Paul Ellercamp

Paul Ellercamp

January 27, 2023

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We don't take you just anywhere. 
 

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

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Sun protection

The places you miss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Types of skin cancer (Image from miiskin.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inclusion in Frisco?

Not when it comes to wetties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Swim start in Ocean Swimming Stadium, Mana Island.


Travel to swim in exotic locales in 2023

Vigorous response to travel packages

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

What’s on…

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

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

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


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Very nice water in Sulawesi.

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

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


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The end of a big day, San Sebastián.

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


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


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

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

 

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


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

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

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

Our advance deposit scheme

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


See oceanswimsafaris.com for more.

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Get your View gogs

Best gogs, etc, at best prices

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

Some of our bargains…

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

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

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Not a bad joint for a swim.

2023 Heron Island

Dates open for June, Oct, Nov

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

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

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

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

Find out more and book… Click here

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Fish school.

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New model Swipes

Prescription gogs now in Swipes

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

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

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

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

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


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January 16, 2023

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We don't take you just anywhere. 


bluebottle DHBluey... The iconic image, by David Helsham (@glistenrr)

 

Our Bumper Bluey Number...

Bluebottles are the perennial menace of ocean swimming (not sharks, in our view). But despite research, we have still to hear an authoritative explanation of what makes them be there, floating around at sea, ready to be blown onto the beach by an onshore breeze. Why are blueys there sometimes, but not at other times? Why are they available to be blown into some beaches, but not others, even though beaches may be next door to each other? The jury is still out on this (we hope the jury is out; we hope someone, somewhere is doing research into this).

In this edition of the oceanswimsafaris.com newsletter, we present a couple of views of what humans regard as a beach menace, one the result of research into how punters may be able to reasonably authoritatively predict the likelihood of bluey presence at a particular beach; the other on how to treat bluey stings.

Meanwhile, if someone can tell us what makes blueys spawn, thus be bob-bob-bobbing about on the ocean's surface, available to be blown in by the next onshore, then please let us know... Email us here

How likely are blueys on your beach?

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In this first piece, Amandine Schaeffer and Jasmin Lawes help you to work out how to predict the likelihood of blueys at particular beaches. You also need to know the general layout, topography, and orientation of your beach, and the prevailing wind direction, then apply the principles below.

By Amandine Schaeffer
Senior lecturer, UNSW Sydney (right, at right)

Jasmin C Lawes
Adjunct associate, UNSW Sydney (left, at right)

This story ran first in The Conversation, March 28, 2022

If you’re among the one in six Australians to experience the bitter pain of a marine stinger such as a bluebottle, you’ll know how quickly they can end a fun day at the beach.

We can’t stop the summer winds that deliver these creatures to our shores, but we can choose the safest spots to swim.

Our recent research provides the first evidence of what transports bluebottles to Australian beaches.

We found the direction a beach faces, relative to wind direction, largely determines how many bluebottles are pushed to shore. We hope these findings will help beachgoers safely plan where to take their next dip. 

Image by Tim Miller (AP)bluey on beach

Delicate ocean drifters

The bluebottle is a jellyfish found mostly along Australia’s east coast.

Most bluebottle stings occur while swimming, and are the top reason people seek assistance from surf lifesavers.

Bluebottles aren’t a single animal. They’re a floating colony of individual organisms, each variously responsible for reproducing, capturing or digesting food and catching the wind.

The bluebottle’s long, trailing tentacles are designed to sting prey and creatures they feel threatened by, including humans.

Bluebottles do not swim, but drift on the ocean’s surface. Their inflated blue bladder is sensitive to aerodynamic forces and acts as a sail.

Currents drive a bluebottle’s long tentacles below the ocean’s surface and wind drives the sail above it.

The bluebottle as a sailboat

A bluebottle’s body, including the tentacles, is not aligned with its sail. Some sails point to the left of the body, and others to the right. This quirk is thought to help populations survive. If all bluebottle sails pointed the same way, an entire group might pick up a prevailing wind and be blown to shore. But when half the group has sails facing the other way, some individuals are blown in a different – and hopefully less perilous – direction.

Our previous research sought to shed light on bluebottle drift by examining physical equations that determine how sailboats respond to winds and currents. That research found wind force can cause right-leaning bluebottles to drift around 50⁰ left of the downwind direction, while left-leaning individuals drift around 50⁰ to the right.

Choose your swimming spot wisely

Our latest research explored how winds and other environmental factors affect bluebottle beaching. We analysed daily bluebottle numbers and stings at three Sydney beaches – Maroubra, Clovelly and Coogee – over four years. The project was led by Masters student, Natacha Bourg.

Bluebottles numbers were highest during summer, peaking a few weeks before maximum ocean temperatures. Cold temperatures have previously been thought to hinder bluebottle movements. But we recorded bluebottles on beaches in winter and spring, which suggests other factors are at play.

Our research found wind direction was the main factor driving bluebottles onshore. On Australia’s east coast, both northeast and southerly winds bring bluebottles towards the beach.

Crucially, we also found the shape of the coastline, and its orientation relative to prevailing winds, affects the rate of bluebottle arrivals.

Maroubra faces east and is the longest and most wind-exposed of the three beaches. We found a summer north-easterly wind at Maroubra led to a 24% chance of bluebottles the following day.

But at nearby Clovelly beach, the chance was just 4%. Clovelly faces south and sits relatively protected at the end of a narrow bay. However, after southerly winds, the chance of bluebottle encounter there increased to 12%.

Coogee faces south and is smaller than Maroubra. A small rocky outcrop limits exposure to the ocean and therefore exposure to bluebottles.

Overall, bluebottles were most likely to be found at Maroubra, followed by Coogee then Clovelly. This reflects their varying beach lengths and orientation with respect to prevailing winds.

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Image by Sam Mooy (AAP)

Planning your day at the beach

These conclusions can be applied beyond the beaches we studied. By checking beach orientation with wind direction, we can make an educated guess as to whether the chance of encountering bluebottles is high at any beach.

We know bluebottles are pushed around 50⁰ left or right of the wind direction. So a quick drawing in your head or on the sand may tell you which nearby beach is likely to be safest.

But there are exceptions to this rule. Strong ocean currents, for example, can influence bluebottle drift, especially when winds are weaker.

Rips and the circulation of water in surf zones are also linked to bluebottle beaching.

And bluebottles can extend and contract their sails and stinging tentacles which may change the direction of their drift.

So before entering the water, take plenty of precautions against bluebottles and other dangers. Surf Life Saving Australia urges all beachgoers to:

  • stop and check your surroundings
  • look for rips, large waves, rocks and other hazards
  • plan to stay safe, including swimming at a patrolled location
  • visit beachsafe.org.au.

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Stomp, stomp, stompin' at Maroubra (Image by SamMooy,AAP)

Learning more

Further research is needed to better understand bluebottles, including how climate change, and subsequent warming oceans, will affect their drift.

Citizen science provides a powerful opportunity to learn about bluebottle distribution, size and arrival at our beaches.

Next time you see bluebottles at the beach, take photos and upload them to this project in the iNaturalist app.

In this way, you can help researchers discover more secrets of these beautiful marine creatures – which will hopefully lead to fewer painful bluebottle encounters.

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Preventing, Recognizing, Treating Bluey Stings

Now, James Roland discusses treatment for bluey stings. Note that research into this is on-going, and science appears yet to find the perfect answer. One thing does seem clear: weeing on a sting does not help. This report has been medically reviewed.

This story was published on Healthline on January 7, 2020

Despite their harmless-sounding name, bluebottles are sea creatures that you should steer clear of in the water or on the beach.

The bluebottle (Physalia utriculus) is also known as a Pacific man o’ war — similar to a Portuguese man o’ war, which is found in the Atlantic Ocean.

The dangerous part of a bluebottle is the tentacle, which can sting its prey and creatures they sense as threats, including people. The venom from bluebottle stings can inflict pain and swelling.

Treatments for a bluebottle sting range from a hot water soak to topical creams and ointments to traditional oral pain medications. Some home remedy solutions, such as urine, aren’t recommended, despite being widely believed as effective treatments. Here’s what you can do.

What to do

If you’re unfortunate enough to be stung by a bluebottle, try to stay calm. If possible, ask someone to stay with you and to help treat the injury.

Find a place to sit

If you’re stung in the foot or leg, walking may cause the venom to spread and expand the painful area. Try to stay still once you reach a place where you can clean and treat the injury.

Don’t itch or rub

Even though it may start to itch, don’t rub or scratch the site of the sting.

Rinse, rinse, rinse

Instead of rubbing, wash and rinse the area carefully with water.

Hot water dunk

Research shows that immersing the wound in hot water — as hot as you can stand for 20 minutes — is a proven treatment to ease the pain of bluebottle stings.

Be careful not to make the injury worse by using water that’s too hot. Ideally, water that’s about 107°F (42°C) should be tolerable to the skin and effective at treating the sting. The heat helps kill the protein in the venom that causes pain.

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The ocean can appear so benign... But dangers lurk. (Image by oceanswimsafaris.com)

Ice pack

If no hot water is available, a cold pack or cold water may help ease the pain.

Take a pain reliever

An oral pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), may provide additional comfort.

First-aid boost

Boost your beach first-aid kit with these tips:

  • Vinegar. ResearchTrusted Source suggests that using vinegar as a rinse can disinfect the site of the sting and provide pain relief.
  • Tweezers. While rinsing should help remove any invisible stinging cells, you should also look for any tentacle fragments and carefully remove them with tweezers.
  • Gloves. If possible, wear gloves to avoid any further contact with your skin.
See a doctor

If you still experience pain, itchiness, and swelling after the treatment outlined above, you should see a doctor. They may prescribe cortisone cream or an ointment to help reduce inflammation and ease your symptoms.

