is plenty of room left in our June and November dates, and a few spots left in October, but they are filling fast.

We've opened Tonga for bookings. Routes are not open yet, but we're pretty confident. If it turns out we can't get there, we can either refund your deposit or roll over to 2023, or to another oceanswimsafari. We can take only eight per group to Tonga, given boat capacity.

Mana Fiji is confirmed. We expect to have packages online in the next few weeks, so keep your eye out (best not to email yet).

Wow! This is excitement. Movement at last. It's been a long pandemic.

Find out more and book… Click here
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Moody at Bongin Bongin (image by David Helsham @glistenrr)…

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We don't take you just anywhere.

 

bongin 210928 dhd 600
Lucy in the sky, with diamonds… is what we thought when we saw this image by Glistening Dave, of dawn at Bongin Bongin Bay. (Image by David Helsham (@glistenrr))

Welcome to the oceanswimsafaris.com newsletter…

oos logoWe warned you, and here it is: our first newsletter under our new guise post-oceanswims.com. We aim to make it similar to our earlier newsletters, but without the detail that we carried about swim calendars, etc. That's not our remit any more. 

We will carry pieces about ocean swimming, some reports (when our oceanswimsafaris get going again post-pandemic), contributions from anyone, or other stuff that we spot and we think may be of interest to you. For example, in this edition (see below) we publish a short story by handy ocean swimmer, Susan McCreery, who is an author based in the Illawarra of NSW. Susan deftly tells a story about lap swimming as a metaphor for life. That's culcha, and we're very keen to promote culcha, expecially when it relates to ocean swimming. Or even just swimming.

If you haven't signed up to receive these newsletters yet, or you know someone who would like to sign up, you can do so through this link… Click here

Remember… We don't take you just anywhere,

Paul

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(Image from verywellfit.com)

Culcha

Into the clear blue

Here, we publish a short story by ocean swimmer Susan McCreery (@SusanMcCreery2), an author based in the Illawarra in NSW. It's two tales intertwined, one a metaphor for the other. The first is about an issue faced by all females who swim laps, particularly handy swimmers, as McCreery is. Boofheads, take note. This story appeared first in Island magazine: oss.c

Susan McCreery

She’s a beautiful swimmer, powerful and neat, so when she turns at the deep end I hop in her lane. The water’s a sparkle of blue under the early sun. We keep a respectful distance either side of the black line. Our pace is the same, our turns synchronised. After a kay I stop for a sip from my water bottle and soon she pulls up too.

‘Done,’ she says, and shoots me a grin. ‘All yours, honey.’

I watch as she ducks under the lane rope and climbs the steps. She has a back like a washboard and legs as long as forever.

With the lane to myself I return to smooth, to blissed out, thinking of nothing. After three and a half laps a new swimmer passes on his first. His legs are low in the water, creating a drag, so I know I’ll overtake him soon. Sure enough, within a couple of laps I’ve narrowed the gap.

Here’s my theory: you can tell a lot about a man and his opinion of women by his lap-lane etiquette. Men who shift to one side at the wall, nod off you go, are allies. Fast women swimmers are no threat to these men. Then there are those who refuse to give way, no matter how obvious it is they’re being out-swum, who, according to my theory, expect you to do everything except take out the bins, who get the shits when your salary outstrips theirs, and who rage whenever you’re curled up in sorrow about your grandmother, who is interstate and dying.

If Gavin were a swimmer, he’d never

shift aside

with humility and grace,

let you take the lead.

His feet are in front of me.

If Gavin were a swimmer.

There’s barely room to pass.

I calculate the distance and effort required to make it to the wall before him. It’s doable. I kick harder, pull harder, until I’m alongside. He kicks harder, pulls harder, forces me into the lane rope – slut, bitch, whore.

My rhythm is broken, my heart rate up. I tumble-turn into the clear blue, trying to settle, trying to regain calm, return to bliss, to me. And for two laps I do.

If Gavin were a swimmer.

If Gavin.

Take Gavin in bed

for instance.

I see bubbles.

No etiquette in bed.

His feet are in front of me.

Battle after battle.

We’re almost at the wall.

Not a hope, mate.

He’s not going to stop. He will not give way.

How many times has he backed me into a wall?

I do the unthinkable.

I tap him on the shoulder.

‘Let me go first.’

It’s not a request.

He turns his dripping head to face me. I can’t see his eyes.

His mouth is a bloodless knife.

I don’t wait for a response, just tumble-turn, go. But now I’m kicking too hard, too fast. I am off-balance, off-kilter. The angle’s all wrong and I wince under water as my hand whacks the rope. Only four laps to go but it might as well be forty. My goggles are leaking. All I can picture is his eyeless face. It could be a sham. He could catch me. I want to throw up.

Calm down, calm down.

In the water spitting means nothing.

My mouth is a cave, filling with water.

My mouth is a cave, filling with blood.

Keep your head up.

I am lactic. My legs drag.

I sink to my knees.

He can have it, the lane. He can keep it.

I’m going to black out.

Wait.

He’s forgotten how to breathe.

I know. I remember.

They can pull through water, these arms. They can move me forward. Once more I am gaining. Two laps and I’ve narrowed the gap. My legs are forever springs. My back is a washboard. I tumble, turn from the wall.

His feet are in front of me. I tap them.

Let me pass.

Let me go.

I am going.

forster wave 600
Sigghhh… Forster. Haven't swum since mid-June.

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It's a sell-out!

Gogs on sale

A note from Suanne –

V825A

Summer is on its way and you’ll soon be digging out last seasons goggles only to discover they have seen a bit of use and you could do with a new pair. Treat yourself!
We have good supplies of all your favourite “View” goggles, including our most popular Selene Swipes and Swipe Wide-Eyes.

We still have some great bargains in our “Sell Out” stock including goggles to suit kids of all ages. Why not stock up for Christmas? They’d make great stocking stuffers! There are a few adult goggles left too. The “Sell Out” goggles range in price from $8 -$20.

To access Sale! gogs, go to our shopping cart and look for Sell-out! You can also order your fave View Swipe gogs… Click here 

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Swim buddy, Heron Island, June, 2021. (Image by Anne Henshaw @annehenshaw)

Our oceanswimsafaris

Gearing up for post-pandemic

We thought we were through the worst of it…

Early this year, we began planning a new range of oceanswimsafaris to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. We were overwhelmed with interest from punters keen for a paddle and, in the end, we had five Heron oceanswimsafaris scheduled for 2021. We got one away, in June, and we had a second one in September of a group of swimmers from Queensland, although we could not attend that one ourselves due to border closures. We also had three more scheduled for October-November, 2021.

But then the pandemic intervened once more.

At this point, in late September, we can't say for sure what will happen with our two Heron oceanswimsafaris planned for November, but we can say with some confidence that our October departure most likely will not proceed. 

Anticipating this, we have booked a series of dates with Heron Island Resort for 2022:three sets of dates in March-April 2022, and two sets in October-November 2022. The thinking is that we can switch the three October-November groups to those dates, with punters already booked on them having a choice of which dates they prefer. When we get to the point of making a final call for 2021, we will contact those booked directly and let them know their options. When we have sorted out those three groups, we will let everyone know, and if you'd like to book on one of them, we'd love to have you with us.

We're also hoping to get some oceanswimsafaris restarted in the Pacific in 2022. We have dates booked in Tonga (to swim with humpback whales) August 3-10, 2022, and Mana Island Resort is keen to restart its Mana Fiji SwimFest (September 13-18, 2022). We also have two groups booked to French Polynesia in May, 2022.

As you'd expect, we can't be sure we can go anywhere yet, but we are preparing.

By the way, we have introduced a policy that all those who come with us on an oceanswimsafari from now on must be fully vaccinated. 

If you're interested in coming with us on any of those oceanswimsafaris, you can indicate your interest by submitting an Enquiry Form… Click here

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Beady-eyed swimmer, Forster.

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August 31, 2021

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Emailed to over 44,000 ocean swimmers

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A new day dawns… And so we move on… Morning at Bongin Bongin Bay. Image by David Helsham (@glistenrr)

We're changing our newsletters…

oos logoWe are about to make a major change to our newsletters. Very soon, we will send out newsletters only from oceanswimsafaris.com.

Many of you have already signed up to receive newsletters through this changed process. If you haven't signed up yet, and you'd like to continue to receive our newsletters, please sign up for them through this link… Click here

We will not be bombarding you with promotional material, although we will be telling you, inter alia, about our oceanswimsafaris. We hope you'll continue to find our newsletters informative, perhaps a bit of a laff, and worth your while to read.

Communications in future will still come from oceanswims.com but not in quite the same format. More on that shortly.

>Meanwhile, over at oceanswimsafaris.com, we look forward to having you with us into the future.

See you on the beach,

Paul

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It's a sell-out!

Gogs on sale

A note from Mrs Sparkle –

V825AWe are moving our goggle sales to oceanswimsafaris.com. We know many of you relied on stocking up at our pop-up shops at oceanswim events prior to Covid. We enjoyed meeting you and assisting you with your goggle supplies at these. Sadly, we aren’t going to be able to operate this way into the future.

The exciting news is we are having a Run Out Sale. We have some fantastic bargains on a range of View goggles, both kids' and adults'. Why not stock up for summer or even make a start on those Christmas gifts!

  • Kids goggles: start as low as $8 up to $20
  • Adults goggles: start at $15 up to $25

These will go quickly and first in first served! Once they’re gone, they’re gone and we won’t be restocking these items! Grab yourself a bargain or two! Above, they're the View Solace. We reckon they're the best value non-Swipe gog available.

Some lucky customers will even get an extra pair of goggles thrown in for free.

Don’t worry, you can still buy your favourite View goggles from us online, through our travel website oceanswimsafaris.com. We will keep in stock a smaller range and concentrate on all your favourites, the Selene Swipes, Selene Mirrored and the Wide Eyes Swipe Mirrored and Non Mirrored. We will have the mask style, Xtremes and a good supply of anti-fog and ear plugs.

Of course, we will still be selling our prescription goggles. If there is anything else in the View range you love and would like, we can always get it in for you.

To access Sale! gogs, go to our shopping cart and look for Sell-out! You can also order your fave View Swipe gogs… Click here

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The world of Happy Strokers

It's the characters wot make it

killer stencil

We had a call from Killer last night. We haven’t spoken to him in a while, although we had tried to get him a week or so back to wish him happy birthday. He was unavailable at the time, apparently. But that’s what happens with plumbers these days. Every tradie seems to be flat out. Up there in Mur’bah, on his birthday, at that time of the evening, in the old days Killer would have been over at the Riverview Hotel, on the banks of the Tweed, celebrating with other members of the Murwillumbah Brass Monkeys. He might be past that these days, over 60 and all. Probably at home in front of the telly. With a cup of tea. Watching Leigh.