You should definitely see a doctor if:

  • the area of the sting covers a wide area, such as most of the leg or arm
  • you’re stung in the eye, mouth, or other sensitive area — in these cases, seek immediate medical assistance
  • you’re unsure if or what you were stung by

If you’re unsure whether you’ve been stung by a bluebottle, jellyfish, or other sea creature, you should see a doctor for an evaluation. Some jellyfish stings can be fatal if left untreated.

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Another danger lurking? No way. Grey nurse sharks are docile. This one is suffering: hooked by a stray line, it mooches about with a big hook in its lip and 2-3m of heavy line hanging beneath it. We did a story with Channel 7 News on how we swim with grey nurses at Forster. Have a look at it... Click here

Can you be allergic?

Though rare, allergic reactions to bluebottle stings can occur. The symptoms are like those of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can follow the sting of a wasp or scorpion. If you’re stung and experience chest tightness or difficulty breathing, get medical attention immediately.

Sting symptoms

If stung by a bluebottle, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain. A bluebottle sting typically causes pain right away. The pain is usually quite severe.
  • Red line. A red line is often visible, a sign of where the tentacle touched the skin. The line, which may look like a string of beads, will usually swell and become itchy.
  • Blisters. Sometimes, blisters form where the tentacle came in contact with skin.

Other symptoms, such as nausea or abdominal pain, are unlikely.

The size of the wound and the severity of symptoms depend on how much contact the tentacle had with the skin.

How long will the pain last?

The pain of a bluebottle sting can last up to an hour, though multiple stings or injuries in sensitive parts of the body can make the pain last longer.

Bluebottle behavior

Bluebottles feed on small mollusks and larval fish, using their tentacles to pull their prey into their digestive polyps.

Stinging tentacles are also used defensively against predators, and innocent swimmers and beachgoers can seem like a threat to these unusual creatures. Multiple stings are possible at one time, though a single sting is most common.

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Swimmer with visitor, Forster. (Image by Rachel Dodd)

Prevention

Bluebottles can sting in the water and on the beach when they appear to be lifeless. Because of their blue color, they’re harder to see in the water, which is one reason why they have few predators.

Though bluebottles resemble jellyfish, they’re actually a collection of four distinct colonies of polyps — known as zooids — each with its own responsibility for the creature’s survival.

What this means for people is that stinging happens on contact with the tentacle, almost like a reflex.

Your best strategy to avoid a bluebottle sting is to give them a wide berth if you spot them on the beach. And if there are warnings about dangerous animals in the water, such as bluebottles and jellyfish, heed caution and stay out of the water.

Children and older adults, as well as people who are allergic to bluebottle stings, should exercise greater caution and be accompanied by healthy adults in areas inhabited by bluebottles.

Where are bluebottles found?

In the summer months, bluebottles are usually found in the waters around eastern Australia, while in the autumn and winter months, they can be found in the waters off southwestern Australia. They can also be found throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans.

A bluebottle’s main body, also known as a float, is usually no more than a few inches long. The tentacle, however, can be up to 30 feet long.

Because of their small size, bluebottles can be washed ashore easily by strong tidal action. They’re most commonly found on beaches after powerful onshore winds. Bluebottles are less commonly seen in sheltered waters or on the banks of sheltered coves and inlets.

The takeaway

Because their blue, translucent bodies make them difficult to spot in the water, bluebottles sting tens of thousands of people in Australia every year.

Though painful, the stings aren’t fatal and don’t usually cause any serious complications. Still, it’s worth paying close attention when you’re in the water or on the beach to avoid these unusual but dangerous creatures.

If a bluebottle tentacle does find you, be sure to carefully clean the sting and soak it in hot water to start the healing process.

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Swim start in Ocean Swimming Stadium, Mana Island.


Travel to swim in exotic locales in 2023

Vigorous response to travel packages

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

What’s on…

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

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

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


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Very nice water in Sulawesi.

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

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


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The end of a big day, San Sebastián.

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


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


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

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

 

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


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

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

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

Our advance deposit scheme

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


See oceanswimsafaris.com for more.

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Get your View gogs

Best gogs, etc, at best prices

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

Some of our bargains…

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

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

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Not a bad joint for a swim.

2023 Heron Island

Dates open for June, Oct, Nov

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

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

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

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

Find out more and book… Click here

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Fish school.

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New model Swipes

Prescription gogs now in Swipes

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

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

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

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

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


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December 9, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere. 


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Narrabeen on a Sydney, early summer morn. Who'd want to be there? Image by Steve White.

 

Tonga...

Our first brush with whales

We run here our report from our first inaugural oceanswimsafari to swim with whales in Tonga, in 2015. Our Tongan oceanswimsafaris have changed substantially since that first one. As our experience grew, so has the quality of the experience. For example, we now do three days of whale swimming, not one, and two days of ocean swimming, not five. We've come to know the best place to stay in the Vava'u group of islands, a guest house run by a local family in Neiafu, and we've become friends with the family and their staff. They've had a tough time over the past few years, what with covid, and with exploding volcanoes not far away, and cyclones. We've had a lot more, and a lot closer experiences with whales themselves, too. Check out our video account of our encounter with an adolescent male who wanted to play with our group (Click here). We're looking forward to going back to Tonga, at last, in July-August 2023. This piece gives you a flavour of the place...

heron 2211 01 450Nothing to do with Tonga, but some evenings on Heron Island really take your breath away.

We had several brushes with the King when we visited Tonga. It’s that kind of place.

Eyes were agog in early July when meeja focused on the coronation of the new King of Tonga. The king of where? The King? Only Yrpean countries have kings, don’t they? And where’s Tonga?

We should all know of Tonga. It’s one of Stra’a’s closest neighbours and the source of many of our prominent footy players. It’s where Jonah comes from. Jonah Takelui. The Angry Boy from Summer Heights High … But that’s about all we know about Tonga, apart from the fact that it’s in the Pacific and it’s Polynesian. And whales go there.

High-spirited

And footy players come from there. Right now (at the time of writing, in 2015: oss.c), the Tongan brothers in the news are the Fifita lads, two high-spirited rugby league chaps who got into trouble for off-duty monstering of junior referees out Penrith way. In Neiafu, the main town in Vava’u, there’s a shop called Fifita Fashions. Doesn’t sound quite right to us… Drinking in the Bounty Bar in Neiafu one evening, we raised this link to be told, ‘Yes, they’re from here. You just walked past their dad down on the waterfront’. On the waterfront in Neiafu, a bunch of blokes had been assembling the infrastructure for the Vava’u Royal Agricultural Show, coming that weekend. They were putting up a dais, some marquees, and filling in the rocks that form the new small boat harbour with sand, so that Neiafu will have something of a waterfront promenade. The show is a big event in Neiafu, as it is anywhere. No ferris wheel, however, or fairy floss.


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Westminster

Tonga. We knew it was out in the Pacific somewhere; and we knew it was Polynesian; we even knew it had a king, an absolute monarch, and we knew that well before the meeja focus a few weeks before our visit. Back in the mid-80s, we briefly met the Crown Prince of Tonga at a South Pacific Forum meeting in the Cook Islands. We were representing Stra’a, as it were. Our briefing for the meeting explained the monarchy in Tonga, and it’s where we became aware that the then King (Taufa'ahau Tupou IV) had a virtually unpronounceable name, rendered from the Polynesian to us, in the shorthand that characterises all these things, as King Toffee Apple. This comes about because Stra’ans generally lack the patience to read a word or a name with an unfamiliar structure carefully enough to work out how to pronounce it. It’s actually simple enough: “Towfa-Ahow”, with the apostrophe simply indicating a prununciative separation of the vowels. Indeed, HawaiI really is Hawai’i, “Haweye-I”. The Tongans are a respectful community, hospitable to visitors, and reverent towards their sovereign. They seem to have a remarkably stable system of governance for a microstate at once slowly developing and strongly traditional, coming to terms with life in a global marketplace.

Much hope is held that the new king, Tupou VI, will nurture stable, transparent, altruistic gummint based on principles such as the incorruptibility of the public sector. We didn’t hear this from HM directly, mind you, despite our several brushes with HM and his Queen. We heard it most strongly from where you hear most of these authoritative things, from a cabbie in Nuku’alofa, whilst transferring between airports. We didn’t actually get to chat with Tupou VI, on the grounds that, on each occasion, he was cruising past us in his motorcade through the streets of Neiafu, as part of his post-coronative national tour. We did get to speak with his private secretary, however, who was in the Bounty Bar on the final night of our visit. That lad has some stories to tell, were he minded to, we’d wager.

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Mum and calf.

Creeping

Of the Pacific island states, Polynesian and Melanesian, Tonga stands out as the only one, to our knowledge, that was never formally a colony of either the Poms or the French. When all around them were subjugated, Tongans tell you proudly that Tonga had retained its national identity and its monarchy, although it had been for many years, by treaty, a British protectorate. Some would see the difference as technical; the Tongans see it as crucial.

Mind you, like all those other Pacific states, Tonga was colonised by those competitive creeping colonists, the Christian churches, and it remains a staunchly Christian (note the large “C”) nation to the point that nothing opens on Sunday apart from a few businesses run by expats. There are sprinklings of Poms, Stra’ans, New Zealanders, Yanks and Canadians in Tonga, and a couple of other expat nationalities, such as a non-Basque-speaking San Sebastiánen running a tapas/pintxos restaurant, and a Swiss running another place on the waterfront. Paying our bill at the Tropicana Cafê in Neiafu, we asked the owner, Greg, how much we owed. “Are you Australian?” he said. “Yes,” we said. “25 plus one,” he said. “I don’t want any Kiwi jokes.”

If we sound like know-alls after a week-long visit to Tonga, then bear in mind that we are hacks. As Pierpont pointed out in the Bulletin many years ago, “One of the great traditions of journalism - as well as fiddling expense accounts - is that within minutes of arriving in a new country, you become an expert on it”.

We were there; most of you weren’t. So we’re one step ahead of you.

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Our mob in Tonga.