But he finally called us back last night.A chat with Killer was apposite at this point, because it helps us to close a circle. We take credit for Killer or, in the view of Killer’s wife, Merryn, we must accept responsibility for making him a star of ocean swimming and giving him an ego, a personality, one perhaps too big for Mur’bah by itself. In exasperation one night, Merryn blamed ‘that ocean com dot thingy’ for problems she was having with Killer largely centred around his newly-minted ‘personality’. We couldn’t have done that, mind you, without the raw material to work with, and we certainly didn’t set out to create the monster that Killer became; it just happened that way. As we say, you need raw material, and Killer certainly was that. Very raw.

Killer is a lumbering monster of a plumber who, as a younger bloke, played prop for the Mur’bah rugby league side. Early on, Killer told us he’d been dubbed ‘Killer’ as an ironic nickname when he started as an apprentice in the family business, because he was a skinny kid. A year or two later, over a grog at the Beach Hotel, Byron Bay, Killer leaned across to us, conspiratorially and, in an earthy voice that spoke of decades in the trenches, not to mention in footy boots, he murmured, ‘Mate, I didn’t get called Killer for being nice to people on the footy field’. We prefer the latter.

killer ritasKiller in his Ritas. Imagine him in flesh coloured skins… No... best don't.

Killer has called us periodically since shortly after we launched oceanswims.com. We’d met him first when, in 2003, the Brass Monkeys travelled to Vanuatu for the 2nd Inaugural Rossi to Rossi Swim. The Brass Monkeys travel in style, celebrating their corporate identity. For the trip, they’d kitted themselves out in a touring uniform. It was something to see, 20-odd Brass Monkeys and their partners turning up together for a beer dressed as ten pin bowlers.Killer would call us periodically, generally when he had a story to tell, which we would relate in reports on oceanswims.com. Thus the legend grew. Eventually, Killer wrote his own story after a trip to San Francisco, with the Brass Monkeys, to swim from Alcatraz. We ran the story on oceanswims.com, and Killer’s legend inflated. He became an after-dinner speaker around the Far North Coast, with billboards in RSL clubs promoting his talks about his exploits in San Francisco, at fundraising dinners for Rotary clubs, nursing homes, etc. Then he was approached by the local theatre group to appear on stage. Killer played ‘a guard’.

Quiet little drink

One of Killer’s best stories was about a quiet ale he was having in a pub on Mur’bah’s main street, on a Sunday afternoon in the 1980s. Quietly sipping his Hunter River Mud (Toohey’s Old, a black beer, a porter), with his cousin, Gap (who had a gap in his teeth), a limo pulled up out the front of the pub and two Englishmen walked in. They spotted Killer’s black beer, and they asked whether they could get a Guiness there. This was the ‘80s, mind you, prior to the cosmopolitaning of Strã’an pubs, so about all you could get up there would have been the black, Tooheys white, a Reschs, maybe, and probably, given the proximity of the border, a XXXX. Killer told the Poms what the beer was, so they ordered. And they got talking

The talking went on, and Killer noticed that the crowd around them grew. Eventually, Killer heads off to the ‘loo; Gap goes with him. Standing thigh-by-thigh over the urinal, Gap says to Killer, ‘You know who you’re drinking with, don’t you?’ Well, Killer had no idea, apart from the fact that they were two Poms, in a limo, heading between Brisbane and Sydney.

‘Jimmy Page and Robert Plant,’ says Gap, who then had to explain to Killer who Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were. We’ve done a bit of research, and we figure the timing must have been February, 1984, and the occasion was Plant’s Principle of Moments Tour. Plant played Newcastle on February 8, then Brisbane on February 11. February 12 was a Sunday. Someone’s memory may have faded with the years. Or Maybe they were on their way back south.

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Robert Plant (l) and Jimmy Page: This is what an afternoon on the turps with Killer can do to you.

The personality grew with the legend, and eventually Killer himself had trouble distinguishing between the two. With our Queen, Mrs Sparkle, we visited Murwillumbah to take part in the Tweed River Swim and to sample the best of life that Mur’bah has to offer. Killer put us up at the Riverview. We had rooms over the TAB downstairs. It was about the time that we discovered that TABs in pubs operate till the last race anywhere in Strã’a, which on that evening was the last of the greyhounds in Perth, which was about 2am.

Fan

Another swimmer who came to Mur’bah that weekend was Hayley Lewis, former golden girl of Strã’an swimming. Hayley had popped down from the Goldy to swim, and had to get back quickly to collect the kids from her mum. Having won, Hayley needed to know when the preso would be held. So she approached an awgie, Killer, who, used being approached by fans who’d learnt of him through oceanswims.com, assumed Hayley, whoever she was, was another one of them. Slipping his arm around Hayley’s shoulder, he said, “You’d like your photograph taken with Killer, would you, darlin’?’ You can understand Merryn’s issue.

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The sea cave outside the heads at Cala Montgó on Catalonia's Costa Brava. That's Lanie Sowerby-Campbell posing for us. We intend to head back there post-pandemic.

Killer and his Brass Monkeys habitually made two trips annually to Sydney, one of them to do the 3 Points Challenge at North Curl Curl. He is up to ten of these events now, and he keeps coming back because, every year, the awgies make a fuss of him over the loudspeaker, again because they knew the legend through oceanswims.com and they were into the developing culcha of ocean swimming, of which, like it or not, Killer is a key part. Some find it unsettling to think of ‘culcha’ and 'Killer’ at the same time. We keep warning the North Curl Curl awgies, if you keep making a fuss of him, he’ll keep coming back.

Killer has been also a solid supporter of oceanswims.com. On one of his Sydney trips, to North Curl Curl, he had the words, OCEANSWIMS.COM, stencilled on his back, in large, black block letters. He’s always been a great supporter, and we appreciate that. But the spray-painting happened before he left Mur’bah, so when he rolled out of bed in Manly on race morning, he left ‘OCEANSWIMS.COM’ stamped in reverse on the sheet.

sydney harbour celebrities

We know we say we don't celebrate 'winners', but we do with stories. In this case, this is worth a story: this is most of the peloton for the Celebrities Dash at the Sydney Harbour Swim Classic in 2009. The story is the contest between the Baby-Faced Assassin on the right (city brief John de Mestre) and the lumbering juggernaut that is Graeme Brewer (middle rear). The latter is about twice the size of the former, each stroke pulling twice the amount of water and distance, but they swam stroke for stroke, arms almost interlinked, all the way in from Fort Denison to Man o' War Steps, de Mestre's stroke rate seemingly twice that of Brewer's. But de Mestre won. He was nimbler in the run up the steps to the finish line. Just goes to show, it ain't just size and strength that makes you a swimmer. L-R. Carl Wilson,Murray Rose, Suzie Maroney, Brewer, Max Metzker, Matt Renshaw, John Koorey, and de Mestre. Image by David Helsham (@glistenrr)

That was about the time Killer started to get serious about training for the North Curl Curl biathlon. He started running. He bought running shorts: those lycra skins that footballers wear under their footy shorts. Killer got some skins in flesh pink, the kind you can see through when they’re wet. But he didn’t wear them under footy shorts. He just wore them by themselves. And jogged the streets of Mur’bah after work, in the dark. He reckons he got death threats. He’s lucky he didn’t get a summons.

Flat top

Killer’s latest phone call helps us to close a circle because Killer has been with us for most of our time operating oceanswims.com, which began at Xmas, 1999. We count Killer amongst our most devout supporters.

We used to have fans in the olden days. Killer was one. Another was Barry ‘The Lurv God’ Lang, a formerly chisel-jawed, clean-cut truckie with a flat top straight out of the ‘50s. Barry, then c. 60 – and 77 today! – was originally from Mollymook – ‘Mollymoke’, as he calls it – became a fan of oceanswims.com even though he did not own a ‘puter. He used to go next door to his neighbour and pester him to go online to access the website. He must have done a lot of pestering, because Barry used next door’s ‘puter to download images and information which he would paste on the wall in a small room in the family home, way out in Sydney’s west, where the buffalo roam. Images such as pictures of himself in a race singlet emerging from the water after a race at Avoca. He’d had this image done up as a poster. Barry’s wife, Margaret, another long-suffering ocean swim widder, referred to the room as ‘Barry’s shrine’.

Barry’s best friend was Terry. Barry and Terry went everywhere together, to swims up and down the coast. They would turn up in the least expected spots. They were so close that we could never work out which one was the boss, and which the sidekick. The only difference between them was that Barry had a zipper down his chest and Terry didn’t; and Terry, despite all his many qualities, did not have Barry’s matinee idol looks. Barry didn’t drink or smoke, but he’d long had problems with his ticker, physiologically speaking. But he was so well turned out that we’d line him up next to another swimmer with a zipper, Michael Christie, and we’d defy people to pick which was the truckie, and which the medico. 

Barry hasn’t swum in ocean races for years now; he still swims in his local pool, the Greystanes Institute for Sport for Mature and Elite Athletes (GrISMEA), as he puts it, but his ticker makes races problematic. Terry got his own zipper at last after a swim at Caves Beach. The last time we saw either of them physically was at Forster. We’d turned up for the Club to Club swim there, and here was Terry wandering along the promenade with his wife, in the midst of a camping holiday. We’d seen Terry without Barry only ever once before, and that was in hospital, at Gateshead, with his heart. At Forster, we chatted; and Terry moved on. Minutes later, quite randomly, also wandering along the promenade, here was Barry: he’d woken that morning, way out west where the buffalo roam in Sydney’s west, and decided to drive to Forster to watch the swim. Apparently, that’s the kind of thing that truckies do for relaxation. But neither knew the other was in town.

We still have contact with Barry through the internet. He got his own ‘puter after a while, after he won $10,000 on a scratchie during a swim trip with Terry to Byron Bay. He handed the money over to Margaret and said, ‘It’s time we bought a computer, Margaret’. So Margaret bought a computer. It cost $10,000.

fukers

The Fukers, or part of them: From front, lead singer Darkie, film maker Paul Clarke, and the shiftful Mikey Dobrijevich… He's the one without the microphone. Image by Tony Egan.

Shiftful

And there is South Curl Curl’s Fifi la Dobber, a play on her surname from being married to Mikey, ukelelist in The Fukers (The Freshwater Ukelele Ensemble), and also because of a faux pas she committed at a swim. Fifi was one of our first friends from afar in ocean swimming, and with the shiftful Mikey they were our first regular cuppa circle on the Sunday swim circuit. We called Mikey ‘shiftful’ because he could never sit still. But he misread it, and was outraged that we’d described him as ‘shitful’.