Left field

At oceanswimsafaris.com, we’re always looking for new and interesting places to take you. Not just anywhere, and especially not just places that everyone already goes to (We ain’t been to Bali, too), but places that you might not even have heard of, and where you might not ever otherwise go, but for us offering you the chance. We (used to) go to Vanuatu; to Fiji; we’ve been to the Solomons, and we still hope to take you back there in the near future; we’ve been to Samoa, a beautiful place but which disappointed us as a swim venue; we’ve looked at New Caledonia; as we write, we’re in Greece, then heading to Spain; and we’ve just been to Tonga. All of these places offer beautiful water that often is absolutely unexplored by mug punters like us. In many places, we reckon our small but enthusiastic pelotons are the first such groups ever to ripple these waters. Plenty have dove (as the Yanks would put it); some may have snorkeled; but usually none before have ocean swum. This first occurred to us some years ago down the back of Tavewa island in the Yasawas in Fiji. It occurred to us on all of our swims in Tonga. Motivated by that broad objective, we were pointed towards Tonga by a dive operator who for 14 years has been taking groups there to swim with whales.

Whales

You can go whale watching without leaving Stra’a, of course, even in Sydney, and in plenty of places around the globe. But there are few places where whale-watching has become such an intense industry in itself. Another is Hawai’i. We visited Mau’i during whale season this February past. The water between Mau’i, Lana’i and Moloka’i (note the apostrophes and the separations (we figure, if a mob of people is hospitable enough to take us in, then the least we can do is to respect their language) is an ancient volcano crater, shallower and warmer and safer than the deeper seas outside these islands, and in February and adjacent months, there must be thousands of whales there visiting, mooching, calving, breaching, tail slapping, blowing off and all ‘round having fun.

Ditto Tonga between July and November. Local regulations keep whale-watching boats at distance from the whales in most places. The difference in Tonga is that you are allowed to get in the water with them.

This, too, is regulated: groups can be no more than four plus guide at any one time, for 15-20 minutes per group, and boats can carry no more than eight punters each, plus guides and skippers. And there is a distance rule: 10m, we understand. There is no reason why groups can’t get in repeatedly, on rotation, as it were. Much depends on the whales: when confronted with a small gaggle of gaping tourists, do they wrack off; or do they stay to play? It’s entirely up to them.

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Vava'u Royal Agricultural Show. (Image by David Helsham (@glistenrr))

Etiquette

The archipelago off Vava’u’s southern coast is a good place to get up to this kind of thing. There are myriad islands, bays, straits, channels and reefs, forming a crucible of “whale soup”, as one cobber put it. There is a host of whale watching businesses in Neiafu and during whale season they are out there each day a’-huntin’ fer whales. You feel as Cap’n Ahab, sans harpoon, scouring the horizon for the tell-tale blows, or tail slaps, or breaches. Sometimes – often – a whale will surface right next to your boat, totally uninvited. If you’re lucky, as happened to us, it will be a mother with new calf.

When the skipper sights a whale, they take off at knots towards it. There is an etiquette governing these things as well as gummint regulations. If another boat “has” a whale, then its theirs and you don’t muscle in uninvited. You need to find your own whales, although some hunters might give you a go when they’ve had theirs already. In actuality, there’s a lot of co-operation amongst the whale boats out of Neiafu: they share, but there is a priority. The skippers of the various boats spend a lot of time on the phone talking to each other throughout each day’s expedition.

We got ours first one, a mother mooching about in a strait amongst three islands. We had three groups. Group one got in, had a look, and found her sitting on the bottom, just below them; just sitting there. Group 2 got in, had a look, and found her sitting on the bottom, just below them, just sitting there. Group 3 got in, one armed with a little movie camera, and, likewise, found her just sitting on the bottom. We swim-mooch sans snorkel, so we have to come up for air, just like a whale, although we come up more often than they do. Having studied her below us, just sitting there, we came up for air, and when we went down again, she was moving.

We’d contemplated what might happen when she moved. We thought, she might feel like a good breach after sitting there so long. She might just come straight up at us, rapidly accelerating to shoot out of the water. And if we’re in the way – we were right above her - we might be shot sideways or upwards with her. We might be knocked high out of the water, appearing to distant observers like a mossie disturbed in its grazing. We might be knocked out, concussed, by her fin. She might spear us with her snout. But she did none of those things: she rose, gently, and with a graceful two flicks of her tail, she was gone, surfacing 50 metres to the south, where she blew, took a big breath, and ambled off again, gracefully.

We reviewed the video when we got back to our pub. We thought we might have some of it on fillum. And we did. But we had even more. As she rose and she took off, she sang, once… twice… thrice… Three eeks, it sounded like, each a few seconds apart. And we got it all on the camera. You know, we reckon the sound recording is more exciting than the vision. Maybe she was talking to us. Maybe she was telling us to wrack off. Maybe just, Get outta tha way! But a whale talked to us. Our new cobber.

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And the crowd builds up... (Image by Daavid Helsham @glistenrr)

Horsey

Whales were all around us, even on swim days, and we couldn’t help it if something blew off, slapped or breached next to us, eh? We did five swims along different parts of island coasts and channels, each day heading out, way out, and back. Our swims were all in whale territory. But the highlight was as we came back in towards Neiafu one day. Our skipper, a Shire boy named Andrew, who runs whale watching tours, was dropping us at a resort for lunch and a sticky beak. A kilometre out, we spotted a mother and her calf, gently rising for breath, the mother heading steadily towards the same resort, although we doubt she had a booking as we did, her calf gamboling playfully around her, sticking her/his snout out, tail slapping, blowing, etc. As we neared the resort, they neared it too. The residents saw her coming, anticipating it for half an hour or more, and they lined the beaches and filled a pontoon floating just off the resort, cameras a-clicking.

We watched and followed. And we watched as that mother whale and her calf passed that pontoon filled with peering punters barely three metres away from them. Check out Glistening Dave’s photograrph of this occurrence in these pages…

They rounded a point into a bay. It gave us breathing space to unload onto the pontoon. Then they came back to a point about 75 metres off the pontoon, where they stayed, just mooching, sniffing around, for another two hours. Whale boats heading into port stopped by and disgorged swimmers into the sea. One group of four bobbed around in the water 10 metres from these two whales, the mother just sitting there, her calf playing between her and the swimmers, for their 20-minute allowable session. Who knows? They could have darted here and there farther out all day and seen nothing, only to run into this pair when they’re almost back in port.

Such are the vagaries of whale swimming.

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Neiafu Harbour protected the town from the worst of the tsunami effects of the recent exploding volcano.

Habit

Whales return to the same waters annually. The whales you see migrating along the Stra’an coast each year are the same whales. The whales you see blowing around in the sea of Mau’i each year are the same whales, native to those waters. The whales we made friends with in Tonga go back to Tonga each year, to the same places, to give birth and to develop an affinity with a winter homeland. Next year, that calf will be back, only bigger. It struck us that, as the mother mooched slowly along the shore, she was showing her little one around, showing them around the manor. “This is Uncle Jonah’s bay… And this is where your daddy took me by surprise (Too much information, mum!)… And here’s where your granma had a run in with an eejit tourist… Here’s where he left his mark… And here’s where I was born…”

Sometimes, they’re as curious about us punters as we are about them, so they will stay and watch. We wonder, do they go back to the Antarctic and regale their cobbers with slide shows about the weird marine mammals they ran into on their winter hols?

Next day, we headed out for our final swim. We passed the resort on the beach with its pontoon, deserted now, and headed out across the strait. We turned left, aiming for a village and an island at the sou’-eastern entrance to the archipelago where we were to swim along the bay and across the reef to the island… And there, on our right, 50 metres away, was mum and her little one, shadowing us again.

It was special.

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Ever respectful. (Image by David Helsham (@glistenrr))

Brushes

As were our brushes with King Tupou VI. Not so much brushes, perhaps, as gestures. Walking back from lunch on Sundee, we saw flashing lights approaching. There aren’t many motorcades in Tonga and, aware that HM was in town, we guessed we were about to be passed by ‘im ‘imself. Indeed, it was ‘im and the cheese. There were two motorcycle outriders flashing their lights, and as they neared us, one of them blew his horn, loudly. They don’t have much cause for that kind of pomp up there, so it’s any post a winner for the copper. Yes, yes, we notice you… We took our hats off, doffed them, and we waved. And off he went, and off we went, in opposite directions.

Half an hour later, we heard the noise again, more flashing lights, no loud horn blowing this time (the copper knew us by now), but readier (us), we dips our lids again, and this time, he waved, and Her Majesty waved, too, and on they proceeded, processionally in all their circumstance.

Not for us

We left the next morning, early. Our flight was delayed. Another plane sat on the tarmac, a Twin Otter type, double props, light, a commuter aircraft between islands. A bunch of formal looking Tongans entered on the tarmac. They unfurled a red carpet leading to the aircraft steps, which also were special. A mob of officials ambled out and boarded the plane. We spotted our royal private secretary cobber amongst them. Then a kingly vehicle appeared, rolling silently out to the steps. And HM emerged from the car, gestured at surrounding punters, smiling benignly, climbed the steps, and the plane took off, for another island as part of his first inaugural national tour.

Three brushes in one week. We felt like Court Correspondents of The Times.

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Swim start in Ocean Swimming Stadium, Mana Island.


Travel to swim in exotic locales in 2023

Vigorous response to travel packages

We're rapidly filling travel packages for our oceanswimsafaris in 2023. Packages are online for The Philippines (May-June), Sulawesi, in Indonesia (June), whale swimming in Tonga (August), Mana Fiji (October) and for Heron Island (three dates in June, October, and November). Two spots have opened up for French Polynesia (May).

What’s on…

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

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

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


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Very nice water in Sulawesi.

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

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


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The end of a big day, San Sebastián.

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


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


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

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

 

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


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

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

Our advance deposit scheme

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


See oceanswimsafaris.com for more.