>We used to write about Fifi a lot. She is an artist whom you might describe, as with so many artists, as… how can we put it… an, er… artist, with all that that entails. Creative people are like that. She became ‘la Dobber’ after complaining to swim awgies about a swimmer with the wrong-coloured swim cap starting in her wave. She insinuated they were cheating. As it happened, the swimmer with the wrong-coloured swim cap was accompanying another swimmer, who was blind.

We feel Fifi’s pain on this. We once talked in a report from Avalon about a swimmer who was using a pull buoy, which we intimated amounted to cheating. We even took a pitcher of this cheating swimmer half-way along the back leg at Avalon and included it in our report on oceanswims.com. Those were the days when we’d come home from a swim, process and post the results from an Excel file, process all our pitchers, and photograrphs from Glistening Dave – which we wouldn’t touch apart from resizing, if necessary – then write a story about that day’s swim, then post the lot online, all by tea time. Anyway, the day after we posted this Avalon report, we received an email from The Park Wino – Andy France used to have picnics in the park after swims, with his then partner, sometimes also her mum, always with a bottle of wine – who told us who the swimmer was: it was Denis Bendall, an hard-running Balmain Tigers centre, who was on trading cards, who broke his neck in a dive into a river. Denis swims for therapy and because he can no longer run. We apologised to Denis the next weekend. Fortunately, Denis has a sense of humour. We’ve since become good friends with Denis, who remained, for many years, the only Tiger we’d talk to, us being Rabbitohs. (We now have a second one: Noel ’The Glebe Lout’ Maybury, with whom we swim in Forster.)

What got G-Dog excited: Denis Bendall running hard.

Backyard at home

Even in retirement, unable to run hard and straight, Denis spreads joy. On Heron Island in 2017, we were chatting with ‘the resort band’, Janice Smithers (singer/guitarist) and her partner, G-Dog (also guitarist), before our crowd of punters arrived. Janice and G-Dog live on the Sunshine Coast, but he comes from Sydney. G-Dog asked us whether there was anyone interesting in the group about to arrive. We mentioned Denis, because he is interesting. G-Dog’s eyes lit up. ‘Denis Bendall!’ he ejaculated. ‘Wow! I used to be him in the backyard at home!’ Even though G-Dog grew up around Banky, which is Bulldogs territory. When the mob arrived next day, we introduced Denis to G-Dog. One of the most touching moments in the history of oceanswims.com was watching Denis and G-Dog, over the next four days, bond in friendship, inseparable, apart from overnights. There is something truly beautiful when someone meets a childhood hero, to wit, Denis, to find that they are every bit the good person that you imagined as a kid, that you tried to be in your own backyard.

G-Dog's best friend, Denis Bendall.

We had that experience with Murray Rose. Murray inaugurated the Malabar Magic swim. We worked with him from the start on that, and its first iteration has remained etched into our psyche: a big sea from the sou’-east, the course around the headland, into the swell, from Malabar into Little Bay. It was a rollicking, rolling ride. But the course did not run again, because Murray added a 1km option to the event, and you couldn’t do that at Little Bay, only at Malabar.

Clean cut

Those of us of the older persuasion will remember Murray as everyone’s childhood hero from the Melbourne Olympics in ’56 and into the ‘60s. He was the clean living, boy next door matinee idol of swimming, and every boy in Strã’a idolised him and wanted to be like him. Every mum and dad in Strã’a wanted their daughter to marry Murray, or someone just like him. It was no surprise that Murray went to college in the US, starred in movies – Ride the Wild Surf, Ice Station Zebra, Magnum PI, and Swimming Upstream, from memory, aided by Google – and married a ballerina, Jodie Wintz, from the Joffrey. We got to know Murray, and were even discussing a business venture with him, when he fell ill. He died in 2012. But the beauty was in discovering that Murray was every bit the good, decent, normal fellow – apart from the fact that he was extraordinary – that his image had always led us all to believe.

Back to Fifi, however, who also has only ever worked for good. Also up at Avalon, where awgies were the last in Sydney still to use Post-it Note timing, she renegotiated Mrs Sparkle’s time when they emerged from the water roughly even but were given wildly disparate times from different scribblers. Fifi thought their times should be even, so she had it changed, even re-enacting the run up the beach to prove it to the scribbler. You can’t do that with electronic timing.

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Fifi la Dobber's work often includes sharks.

Back at Avalon another day – Wow! So much happened at Avalon – Mrs Sparkle, shortly after her first ankle fusion – it may even have been before, and she may have had her ankle in plaster – was hobbling up the steep beach as another, slower swimmer in her age group, one more fleet of foot, bore down from behind. As Mrs Sparkle tells it, as she was about to be overtaken, Fifi emerged from the crowd on one side of the finish line, as another friend, Colin ‘Propellor Head’ Reyburn, emerged, unrehearsed, from the crowd on the other side, each grabbing Mrs Sparkle under an arm and physically hurling her across the finish line ahead of the chasing swimmer, who looked around, desperately appealing for support. She appealed to a witness, another swimmer, at whose feet Mrs Sparkle had landed. The witness, who knew them both, turned on her heel, nose in the air, and sniffed, ‘I saw nothing’.

Fifi used to swim at South Curl Curl each morning (she swims now at Manly). Half-way back from North Curl Curl one morning, breathing left, thus to sea, Fifi turned to her right to find a bronze whaler shadowing her, between her and the beach. She tried her very hardest to keep her cool, but then survival got to her and she lit out for the beach. For a long time after, Fifi’s paintings included sharks.

From the internet

We wrote about Fifi lots. Like many artists, Fifi also had to actually earn a crust (she couldn’t spend all her time sharing a studio with another artist whose media included human urine, after all), so she also worked as an art teacher at a prominent Sydney school. The girls were tittering amongst themselves one day, then one of them raised her hand, as delegate, and said, ‘Miss, are you Fifi from the internet?’ The ‘internet’ is a big place but, yes, Your Worship, she was.

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Paul and Kerry Lee Gockel. Always on the bright side.

We must mention, too, perhaps the most remarkable swimming couple we will ever meet: Kerry Lee Gockel and her husband, Paul. Paul has spina bifida; his walking is compromised, but his swimming is not. He won a silver at the Paralympics in Atlanta in 1996. We say his swimming ‘is not’ compromised: that is, apart from an injury that you could say we caused: Paul and Kerry Lee came to The Philippines with us on an oceanswimsafari in 2019; the peloton were diving in from the boat, and we ‘told’ Paul to dive in gracefully, to capture him on our Brownie Starflash-in-a-plastic bag. Paul dived, over balanced, and entered the water mid-forward roll. When he came up again, he was in agony, because he’d dislocated his shoulder in the dive for the camera. He had a shoulder reconstruction when he got home, and is still recovering. Sorry, comrade.

But Kerry Lee… Perhaps the most remarkable swimmer we’ve ever met, perhaps even the most remarkable person we’ve ever met. Kerry Lee was born with no arms. Where most people have arms, she has dimples. But does that stop her enjoying life? Or getting stuck into it? Not a jot. Kerry Lee is a lawyer; she drives; she feeds herself; she cooks – watching her slice and dice vegies with a paring knife held between her toes whilst sitting on the kitchen bench is breath-taking – and she swims. At Malabar this past season, Kerry Lee did the 5km swim. She and Paul and have been on multiple oceanswimsafaris with us, and she is always there, just behind Mrs Sparkle leading the pack.

But the remarkable thing about Kerry Lee and Paul is not their physical conditions; it’s that they are emotionally the best adjusted people we know, positive in their outlook and their attitudes to life. You hear lots of punters whingeing about various aspects of their lot – we’re old hacks; we hang out all the time with the world’s greatest whingers, including us, all of whom are completely able-bodied – but you don’t hear that from Paul and Kerry Lee Gockel. We are in awe. And what’s worse, they are such nice people. God damn!

Gough

Terry Hudson, now in his 80s, but in his working life a driver of parliamentarians – ministers and opposition leaders: Terry turned up at Forster Main Beach one chilly winter’s morning wearing a fur hat, like they wear in Siberia when it’s snowing. ‘Where did you get that, Terry,’ we said to him. ‘Oh,’ Terry said. ‘Gough brought it back for me from China.’

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Terry Hudson (farthest from camera) facing up to it, in his '80s, at Forster Main Beach. Other Forster Turtle is Rod McNeill, who has a marvellous tenor voice.

Now, here was a story. In his ‘working’ days, Terry had been Gough Whitlam’s driver in Sydney when Whitlam was leader of the Labor Opposition and then Prime Minister. You will all recall Gough’s ground-breaking visit to China in 1971 to meet with Chairman Mao and other Chinese leaders, a trip that was bagged by his opponents as disloyal, traitorous, almost an act of treason. Gough brought back gifts for all his staff, and Terry’s was this fur hat which, 40 years on, remains in mint condition. Terry was caught up in the Khemlani Affair that led to Whitlam’s sacking as Prime Minister in 1975, because he had driven the money dealer, Tirath Khemlani, around Sydney, but would not give evidence at the inquiry that followed without consulting Gough. Abandoned by his bosses, Terry switched to the NSW ministerial car pool, where he finished his career.

Tirath Khemlani being driven somewhere during his visit to Canberra in 1975. But who was the driver? Probably not Terry Hudson, who would have been in Sydney.

It was while wandering through the underground garage at NSW Parliament House that the garage manager asked Terry to take an American visitor upstairs to meet then Premier, Bob Carr. On the way up in the lift, Terry asked the visitor his name; he would, after all, have to introduce him at the door to Carr’s office. He ushered the visitor in, who was greeted by Carr, ‘Welcome, Dr Kissinger’, said Carr.

Some time Later, Carr asked Terry to collect Margaret Thatcher from somewhere. Carr said, ‘Terry, don’t ask her her name’.

… to tell you this

We relate these stories to make a point: that as glorious as the ocean is, the real beauty of ocean swimming is its characters; the personalities who populate this magnificent, anarchic caper. The people are the culture (culcha, as we prefer to call it, since that’s how people say it in Strã’a). The sea, the events, really are just catalysts for the culcha. Even at the informal end of the sport, when we swim off Main Beach at Forster, whilst we enjoy the swim – especially when we visit Fluffy en famille out behind the reef – what we really love is the cuppa afterwards with the Forster Turtles and all the characters that that involves. Everyone has a story; each of those stories is worth telling and listening to. And everyone’s stories make up life and the world as we know it. Who’d have thought that, as we sip our cuppa on Forster Main Beach, we’re sipping it with Tirath Khemlani’s driver.

It's a cavalcade of characters. We have always focussed on these characters, not ‘winners’, achievers as they may be. The sport is made up of its rank and file, not its winners. Winners don’t interest us, unless there is a human story to go with them which may or may not be related to their winning. Winning is incidental. Early in the life of oceanswims.com, we were criticised loftily by a swimmer who wrote reports on winners for an overseas swim publication. He told us no-one was interested in our reports because we didn’t write about winners. Shortly after, this cove offered to write a report for us, an offer we accepted. But when the report came in, he had copied our style, not in a plagiaristic way, but in our spiritual approach to reports. Well, there you go.