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Get your View gogs

Best gogs, etc, at best prices

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

Some of our bargains…

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

2023 Heron Island

Dates open for June, Oct, Nov

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

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

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

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

Find out more and book… Click here

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Fish school.

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New model Swipes

Prescription gogs now in Swipes

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

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

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

View's new Swipe prescription gogs are available at $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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If you'd like to subscribe to this newsletter… Click here

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September 28, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere.

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Ever hopeful: The Bongin Bongin Dawnbusters lap up one of those rare, perfect days before the forecast summer return of La Niña. Image by staff snapper, David Helsham (@glistenrr).

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See below...

Hypothermia

'Routine' ocean swim ends in death

This horrifying report of the death of a swimmer in San Francisco, from suspected hypothermia, is a lesson to all swimmers. Below, we republish our guide to cold water swimming, but retired Snooze Doc, Howard Roby, a report was published originally in our oceanswims.com newsletter of April 19, 2018. 

graff amy head 100By Amy Graff

From SFGate newsletter, San Francisco, Sept 23, 2022

 

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Deadman's Point can be seen from China Beach, a cove tucked between Lands End and Baker Beach in San Francisco's Sea Cliff neighborhood. (DianeBentleyRaymond/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The weather was stunning in San Francisco on the evening of Sept. 16, with clear skies and the sun blazing overhead. Conditions seemed perfect for members of the city’s open-water swimming community who had gathered informally at China Beach for a workout. Below the surface, though, the sea was turbulent, and cold enough to kill. 

Michael Ritter, a longtime San Francisco resident and highly experienced swimmer, entered the water with a group of a half-dozen or more people around 6 p.m. Ritter, 67, had been swimming in San Francisco Bay for the past eight years, and had recently started braving the chilly waters without a wet suit.
Three swimmers in the group, including Ritter, ran into trouble. Though they’d planned on swimming for around a half-hour, they fought a strong current to return to shore, and spent far longer in the churning sea than they’d intended. Two were able to swim back to the beach themselves, where they were treated for hypothermia. Ritter struggled and was heroically pulled from the water by a swimming companion; despite efforts by the San Francisco Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard, he died later that night.

'He grew up in the water' 

Dozens of people are rescued from San Francisco’s treacherous waters every year; last year the fire department pulled 228 people out of the ocean. Deaths, though rare, are a reminder of the dangers of swimming in this part of the Pacific, where waves can hit with the force of a car and temperatures are potentially deadly. 

Despite only recently joining the Dolphin Club, a 145-year-old group dedicated to swimming and boating in the open ocean, Ritter had been swimming all his life.

“He grew up in the water,” Ritter’s husband, Peter Toscani, told SFGATE. “He was always around water, he loved water, he loved to swim, he was swimming in the community pool for 25 years, he loved beaches.”

With friends, he swam along the California coast in Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey and La Jolla. In the summer of 2020, he began swimming two or three times a week at China Beach, the cove within Golden Gate National Recreation Area on the city’s northern tip just west of the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge. A friend said he had swum there 50 to 80 times.

Although the coroner’s office told SFGATE Ritter’s cause of death has yet to be determined, at the hospital, his body temperature was 82 degrees; hypothermia begins when a person’s core temperature falls below 95 degrees. The condition is common among swimmers in the frigid waters off San Francisco.

A small 2000 study found that 5 out of 11 participants monitored by researchers in San Francisco’s New Year's Day Alcatraz Swim came out with hypothermia. In May, a member of the Dolphin Club developed hypothermia at China Beach and had to be taken to the hospital, Ward Bushee, president of the group, told SFGATE. 

Two months ago, Ritter “went into a state of shock” while swimming in the same spot, this time while wearing a wet suit, and friends had to help him out of the ocean, Toscani said. He was treated by paramedics at the beach and made a full recovery. Toscani said the reason for the medical emergency was not determined and it’s unknown whether he had hypothermia.  

Despite the risks, Ritter’s death marked the first fatality of a club member in recent memory, Bushee said.

“We were all so sad as members of the Dolphin Club to learn about his loss,” Bushee wrote in an email to SFGATE. 

 

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Founded in 1877, the Dolphin Club, a nonprofit organization, serves as a special community for swimmers and rowers alike. (Blair Heagerty / SFGate)

'We need to get the word out'

Open-ocean swimming is a thrilling, physically demanding sport, one that many participants continue to do into old age. While it may be risky, it also comes with health benefits: Studies show that people who swim tend to be healthier and live longer. The sport also fosters tight-knit communities among people who have a passion for swimming in the wide-open water, including at China Beach, where regular swimmers grew especially close during the pandemic.

“While open-water swimming at China Beach has its share of risks like other outdoor sports, it is worth calling out that it has also been a lifesaver to many swimmers including myself during the lockdown,” SF resident and open-water swimmer Alden Yap told SFGATE by text. He was part of the group that went swimming with Ritter on Friday, and developed hypothermia. “Many swimmers found each other in a period when pools and facilities were closed and grew organically from there into the social group that we see today.”

The 1,925-member Dolphin Club has a facility, including a sauna and hot showers, on the sheltered cove at Aquatic Park. But during the pandemic, when the club was closed, some members began venturing out to the unprotected waters of China Beach, according to Bushee.

“In Aquatic Park you have a more controlled area,” Bushee told SFGATE on the phone. “You have escape hatches. There are enough swimmers out there that you can ask for help. You can grab a boat. The beach is close. That’s not necessarily so true at China Beach where you have some strong tides and conditions that are more difficult to navigate. We need to get the word out that you need to be careful and plan your swim well when you’re at China Beach.”

Having a plan isn’t necessarily enough, though. Ritter and his group were following best practices, including going out with other experienced swimmers, on a day when there were no National Weather Service warnings about unusually dangerous conditions. While Ritter was in top shape, Toscani said he had little body fat to protect him from the cold. 

“When you look at this incident, it’s horrible because somebody lost their life. It doesn’t sound like they did anything wrong, it doesn’t sound like they did anything that anyone out of their skill level would have done,” said Lt. Jonathan Baxter, a spokesperson for the fire department. “It seems this party had a plan, which shows that even if you plan for something, injuries can occur.”

Hypothermia is a sneaky thing. Although it’s most common in icy waters, it’s possible to become hypothermic in any water colder than 70 degrees. The closest National Weather Service buoy to China Beach indicated that the water temperature was about 58 degrees that night, and Baxter said the water off the beach was anywhere from about 49 to 57 degrees. 

Prolonged exposure to cold sucks up your body’s stored energy, sending your core temperature plummeting. If your core falls below 95 degrees, your body will go into shock, leading to disorientation, uncontrollable breathing and rapid heartbeat. That confusion is particularly dangerous in the open ocean.

'Right in front of me was a wave'

Ritter started Friday’s swim with several others, including Yap, who has been swimming long distances in the ocean since 2005. Yap told SFGATE that they had met up organically and decided to follow the usual route, swimming south to Deadman’s Point and back. Yap has done this same 1-mile swim a dozen times, usually taking about 25 to 30 minutes. Some in the group might turn around before Deadman’s depending on conditions.

Yap said that from shore they noticed conditions were a “a little bit choppy, but it wasn’t something that we thought we couldn’t overcome. … We’re used to swimming in those conditions.”

At some point, though, Yap was grabbed by an unusually strong current, which helped him reach Deadman’s Point faster than usual. When he tried to turn back, the current became problematic. Yap realized he’d lost the rest of the group. 

“Conditions changed when I got to Deadman’s,” Yap told SFGATE over the phone. “I realized no one was behind me and no one was in front of me. That’s when I panicked.”

He added, “You could see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was sparkling. The sky was clear, but right in front of me was a wave and it was high.”

Heading back toward China Beach, with winds picking up, Yap said that he swam as hard as he could for 15 minutes, but made little progress. 

“I’ve never experienced a current like that,” he said. “I was on a treadmill.”

By moving closer to shore, Yap managed to skirt the current, eventually making it back to China Beach after more than a hour in the water. He was treated for hypothermia by a paramedic, then released. He later posted GoPro footage of his perilous swim on YouTube.



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Image by David Helsham (@glistenrr).

'His eyes became panicky'

On Tuesday, Toscani recounted what he’s learned about his husband’s final swim. 

In the water, Ritter stayed close to a woman in the group; the two of them were also grabbed by a powerful current. Ritter started to swim more slowly, Toscani told SFGATE; the woman told Toscani she realized something was wrong when she noticed Rittert “ looking blissful,” Toscani said. “It was treacherous. He was treading water, and she had to become more aggressive toward him, trying to direct him toward the shore.”

When she realized China Beach was out of reach, Toscani said, she told Ritter that they needed to swim to the closer Hidden Beach, a strip of sand surrounded by steep cliffs. 

“She was trying to push him using her feet,” Toscani told SFGATE. “She said his eyes became panicky.”

The turbulence was so bad that Ritter was swallowing a lot of water.

By the time they reached Hidden Beach, Ritter was unconscious. The woman administered CPR, but she was unable to revive him. She swam back to China Beach, ultimately spending an hour and a half in the water. One of the other swimmers in the group had already called 911, and waiting medics treated her for hypothermia, Toscani said. 

The fire department said it first received a report of a swimmer with a medical emergency at 7:20 p.m, and deployed five rescue swimmers who swam in the dark from China Beach to Hidden Beach. The swimmers used a board to bring Ritter to a waiting U.S. Coast Guard boat, where medics immediately started life-saving measures, Baxter said. 

“Once the Coast Guard got to Michael, they said they felt a pulse, they tried to revive him there,” said Toscani, adding that the woman who helped Ritter is a hero.

Baxter agreed, telling SFGATE that Ritter’s companion “heroically rescued this person, to a point where CPR could be administered.” 

Ritter was transported by boat to Horseshoe Bay in Marin County, and then to Marin General Hospital. On arrival, doctors connected him to a respirator, and to machines designed to warm up his blood, according to Toscani.

“The blood would come out and pass through these heating machines and go back through the body, they did that for two and a half hours or so. They were able to get his body temperature up to 86 degrees,” he told SFGATE. An ER doctor then checked for a pulse, but couldn’t find one. “They gave me the choice on whether to continue with this. There was no chance. I said, ‘Turn everything off.’”

Ritter was pronounced dead just before midnight Sept. 16, about six hours after he’d entered the water.

 

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After Michael Ritter died Sept. 16, 2022, an email to friends read, "The world is brighter for having had Michael's light, kindness, generosity, tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love; an example for how to live on this planet for the short time we inhabit here." (Courtesy Eric Smith)

'The model of morality'

Ritter grew up in Florence (South Carolina), and graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in psychology and counseling. Toscani said that he loved to travel; he passed through San Francisco in the 1970s and ended up staying. 

Ritter spent more than 30 years as a member of the faculty at San Francisco State, teaching classes to students majoring in counseling, as well as providing mental health services to students, including creating the school’s substance abuse prevention program. In the mid-’80s, Ritter founded the AIDS Coordinating Committee on campus, addressing AIDS prevention and education and advocating for people living with the virus, including staff and faculty. It “set an example for AIDS policies and programs on college campuses throughout the country,” the Golden Gate Xpress, the university’s newspaper, reported. 

“He promoted the well being of marginalized communities (particularly those impacted by homophobia and racism) throughout his career as a counselor and educator in social services before his long tenure at SFSU,” Bita Shooshani, a colleague of Ritter, wrote in an email. “To me he embodied the spirit of San Francisco and why I moved to the Bay and stayed here and continue to live here. 

“He was a teacher, an activist, committed to social justice, a person of the highest moral values who was trying to make a difference in this world,” Ritter’s long-time friend Eric Smith wrote in an email to friends, which he shared with SFGATE. “He was truly ‘walking the walk.’”


ritter toscani portrait 250Michael Ritter, left, with his husband of 35 years, Peter Toscani. Courtesy Eric Smith

Ritter’s death has left the open-water community in shock; the flag at the Dolphin Club was lowered to half-mast for three days. His friends and family, meanwhile, are mourning the loss of a man who they say lived with good intention and grace.

“I can’t think of one instance where he talked cruelly about anyone. He was the model of morality,” Toscani said.

“Michael was an extraordinary person and friend to many people from many different walks of life,” Smith wrote. “When you were with Michael, you felt like you were the most important person in the world.”

On Oct. 1, the Swimming for Sueños Dream Team is holding its ninth swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco to raise scholarship dollars for undocumented students at SF State. This year, the swim is in Ritter’s honor.

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Hypothermia 101

When is cold too cold?

Roby howard 150Early this season (oss.c: Season 2017/18), writes Howard Roby, controversy raged after the Bondi to Bronte swim was modified to allow swimmers to use wetsuits. This came about because of unseasonably cold water temperatures and the concerns of the officials about the possibility of some swimmers developing hypothermia. Snooze Doc Howard, an anaesthetist, offers this guide to dealing with hypothermia...

The term hypothermia refers to a core body temperature of below 35 degrees C, whereas normal core body temperature is around 37 degrees C.

Despite the change in the rules at Bondi-Bronte, some swimmers did need to be transported to hospital with hypothermia. I have seen different estimates of the water temp that day and have been told by the officials that the temperature during the swim was actually 13.7C. Due to the interest created by this swim, and as a committed ocean swimmer, I have been asked to write a piece on hypothermia. I am not an expert on hypothermia but I have qualifications in anaesthesia and intensive care where I spend a lot of my time and energy preventing patients from becoming hypothermic. I swam that race without a wetsuit and was very cold but I still felt as though I was functioning normally after it. I had a coffee an hour after the Bondi to Bronte swim with my friend, PJ, who is very fit but doesn’t have much fat. He was still slurring his speech and appeared drunk, although he kept telling me he felt normal.

First, some physiology

The human body functions well only within a narrow temperature range. A core temperature drop of 2 degrees C is dangerous and a 3 degreesC drop can kill you. Every cell in your body is a heat making machine. The act of burning energy creates heat. Even if you sit absolutely still, you are still using energy to keep your body functioning and thus producing some heat. The more exercise you perform, the more heat you produce.

Body temperature depends on a balance between heat production or gain and heat loss. In air, most heat is lost or gained by radiation as in warming from the sun. In water though, heat is lost mostly by conduction to the water. The colder the water, the more rapidly you lose heat and the faster your body temperature falls. In water below 34 C your body temperature will fall. The colder the water, the faster you’ll cool.

The major physiological defence mechanism you have to reduce heat loss is to constrict your surface blood vessels. This is why your skin is white when you’re cold and pink when you’re warm. In the cold, blood is shunted away from the skin and diverted towards your core. This increases blood flow to your kidneys which is one reason why you need to empty your bladder so often when you get cold. Shivering is an attempt by your body to increase heat production. It usually starts at a core temperature of around 34C but beware that it usually stops if your temp falls below 32C. Fat is an insulator, offering some protection against heat loss as well as increasing buoyancy.

 

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Noice aspect of the ManaFijiSwimFest over the years is the development of local kids as swimmers. James Song (2nd left) Had never swum an event longer than 400m (pool) till 5km in the Mana Fiji SwimFest on September 17. He’s also a very new swimmer. Cobbers Reuben Taylor (l), Joshua Mara (2nd right), and Jeremiah Faktaufon (r) swam out to escort him in at the end, which would have been some comfort as the poor kid could barely stand up at the end.

Ocean swimmers are at particular risk of hypothermia because they are typically fit and muscled, with large surface veins. These carry blood just below the skin – which increases heat loss. Swimmers also typically have little fat to insulate them, also predisposing to rapid loss of body heat.

Swimming increases heat production in the muscles, but because it also increases blood flow to the muscles, and through the superficial veins, it increases the loss of heat through the skin. Moving the limbs through the water increases the flow of water across the skin, further increasing heat loss. The net effect is that swimming increases heat loss more than heat production; temperature falls faster when swimming than when floating still in the water.

Survival time in water depends on many factors, including water temperature. This makes estimating survival time difficult and often inaccurate. Published “survival tables” refer to specific conditions, but are hard to relate to different conditions of water and air temperature, wind strength, wave speed and height, presence or absence of clothing or wetsuit, flotation, head coverage or lack thereof, degree of physical activity, as well as physical factors such as muscle mass, natural insulation by body fat, natural buoyancy and proportion of the body on or above the surface – all of which affect rate of cooling.

SUDDEN IMMERSION in cold water causes marked and dangerous physiological responses. Most obvious is the gasp response: rapid, deep and uncontrollable breathing. Maximum breath hold time is reduced, and coordination between breathing and swimming action is lost. These contribute to a high risk of drowning within a very short period, even before getting to the first turning buoy.

Sudden cooling of the skin causes widespread constriction of the surface vessels, shunting blood to the body core. The sudden increase in blood flow back to the heart can cause a dramatic increase in blood pressure, and an irregular heart beat. There is an increase in production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, pushing the blood pressure and heart rate up even more.

Confusingly, sudden immersion in cold water can also cause the dive reflex, a sudden slowing of the heart, and a rush of cold water up the nose can exacerbate this or even cause the heart to stop. The competing effects of these contradictory drives can cause a dangerous, even lethal, irregular heart rhythm.

All of these responses occur when the body surface is first exposed to cold water; the core temperature has not yet changed at all - the person is not hypothermic.

For these reasons, cold water should be entered slowly. Before a cold swim, wade into the water, or allow water to enter your wetsuit just before you start the swim. This reduces the effects of sudden immersion in cold water.

Do the effects of sudden immersion decrease with repeated exposure? – a little, after a long period. Do not think you are immune!

Recognition of hypothermia

The initial response to cold water is constriction of the surface blood vessels, reducing heat loss via the skin. The initial feeling of cold on the skin lessens over a few minutes, as the temperature sensors in the skin become accustomed to the stimulus. As the tissues of the body lose heat, the body core temperature starts to fall. By 35oC there is reduced awareness of cold, often a feeling that everything is fine. Muscle strength is reduced. Muscular activity is less efficient, swimming less coordinated and less powerful. There is reduced ability to recognise the deterioration in function. Speech is slurred, reflecting impaired brain function – people like this have been mistakenly assumed to be drunk. Between 34 and 35oC mental acuity is markedly impaired. Judgement and memory are impaired, and with it the ability to remember training, to recognise danger, and to act logically. Swimmers are likely to miss buoys, change direction the wrong way, fail to avoid waves or swell, and are unlikely to signal for assistance. At this stage they may be seen to be swimming, but not making any headway.

Mentally there is a determination to keep swimming, without any understanding of what is happening. There is no awareness of the need for immediate rescue. By 34oC thinking, reason, memory and awareness are very limited. Extreme lethargy gives way to a desire to sleep; this precedes a decrease in conscious level, predisposing to a quiet, un-noticed disappearance below the water and drowning.

Because the hypothermic swimmer does not recognise that they are becoming hypothermic, control of the swimmers must be exercised by people who are not in the water. (Tasmania Police Rescue divers in water of 12 - 13C, wearing two layers of thick wetsuit with hood and boots, are under the control of a diver in the mother boat for this reason.)

What water temperature is safe?

To a small degree this depends on acclimatisation. People in Canada and Europe tolerate lower water temperatures than we do, but usually for shorter swims. They often have higher body fat content, and may use artificial insulation.

The physiological effects are dramatically increased in water below 15oC so this might be a reasonable absolute minimum. Between 15 and 20oC an acceptable water temperature would depend on the wind, waves, wetsuits and head covering, sunshine, individual physical makeup, the length of the swim, and the other variables mentioned earlier.

Does gender make a difference? Females have a slightly higher total body fat percentage, so a little more insulation, and have a higher surface area to mass ratio. Males typically have a higher muscle mass, so producing more heat. The net effect is probably a small difference between male and female ocean swimmers, with females at slightly more risk.