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Welcome to the world of happy strokers… What we looked like at launch n 1999/2000. Site built for us by Greg 'Webdog' Smith.

The help

We have encountered some appalling people, some of the most sociopathic people we have ever dealt with. You would be shocked – Shocked! – by some of the stories we could tell. But the appalling people – and they are not the sport – are miniscule compared with the punters of generous and colourful spirit, who are the vast bulk. 

smith gregoceanswims.com launched just prior to Xmas, 1999. It was a collaborative effort, with the original website built to our idea by a generous cobber, Greg ‘Dr Smith… Dr Smith’ Smith, who called himself Webdog and lived in Perth, originally of Bondi. Greg (that's him, right… Had we known he got around the beach like this, we'd have thought twice…) was another hack, who made himself a doctor by doing a PhD.

It became clear quickly that us in Sydney and him in Perth might create issues. One of our first events after launch was the Cole Classic, then at North Bondi. Conditions were atrocious that day, my friends; the event was postponed, and we decided – because we are hacks – that we needed to get an update on oceanswims.com to alert swimmers. However, 8am in Sydney was 5am in Perth, and it wasn’t appropriate that, whenever we needed to do something like this, we had to call on someone with that time difference to implement it for us. So we had to learn to do it ourselves.

We did, in a lay sort of way.

We have benefited enormously over the years from the assistance of a couple of punters in particular –

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The peloton on our first inaugural French Polynesia oceanswimsafari included Glistening Dave. That's him, on the left. But you can tell that.

David Helsham (Glistening Dave, @glistenrr), an artist who tries to keep his talent well-hidden, modest as he is, has supplied us with evocative images pretty much since the inauguration of oceanswims.com. His images continue to write a visual history of ocean swimming. When we first knew Dave, in the ‘90s, he was an ocean swimmer who didn’t wear goggles. He reckoned they were too much of a nuisance and most didn’t work anyway. We talked him into using them, and since then we’ve not been able to beat him. David is a graphic designer by profession, but his real talent is his photography. And his art. We’re waiting, hoping that, one day, he will rediscover his ‘mojo’ for painting, too.

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Colin Reyburn completes the Warriewood Chieftain Challenge, then dashes off to assemble the fine ocean swimmers' tallies.

Colin ‘Propellor Head’ Reyburn is a software whiz who had a company that wrote a program for managing overnight transactions amongst banks. As a reward, Colin became the overnight IT support desk for a bank in China. That meant that he had a bit of spare time, so he began to collect swim results from all over the joint and combined them into what has become the fine ocean swimmers’ tallies. In the beginning, we did the tallies ourselves. We could just about manage them because we included only events in NSW. When we started to look further afield, it was clear we couldn’t handle them with our limited skills in Excel. So Colin came in to help. The big issue with the tallies is combining everyone’s multiple swims into one record per swimmer. Colin wrote a macro in Excel that would do in minutes a job that would have taken us weeks. Colin is another modest character. Also the slowest swimmer we’ve ever seen when he put his mind to it. He is actually a very good swimmer, but when asked to swim slowly – as we used to ask of our swimmers sometimes when we ran lunch time squads at North Sydney pool – Colin could swim more slowly than anyone we’ve seen. Such a talented guy!

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Peter Hoban (right), in a happy place with son Donny.

Peter Hoban, another IT whiz whom we came to know when our sons played in the same footy team, although Pete’s son, Donny, was a ring-in who was never actually signed up and played only when someone else couldn’t get there. Pete wrote a business management program for his then wife’s chain of beauty salons, and turned it into his livelihood. He gave us enormous IT support, including writing our first online entry and contact management platforms, something we could never have done ourselves, or afforded to pay someone else to do, especially at full tote odds. Pete comes from a prominent Avoca family, and one suspects his heart remains up there. A dishevelled genius.

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Younger days: Chris and June Stephenson.

Chris ‘BC’ Stephenson, another IT whiz who, with his wife, June, is by far the best, most personable timer we’ve ever had need to deal with over the past 22 years. Chris and June – just the two of them – do what other timers do with a team of half a dozen. Chris also wrote the online entry platform that we’ve used for the past few years. He is one of the most generous (with his time), temperamentally equable people we’ve ever dealt with; always available to help out with problems, including when he and June went on a bus tour holiday of Italy a few years ago. A remarkable couple whom we regard as part of our staff. Gee, it’s good working with them.

Our Queen

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Mrs Sparkle, where she likes to be: this time, off the reef in Sulawesi. We couldn't have done all this without her.

Mrs Sparkle, Suanne Hunt (@sparkleocean), without whom we could not have done any of this stuff. We started oceanswims.com by ourselves, with a website built, as we said earlier, by ‘Webdog’ Smith. But after the launch, and the quick realisation that we had to do as much of it as we could ourselves, it was just us, and the support Suanne has given us has been invaluable in manifold ways. She has also been, inter alia, our Director, Merchandise over the years, instilling in us a discipline in goggles sales and despatch that we were too busy to perform ourselves. But there's so much more to it than that.