 

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We're just back from the Mana Fiji SwimFest. This is what it's like in our early morning swims. Next year's dates are October 17-22.

Prevention of hypothermia

Make assessment of water and weather conditions a formal part of every swim GO or Postpone decision. Ensure you have a club doctor who is well informed on hypothermia, is part of the decision-making process, and listen to his or her advice.

In cold conditions, keep as warm as possible before starting the swim. The warmer you are before you start, the longer it takes to become cold. DO NOT walk around uncovered, thinking you are getting yourself ready / used to the cold.

Make sure you are well hydrated.

  • In cold water, below about 20C, always wear at least one swim cap. In lower temperatures, wear two.
  • When to wear a wetsuit depends on water temperature, degree of warmth from the sun, wind strength, wave height and velocity, and how far the swim is, as well as your physical characteristics. Some examples -
  • a swim of 1.5 km in water 0f 17C, without a wetsuit, is likely to leave a swimmer mildly hypothermic, looking pale, shivering, and feeling cold;
  • a swim of 5 km in water of 20C, by a swimmer with a little body fat, no wetsuit, is likely to leave him or her mildly hypothermic, looking pale, shivering, and feeling cold;
  • the same 5 km swim, but in water of 21C, by a thin muscular swimmer with large surface veins, without wetsuit, is likely to leave the swimmer very cold, visibly affected and under-performing;
  • an 8 km swim in water of 20C, without wetsuit, is likely to cause moderate, and dangerous hypothermia in many of the swimmers;
  • a 10 km swim in water under 20C is likely to leave most swimmers moderately hypothermic, and some in hospital.

So, there are no good rules, but it would seem sensible to consider wearing a wetsuit in any swim under 17C, or any swim over 5km.

Ocean swimming is meant to fun, not a trial of survival!

Management of hypothermic swimmers
  • Recognise that their performance is impaired;
  • Understand that they may not realise this, and argue with you;
  • Get them out of the water;
  • Shelter them from wind;
  • Dry them, cover the whole body in dry clothing / blankets, particularly the head. If they are conscious, keep them wrapped up, and allow them to warm themselves by their own heat production. They must be carefully observed, as their core temperature may continue to drop and they may lose consciousness;
  • Give them warm, not hot, sweet drinks. Warmed blankets are useful, as is body-to-body contact;
  • The ubiquitous space blanket that looks like a giant piece of aluminium foil may not be all that good for treating hypothermia. If you’re warm, they are good at keeping you warm. They won’t rapidly warm up someone who is cold;
  • Active heating with a specially designed forced air warming blanket is preferable to a space blanket;
  • DO NOT leave them alone;
  • DO NOT use hot water bottles or chemical heating packs, as these are likely to result in burns;
  • DO NOT put them in a hot shower or bath; rapid warming causes the superficial vessels to dilate rapidly; blood pressure falls dangerously, cold blood trapped in the periphery is suddenly released, and a bolus of cold blood returning to the heart can cause a fatal irregular heart beat.
  • Once they are rewarmed, their swim for the day is over. Do not allow them to re-enter the water.

Unconscious or semi-conscious people should be treated as above, on their side in the coma position with airway support, and transported by ambulance to hospital for more intensive management.

Should Bondi-Bronte have been cancelled?

I’m not smart enough to know the answer to that but I hope the organisers understood the dangers. Swimmers may rapidly get hypothermic and have breathing and heart difficulties before they even get to the first buoy (as happened to one of my colleagues) or they may start to act irrationally midway through the swim. They may turn out to sea and start swimming away from then land or they may drown.

In summary, if you are thinking of swimming in cold water -

  • Consider how long you’ll be in the water for;
  • Consider the weather conditions;
  • Wear at least one bathing cap;
  • Consider wearing a wetsuit;
  • Keep yourself warm leading up to the swim but make sure you’ve entered the water slowly when you do get in;
  • Make sure someone who is not in the water is keeping an eye on you.

Howard Roby is a recently retired anaesthetist at St Vincents Hospital in Sydney, a former water poloist, and a regular ocean swimmer. Howard has two Cole Classic plates.


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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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2023 packages open now

Travel to swim in exotic locales

We're rapidly posting travel packages for our oceanswimsafaris in 2023. We posted packages for our most exotic location, Sulawesi (June), just  yesterday. Packages are online for The Philippines (May-June) and whale swimming in Tonga (July-August). We'll have them up very soon for Spain's Costa Brava (September) , Mana Fiji (October) in '23, and for Heron Island (three dates in June, October, and November). French Polynesia (May) at this stage is sold out!

What’s on…

June–November, 2023 – We’re going back to Heron Island with three oceanswimsafaris planned between June, October, and November. These have been very popular in 2022. We have two more to go in 2022 (October 19-24 and November 6-11)– Still room available if you'd like to come with us). We’re finalising 2023 packages now and will have them up very soon… Click here

french poly 19
Rank-and-file git languishes in the Pacific in French Polynesia. You, too, can swim here.

French Polynesia, May, 2023 – We have two oceanswimsafaris to French Polynesia lined up. These have been rolled over annually since the pandemic hit, but we'll to get them away at last in 2023. Both are full right now, but spaces may open up. Check the details and let us know if you’re interested, just in case… Click here

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


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Very nice water in Sulawesi.

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

Tonga, July-August, 2023 – Come with us to swim with whales in Tonga. This has proved to be one of our most popular oceanswimsafaris. In recent years, we’ve run three, end to end. In 2023, we have one set of dates ready, to see how we go. We had hoped to visit Tonga again in 2022, but the kingdom is not expected to re-open to international visitors post-pandemic till November, 2022. So next year it is. We spend three days swimming with whales and two days ocean swimming around and between islands in the Vava’u archipelago.  Dates are July 31-August 8, 2023… Click here


san sebastián evening
The end of a big day, San Sebastián.

San Sebastián, Spain, August, 2023 – Back to Spain! We’re planning on running our San Sebastián oceanswimsafari over the week of August 22-28, anchored by the annual 3km swim around the island of Santa Clara. San Sebastián is one of the ancient world’s most colourful cities. Have you heard of pintxos? Excellent food in San Sebastián, and we make it a focus of our visit there… Click here

sea cave costa brava
One of us in the entrance to a sea cave, Costa Brava.

Costa Brava, Spain, September, 2023 – And back to the Costa Brava, the wild coastline of Catalonia between Barçelona and the French border. We’ll swim from France to Spain around the end of the Pyrenees, follow the most spectacular coastline in the world, and sample some of the best food and wine you will find anywhere. And we’ll immerse ourselves in the world of Salvador Dalí, who was native to this area. There’s something for everyone on this oceanswimsafari, whether or no you’re a swimmer. Dates September 6-14 (TBC)… Click here

Mana Fiji, October 17-22, 2023 – We are off to Mana Fiji this year, September 13-18, 2022, for the return of the Mana Fiji SwimFest — a five-day carnival anchored around a 10km (solos or 3 x 3.3km relay) swim on the Thursday, and a choice of 5km, 2.5km, or 1km on the Saturday. Mana’s North Beach is Ocean Swimming Stadium of the Pacific, one of the best stretches of water in which you’ll ever do a swim event. Dates TBC for 2023. But you don’t need to wait that long: come with us in 2022… Click here

 

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


We can also take small groups of 6-8 people to swim around Greece's Northern Sporades islands, location of the movie, Mama Mia. If you have around double that number, we can use two yachts. If you're interested, give us a yell... Click here

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

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


See oceanswimsafaris.com for more.

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Not a bad joint for a swim.

2022 Heron Island

Dates open for Oct, Nov

Our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris have been heavily booked. We've had some terrific groups come with us so far this year, although the weather has not always been at its best. We're looking forward to tip top conditions in October and November. This time of year traditionally has produced ideal swim and tropical holiday conditions.

October dates are October 19-24. November dates are November 6-11.

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

We'll be ready soon to take bookings for our 2023 Heron Island dates –

  • October 25-30
  • November 8-13

Find out more and book… Click here

heron island 12 600
Fish school.

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New model Swipes

Prescription gogs now in Swipes

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

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

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

View's new Swipe prescription gogs are available at $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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August 18, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere.

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A metaphor for the seasons... Just as the sun approaches the equator on its way sarf for spring and summer, so it peeps, just peeps over the horizon at dawn at Bongin Bongin Bay. Image by staff snapper, David Helsham (@glistenrr), who has a way of saying in images what most of us would struggle to articulate in words.

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See below...

What lies beneath

Too much to see

goble sally 400One of the beauties of ocean swimming is that you get to see not just what's around you, but also what's beneath you. Spare a thought for those breaststrokers who swim heads up: they get to see only what's in front of them, above the surface. London's Sally Goble, in the latest in her blog, Postcards from the Pool, muses on some of the stuff they're missing...

canary wharf london 300Honestly, I need a lobotomy.

I envy heads-up breastrokers: their unwetted hair, their sunglasses, their ignorance-is-bliss, their world where everything is as it seems. No wonder they glide along happily chatting and marvelling at the normal world. They are oblivious to what is below.

For me with my head down, wide-eyed-scanning the terrifying world beneath me — my heart beats alarmingly fast.

Canary Wharf. Middle Dock (That's it, at right: oss.c). Saturday. The water is terrifyingly clear.

Here is a graveyard of chairs: I count eight or ten. Some skeletons have all their limbs intact, unnaturally landed upside down, belly-up. Some smashed into pieces, legs scattered like bones. I swim past the waterside bar alongside, imagining obnoxious city boys, too loud, too eager to impress, too many bottles of expensive wine into the night, picking up the furniture and hurling it, laughing uproariously, to its watery final resting place. I shudder.

A hundred metres later on I startle myself with an unexpected underwater ledge of concrete rubble, as though someone has tipped in liquid concrete and it has bubbled and set and come to rest here: ugly and rough; gnarly and pockmarked. Not smooth and contained and well-ordered like the sides of the buildings around. I swim on hurriedly.

Then the worst part. A section of a scaffolding tower lies slumped on the basin floor, lying in a shambles on its side, big enough that it looms closer to the surface than I’d like. I swim over the top of it. Metres long, perfectly intact, gradually being covered by green sludge and algae. Why is it here? How long has it been lying quietly below the surface, unseen? I feel a sense of dread each time I swim over, imagining its life, and death. Once upon a time I imagine it strong and reliable, sturdy and proud, part of a team of scaffolding units that stood erect and built this docklands, with its mad metal and glass edifices. It had capability and strength and purpose. Now it lies here, forgotten and unloved, decaying and useless. Each circuit I do I give it a wider and wider berth. It terrifies me, a reminder of the way of all things.

I wish the water were murkier, or I could do head-up breaststroke.

There is too much to see here.

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Swimmer's shoulder

Just about the only injury a swimmer can get

murphy jerry 200Apart from being dumped in the break, or being thumped by an over-zealous rival whilst rounding a booee, about the only injury that ocean swimmers – indeed, any swimmers – can get from swimming is swimmer's shoulder. Here, physiotherapist and ocean swimmer, Jerry Murphy, a member of Maillot Jaune, takes us through it...

(This article was published previously in our newsletter of July 3, 2018. We figure it's time for a reminder. At the end of the article, there are a series of seven brief videos that physio Jerry Murphy has prepared demonstrating simple exercises to help deal with shoulder injuries in swimmers.)

Q. Which stroke is the most common cause of shoulder problems in swimming?

A. Freestyle. Regardless of the stroke performed in competition, over 50 per cent of swimmers in an elite Australian swim squad perform freestyle in training. As it’s highly repetitious, the shoulder is at risk to overuse and overload injuries. Elite swimmers and those training for distance swims (eg English Channel) can be swimming 50 to 90 km per week.

Q. Prevalence of shoulder pain reported at elite level?

A. Between 40 per cent and 90 per cent.

Q. Why the shoulder?

A. In contrast to most other sports, the shoulder and arm are the principal generator of forward momentum, not the legs.

The anatomy of the shoulder is similar to a golf ball sitting in a golf tee: the humeral head is 4x bigger than the socket (glenoid). Therefore, at any one time and position, there is only 25 per cent of the humeral in contact with the glenoid. Consequently, stability is compromised for greater mobility.

In return for greater mobility, the labrum (cartilage lining of the glenoid) and rotator cuff (four muscles from the scapula) are put under increasing load to stabilise the humeral head in the socket.
Freestyle stroke

The Freestyle stroke is divided into 4 phases --

  1. Hand entry
  2. Pull
  3. Push
  4. Recovery

shoulder diagram 350Q. Which phase causes problems?

A. The recovery phase is where problems can occur in the shoulder. The shoulder is above water in a flexed and internally rotated position.

If the rotator cuff muscles are fatigued they cannot hold the humeral head securely in the socket as the hand enters the water for the next critical phases... hand entry and catch.

The catch position also can present problems to the shoulder if the entry is not correct ie hand first parallel to the water followed by the wrist, elbow and shoulder.

The all important angle of entry will dictate the resistance of water experienced at the shoulder. If entry is too shallow the shoulder will experience a large moment of force as the water provides resistance.

Over a period of time this will cause the rotator cuff to fatigue especially supraspinatus resulting in an impingement.
Impingement

Swimmers shoulder was coined by Hawkins Kennedy in 1974 for anterior shoulder pain following swim workouts and termed impingement. It has been since found to be just as common in the general public.

G Murrell et al 2008 looked at an elite group of Australian swimmers and found volume was a major cause of supraspinatus tendinopathy, not impingement. The hypothesis was high volume swimmers developed laxity in the joint soft tissues (ligaments and capsule). This laxity caused an unstable joint where the humeral head impinged upwards into the path of the supraspinatus tendon.

Laxity in the shoulder can be divided into two types --

  • The first is genetic, often involving more than one joint in the body having greater flexibility; often referred to as hyper mobility.
  • The second cause is repetitive swimming which can cause the static structures to become more flexible.

Results of the study showed swimmers who swam greater than 35km per week were 4x more likely to have tendinopathy than those who swam less. Laxity levels in the shoulder did not change with increased volumes of swimming when measured.

Take home points to prevent shoulder injury during swimming are –

  1. Watch the volume of kms per week: over 35km will increase the risk of shoulder tendinopathy.
  2. Maintain a strong robust rotator cuff that can tolerate fatigue.
  3. Consider all aspects of the swim cycle from hand entry to recovery.
Video help

 Video 1... Click here

 Video 2... Click here

 Video 3... Click here

 Video 4... Click here

 Video 5... Click here

 Video 6... Click here

 Video 7... Click here

Happy ocean swimming!
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Win back the value of your room...

Mana Fiji prize drawn 

mana fiji logo 19 250With the arrival of August, we've drawn the winner of our prize to win back the value of your room at Mana Island Resort in Fiji: it's Don and Alison Harris, of Ballina.

The prize was drawn from a list of all those who had booked and paid to come with us to the Mana Fijji SwimFest. To be eligible, you had to have made final payments by the end of July.

We'll be refunding Don and Alison the value of their bure for their stay on Mana Island.

There is still time for book for 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 core travel dates September 13-18.

Mana Island is re-opening at the end of July after being closed for two 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 15 (solos and relay teams), and events of 5km, 2.5km, 1km, and 500m on Saturday, September 17. Even if you don't feel up to the 10km as a solo, you can do it as a member of a 3 x 3.3km relay team. And if you don't have a team, we'll build one for you.

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, friendliest, most interesting 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).

We have packages online now. Bookings are coming in, so check out the details quick and smart... Click here 

mana 191019 10km 600
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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Next year's dates up now

Travel to swim in '23

It’s the end of the year, if you’re a finance-type person, or someone who does their tax on time, but we’re planning for calendar ’23. We’re getting ready to restart all those oceanswimsafaris – the Pacific, the Asian archipelago, the Mediterranean – that fell into abeyance with the pandemic. We’re getting them going again in 2023.


What we’re planning is below, but first a warning: we’ve had quite a bit of interest in some of our 2023 oceanswimsafaris, so if you’d like to come with us, let us know your interest. You can hold your spot with an advance deposit (fully refundable when we’ve finalised the package if you’d prefer then not to proceed). More on that lower down… 

What’s new…

What’s new is that we now have dates for 2023 on oceanswimsafaris.com.

What’s on…

June–November, 2023 – We’re going back to Heron Island with three oceanswimsafaris planned between June, October, and November. These have been very popular in 2022. We’re finalising a couple of dates now and will have them up very soon… Click here

french poly 19
Rank-and-file git languishes in the Pacific in French Polynesia. You, too, can swim here.

May, 2023 – We have two oceanswimsafaris to French Polynesia lined up. These have been rolled over annually since the pandemic hit, but we expect to get them away at last in 2023. Both are full right now, but spaces may open up. Check the details and let us know if you’re interested, just in case… Click here

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


sulawesi suanne
Very nice water in Sulawesi.

June, 2023 – We’re planning to get back to Sulawesi, the weird-shaped island in the nor’-eastern Indonesian archipelago. This is at the southern end of the Celebes Sea, again in the area of the greatest diversity of marine life in the Indo-Pacific. More glorious coral reef and tropical water, lots of turtles, different Indonesian banquet every night, and some of the most panoramic views you will ever get from a resort room… Click here

July-August, 2023 – Come with us to swim with whales in Tonga. This has proved to be one of our most popular oceanswimsafaris. In recent years, we’ve run three, end to end. In 2023, we have one set of dates ready, to see how we go. We had hoped to visit Tonga again in 2022, but the kingdom is not expected to re-open to international visitors post-pandemic till November, 2022. So next year it is. We spend three days swimming with whales and two days ocean swimming around and between islands in the Vava’u archipelago.  Dates are July 31-August 8, 2023… Click here


san sebastián evening
The end of a big day, San Sebastián.

August, 2023 – Back to Spain! We’re planning on running our San Sebastián oceanswimsafari over the week of August 22-28, anchored by the annual 3km swim around the island of Santa Clara. San Sebastián is one of the ancient world’s most colourful cities. Have you heard of pintxos? Excellent food in San Sebastián, and we make it a focus of our visit there… Click here

sea cave costa brava
One of us in the entrance to a sea cave, Costa Brava.

September, 2023 – And back to the Costa Brava, the wild coastline of Catalonia between Barçelona and the French border. We’ll swim from France to Spain around the end of the Pyrenees, follow the most spectacular coastline in the world, and sample some of the best food and wine you will find anywhere. And we’ll immerse ourselves in the world of Salvador Dalí, who was native to this area. There’s something for everyone on this oceanswimsafari, whether or no you’re a swimmer. Dates September 6-14 (TBC)… Click here

September/October, 2023 – We are off to Mana Fiji this year, September 13-18, 2022, for the return of the Mana Fiji SwimFest — a five-day carnival anchored around a 10km (solos or 3 x 3.3km relay) swim on the Thursday, and a choice of 5km, 2.5km, or 1km on the Saturday. Mana’s North Beach is Ocean Swimming Stadium of the Pacific, one of the best stretches of water in which you’ll ever do a swim event. Dates TBC for 2023. But you don’t need to wait that long: come with us in 2022… Click here

 

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


We can also take small groups of 6-8 people to swim around Greece's Northern Sporades islands, location of the movie, Mama Mia. If you're interested, give us a yell... Click here

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

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


See oceanswimsafaris.com for more.

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Not a bad joint for a swim.

2022 Heron Island

Dates open for Oct, Nov

Our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris have been heavily booked. We've had some terrific groups come with us so far this year, although the weather has not always been at its best. We're looking forward to tip top conditions in October and November. This time of year traditionally has produced ideal swim and tropical holiday conditions.

October dates are October 19-24. November dates are November 6-11.