Whilst oceanswims.com formally has been just us, Suanne and we are 50/50 partners in oceanswimsafaris.com, our spin-off that gives us something to do over winter, pandemics allowing. A handy swimmer herself – Suanne was taught proper as a kid by the Carlisles – she became known originally as Mrs Sheen, because she is meticulously houseproud. One day, someone who really was called Mrs Sheen ordered something online from oceanswims.com – Aquaclaws, Suanne recalls – and that was it. She couldn’t be Mrs Sheen if there was a real Mrs Sheen out there. So if you’re not Mrs Sheen, who are you? You must be Mrs Sparkle.Thank you all. It’s been fun. See you on the beach,

Paul

The hack formerly known as os.c

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Personal note

Lost: One childhood hero

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State and Oz champeens 1960/61, from left, Uncle Don (for’ard), Uncle Mick (stroke), Boyd Humphries (boat builder), Ken Murray (sweep), John ‘Muddler’ McDonald (2nd for’ard),and Jim Cowen (2nd stroke).

This is a little indulgent, but we re-post here something we wrote last week about the loss of our uncle, Mick Ellercamp. We do so knowing there are many surf life saving people who receive our emailouts, and many of them – particularly the boaties – will know Uncle Mick, or of him…

Still absorbing one loss, we've now feel the loss of our personal hero growing up, our Uncle Mick (Ellercamp), perhaps the greatest surf boat rower ever to grace a stroke seat, and as we all know, stroke is to a boat crew as Charlie Watts was to the Stones. Mick and younger bro, Uncle Don (our other hero), along with Ken ‘Hot Dog’ Murray, who passed only last weekend, were a boat combination unlike any other. There were crews who stood out for a couple of years, but none with the longevity of this nucleus of so many achieving Caves crews. Others came and went around them, but Mick, Don, and Ken endured.

The relationship between Mick (right) and Ken, particularly, was symbiotic. On the Australian Surf Rowers League's Facebook page, Christopher Spencer recalled, 'As a 17 yr old at my first Aussies at Ocean Grove (I) witnessed Caves beat Ballina in a hail storm to win, with Ken Murray patting Mick on the head while still running down the face of the winning wave. Hooked me on the sport forever.' Think of that: a big sea, a hail storm, coming down the face of the wave, the crew called back (to the stern), and the sweep taking a hand off the sweep oar to recognise the work of the bloke who did the work to get them there.

Nuance

Indeed, there were few sights in surf boat rowing so inspiring as that of Murray piloting his crew, zig-zagging, accelerating, holding up, changing direction, switching speed, digging in, touching up, then GO! GO! GO! as Murray spotted the weak spot and the way out through a pounding break. Who’d have thought surf boat rowing and chundering surf had nuance. It did with Murray as sweep. Mick and Don were outstanding sweeps, too. The trio were surf boat rowing personified.

We were at a boatmen’s smoko in Sydney in 1986, and an array of legends were invited to say a few words. Rotten ol‘ Herbie got up and talked about the perils of March-pasting (he was Caves’s medal-winning coach), and until then none of these tough, boofy boaties knew how dangerous it was to have whitewater washing around your feet undermining the sand as you tried to keep in step, not to mention the undulations, and the hot sand on the soles of your feet in the beating summer sun.

Winning

Then Uncle Don got up. He said, ‘The reason we won (so many titles) is because (… at this point, Uncle Don paused, as if for dramatic effect, ‘though there has never been anything confected about Uncle Don; the theatre was just in ‘im… The crowd hushed, expecting the great secret to be revealed… Until then, they’d all thought Caves' success was because they lads drank Hunter River mud… Toohey’s Black… So they all did, too)… is because,’ Uncle Don said, ‘… is because we wanted to win.’ 

Clean sweep champeens from the '60s: The Caves A crew, from front, Uncle Don 'Boora' Ellercamp, John 'Muddler' McDonald, Jim Cowen, Uncle Mick Ellercamp, and Ken 'Hot Dog' Murray at sweep.

Some of the younger, early days-tatts-on-their-biceps, big city boaties guffawed under their breath, in a bleeding-obvious kind of way. But Uncle Don was right: you cannot win if you don’t want to win; if you don’t yearn to win. And despite all the resources, the best boats, the gyms, the weights, the city sophistication, you cannot win without hunger and yearning. And that’s what Uncle Don was talking about. It applies to everything in life. Uncle Don has always been a man of words; Uncle Mick was more stoic, as rocks are. Murray was a quieter chatterer, almost secretive, and never a hair out of place, no matter the surf; his words came from his sweep oar and the aura of a leader.

Flat water

When the brothers ran out of competition in surf Masters, they switched to flat water rowing, won National and world Masters championships there, and became legends in that sport, too. The greatest sight and sound in the world, they once told me, was witnessing from behind the start of an Eights race: the power, the grunt, the communal exhalation from 128 lungs, the yearning of six or eight Eights, 48 or 64 bodies and oars, all slamming the water together from a standing start for that edge that would give them that canvas margin two kilometres later.

Uncle Mick’s passing at home overlooking Caves Beach today, last Wednesday, with his family around him, leaves just one of the five Ellercamp siblings at Swansea Caves. Uncle H is gone; Aunty Doy (everyone’s and the world’s greatest Aunty), and now Uncle Mick, have left us since Rotten ol’ Herbie (our old man, and our hero once we woke up to ourselves and became a decent son) passed in ‘96. Now Uncle Don has lost his brother and his life-long best friend.

When we’re young, we can’t imagine our heroes dying; we can’t bear the thought. We can’t match their achievements; they are theirs; we have to create our own. And that’s the lesson they leave us.

Vale, Uncle Mick. 

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