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

We'll be ready soon to take bookings for our 2023 Heron Island dates –

  • June 14-19
  • October 11-16
  • November 8-13

Find out more and book… Click here

heron 220428 stars 600
Starry, starry night, Heron Island, late April. Absolute rubbish joint.

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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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June 8, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere.

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Sighhh... This says it all about why we get down to the sea each morn. Image by @glistenrr, Bongin Bongin Bay.

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See below...

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Not a bad focal length, absolutely accidentally... Forster, end of morning swim.

Shark deterrents

Do they work?

The shark deterrent debate continues. We were fascinated when a cobber sent us recently a brochure he’d obtained from the NSW government comparing the effectiveness of different personal devices to deter shark ‘attack’. What the brochure said was that shark deterrent devices have very limited effectiveness, ranging between 56 per cent and 6 per cent. The only one of those devices suitable for ocean swimming (as we do it) was at the bottom of the range.

Imagine that: you’re relying on something to protect your life (and that’s not getting melodramatic), but it offers only 6 per cent effectiveness.

The figures are based on peer-reviewed studies, so they can be taken seriously. But, they are a few years old (2017/18). Yet there is nothing that we could find rigorous and peer-reviewed since then to refresh the knowledge. Models have changed since then and, according to some manufacturers, theirs have been improved. For now, we have to take them at their word, however, because, as we say, they don’t satisfy rigorous academic standards of research.

Cynic? Moi?

We are sceptics about these things. It’s not that we don’t believe they actually work as deterrents; we don’t doubt that, generally speaking, they must have some effect; it’s that the ranges over which they work –

  1. generally do not cover the entire human body, 
  2. sometimes may work to attract the shark in before eventually turning it away,
  3. that they still allow big noahs to come so close you might kark it from a heart attack anyway, 
  4. that most of them, even if they were effective, are impractical for use by ocean swimmers, and
  5. some are so weak as to be of negligible effect anyway, so we query their efficacy.

Our cobber’s brochure reported the key results of a study by academics at Flinders University, which looked at the effectiveness of five devices in deterring white sharks. Comparing the devices, the study found –

  • Shark Shields (Ocean Guardian Freedom+ Surf) reduced white shark ‘interactions’ by 56 per cent
  • Chillax Wax (for surfboards) reduced ‘interactions’ by 14 per cent
  • Rpela electrode-based system installed in the bottom of a surfboard reduced ‘interactions’ by 12 per cent
  • SharkBanz surf leash (leg ropes) reduced ‘interactions’ by 10 per cent, and
  • SharkBanz bracelets/anklets reduced ‘interactions’ by 6 per cent.

Hardly cause for confidence. Turning around these results –

  • With Shark Shields (Ocean Guardian Freedom+ Surf), there remained, with the model tested, a 44 per cent probability that they would not work
  • With Chillax Wax, there remained an 86 per cent probability that they would not work
  • With Rpela, there remained an 88 per cent probability that they would not work
  • With SharkBanz surf leash, there remained a 90 per cent probability that they would not work, and
  • With SharkBanz bracelets/anklets, there remained a 94 per cent probability that they would not work

The only problem with these findings is, as we say, that they are several years old. This study was funded in 2016/17 and reported in 2018. Technology may have moved on from then, but there is little out there that we have been able to find that is conclusive and peer-reviewed to inform us of any claimed improvement since then, certainly not in the area in which we are interested, ie technology and devices of use to ocean swimmers. There is another study looking at the Rpela device, but this device is of limited relevance to ocean swimmers.

Anklet in the room

Which brings us to the other great issue: only one of the devices available and tested appears practical for ocean swimmers. Of the others, they are intended mainly for surfboard riders, with some suitable for divers. 

  • The Shark Shield has a version which could be used by swimmers, but it appears suitable mainly for solo swimmers, not for groups (such as early morning swimmers), and for deeper water, not close in ‘behind the break’ swimming, due to the need to keep the aerial that creates the shark-repellent electrical field free of contact with other swimmers and the ocean bottom, and its limited range. (After our last monotribe on shark deterrent devices, a year or two back, the Shark Shield people, very generously, sent us a model to try, but we found it quite unsuitable for the kind of ocean swimming that we and our cohort get up to. Sadly, we found no opportunity to test it, apart from imagining it on our lower leg. There were, as well, no white sharks around volunteering to test it with.)
  • The Chillax wax is for a surfboard
  • The Rpela also is for a surfboard
  • The SharkBanz leash is for a surfboard rider

This leaves only the SharkBanz anklet/bracelet which, if effective, might be useful to a swimmer. This is because it is a very lightweight, unobtrusive silicone device which uses a magnetic technology not reliant on batteries. It can be worn on the ankle or the wrist.

 forster 220607 fluffy famille 600
We tested our personal magnetism on Fluffy's grand-daughter at Forster today. It certainly seemed to attract, then repel, the closer she came.

But…

We have, as we say, written before about these things, after an incident in Wallis Lake by Forster in which a swimmer of our acquaintance (a lady, but that’s beside the point), wearing a SharkBanz anklet, was approached by a bull shark that turned away ‘at the last moment’, ie only centimetres away from the swimmer. In this case, the device appeared to attract the shark, before ultimately turning it away (SharkBanz says on its website that its product does not attract sharks). This highlighted the effective range of the device: it might protect your ankle, your foot, or your lower leg, or (if work on the wrist) your hand and arm, but what about the rest of your body? And how are you feeling about having a shark approaching that close to you even if you are confident that it will, at the last moment, be turned away?

And note the findings of the study referred to above: that they found that the version of the SharkBanz tested in 2016/17 worked only in 6 per cent of cases.

Trials of SharkBanz in 2017, conducted by ‘the Sharkbanz team in association with Discovery Canada and Sharkdefense Technologies, LLC’ showed this of the SharkBanz technology: 

‘A total of 25 trials were conducted with the treatments (i.e. Sharkbanz and Sharkleash) and control (no SharkBanz: oss.c) resulting in 2 hr 38 min of soak time exposed to … bull sharks with a total of 1,235 approaches and observed behaviours. 

‘During the 2 hr 19 min with the treatment, there were zero attacks on the human model. Trials with the control were stopped once the human model was attacked. During the 18 minutes of trials with the control (no SharkBanz), the human model was attacked approximately every 46 seconds’. 

This study did not distinguish between the effect of the SharkBanz leash and the SharkBanz anklet. Remember, the study done for the NSW Government found the leash (intended for surfboards) was 10 per cent effective, whereas the anklet (suitable for swimmers) was 6 per cent effective.

This was with an earlier version of SharkBanz. There’s now the SharkBanz 2. Is it better? We can't tell.

According to the SharkBanz website, SharkBanz offers a ‘field… about 1-2 meters (about 3-6 ft). The unpleasant sensation becomes intense for the shark at about 1 meter, becoming exponentially greater each inch closer’. But Sharkbanz says the wearer probably should wear two units to optimise protection –

‘Worn on your wrist or ankle, one Sharkbanz unit will help reduce the risk,’ the website says. ‘However, wearing two Sharkbanz (one on your ankle; another on your opposite wrist) will increase the overall deterrent field size and thus provide greater coverage.

‘If only wearing one, we suggest wearing Sharkbanz on your ankle, as the majority of shark bites occur on the ankle and leg areas.’

Remember, even with the SharkBanz 2, the effective range still is about a metre. 

The SharkBanz website says, ‘Much like other safety devices, such as a bike lights, Sharkbanz reduce the risk -- they do not eliminate the risk altogether. That said, customers in Australia and California have used our products to deter investigative Great Whites.’

 forster 220607 port jacksons 600
These Port Jackson sharks hid in a hole at Forster today. They certainly appeared to be repelled by our personal magnetism.

Technology

There appears to be considerable research showing the effectiveness of the technology on which the SharkBanz is based in deterring sharks, ie the creation of a magnetic field around the wearer or user of the device, which acts to repel particular shark species. What is less clear is the capacity of these devices to generate a magnetic field strong enough to provide effective protection to the wearer.

Bottom line

No-one will guarantee you of protection from shark attack by the use of various deterrent devices. What they do promise is that the risk is reduced, and some of them say the time between a shark taking an interest in you and actually ‘attacking’ is also extended, giving the user time to take evasive action, eg getting out of the water. As a result of all this, we don't say, Don't buy them. We do say: Caveat emptor. 

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Pacific's best SwimFest

Back to Mana Fiji in September 

mana fiji logo 19 250Bookings are flowing in for 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 re-opening at the end of July after being closed for two 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 15 (solos and relay teams), and events of 5km, 2.5km, 1km, and 500m on Saturday, September 17. Even if you don't feel up to the 10km as a solo, you can do it as a member of a 3 x 3.3km relay team. And if you don't have a team, we'll build one for you.

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, friendliest, most interesting 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. Bookings are coming in, so check out the details quick and smart... Click here 

mana 191019 10km 600
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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forster 220518 01 600
Separated by the universe... The solar system, at least. Forster, early morn.

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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heron 1410
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. 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. We've already run Heron Island oceanswimsafaris in March and in April-May. Our June oceanswimsafari is sold out, and we are taking bookings for October 19-24, and November 6-11. There is still 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

heron 220428 stars 600
starry, starry night, Heron Island, late April.

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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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bongin dave 220531 600
Winter imminent, Bongin Bongin Bay. Image by @glistenrr

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April 21, 2022

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We don't take you just anywhere.

oceanbeachandcountry 220420 04 600
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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fiji mana 14 02

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 

mana 191019 10km 600
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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heron 1410
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.

white one mile dawn 220210 600 02
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.

white forster feet 220211 600 01
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

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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 $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

bogey hole newcastle 600
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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…

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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.

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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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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

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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 $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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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.

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

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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

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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.


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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!

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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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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

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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 $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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oceanswimsafari tales

Get in touch

Hellercamp Pty Ltd
t/a oceanswimsafaris.com
PO Box 1164
Meadowbank
NSW 2114
Australia

ABN 97 163 965 704

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