costa brava cala montgo campbell 2013
Swim in the sea cave at Cala Montgo... a stop on our Costa Brava oceanswimsafari... Click here

Swim advice for newbies

BikeGal's top 10 tips

bikegal 01My grandfather often said, "You can't fight the sea". And in many respects that's what ocean swimming is all about -- working with the ocean to get where you want to go. Learning to do this, though, is another kettle of fish entirely (excuse the pun).

As an injured runner, half-decent cyclist and average triathlete, last year I thought it might be time to tackle an ocean swimming event. A real ocean race -- with waves and swell and only my togs, not the first part of a triathlon in a canal or harbour in a wettie.

Not being the strongest of ocean swimmers, I was completely unaware of my lack of knowledge about the ocean. But what has most surprised me as a newbie ocean swimmer is my many and varied ocean fears. I can be completely gripped by panic mid swim. (I was grateful for advice from Aquagirl, who wrote in this newsletter last week.)

So for all my newbie ocean swimming friends (or if you have friends you are trying to get into this), here's a top 10 of ocean swimming race tips for newbies, gathered from some seasoned swimmers:

1. Anti-fog for goggles!

Yes being able to see where you are going is really helpful. I'm still trying to find the "best" pair of goggles, but anti-fog was a revelation. (No gogs will work if they're not cared for... Check out View gogs at Click here : os.c)

2. Get in the water BEFORE the start of the race

"When I was new new, I found that getting in the ocean before the actual swim started was helpful... It took away the initial shock and got me used to the water before hand,” said Kirsten, an experienced swimmer.

3. Warm up

Do a proper warm up before the race start, 100 strokes or so. From Mr himself, "If you have a short, relaxing swim beforehand, you can get through that warm up phase more easily. Put a couple of bursts into the warm-up, too, to get your heart rate up".

4. Hang back at the start -- and (maybe) pick your side

Unless you are a strong, quick swimmer, hang back from the start of the race. Consider starting to the back and one side, eg if you are like me and prefer breathing on one side, such as the left, start on the far right so you can keep the rest of the pack in your view, and vice versa. (Yes I'm still working on that bilateral breathing.)

5. Slow it

"Breathe, repeat. Let everything else take care of itself. Do whatever you can to get in the moment, notice the water." - This insightful advice came from Katie who is now a surf lifesaver at Bondi but was once a puddle of tears at the beach. Aquagirl had similar advice: "Slow stroke down, lengthen it right out and slow your breathing right down".

6. Break it down

Don't try and tackle the race all in one hit. Focus on getting through the break. Getting to the first buoy. Getting to the next buoy.

7. Accept the fear

You may be scared; it happens to the best of us. Just accept it. Shelve that fear and do it anyway. Focus on something else; anything else! Kirsty, a newbie, says she's "fearful of the open water, due to its immensity and uncertainty", but even she admits that this is "actually part of its charm". Interestingly, we all have different fears. My swimming buddy, Sophia, is seriously fearful of seaweed! She can swim through the biggest surf, but throw some seaweed her way and she is not happy camper.

8. Backstroke, breaststroke, whatevs

If you are really struggling, try a different stroke. Do some backstroke! Check out the sky above. Breathe; relax. And as long as you are not amongst a million other swimmers or going around a buoy, do some breaststroke. I stopped mid-swim recently and even managed to have a chat to my friend, Susan, who had also stopped for a breather.

9. Get a feel for conditions

If you are attempting a new ocean race, go to that beach and get a feel for conditions there. This will set your mind at ease. However, as well all know, you can never predict what the ocean is going to give you on race day.

10. Get some swimming buddies

Why swim alone when you can swim with friends? All of these tips I learnt this summer while training with Can Too (or you could join my other friends over at 4SEAsons or Plus Performance" all excellent peeps that will get you swimming with confidence).

Happy swimming, and see you at the finish line, is, as her name suggests, an avid cyclist who has recently taken up ocean swimming. You can follow her on Facebook or twitter or check out her website if you want to start cycling.

tonga whales swimmers
In Tonga, boats must stay 100m from whales, but swimmers may get close up. (File pic)

Swim with the whales in Tonga

Tonga is one of the few places in the world where it's possible, and legal, to get into the water to swim with whales, which (who?) migrate to the islands to breed in the winter. Come with us in July 2015 on a week-long oceanswimsafari to Vava'u where we'll swim from island to island, across reefs, and we'll go looking for humpback whales to swim with.

We're working with travel company, Dive Adventures, to bring you this oceanswimsafari that involves four days of swimming the waters around the Vava'u group of islands, Tonga's "second" island group, and a day out with the whales.

For info about our first inaugural Tonga Whales oceanswimsafari -- and about all our oceanswimsafaris in 2015... Click here

An interesting swim

Here's a tantalising swim idea: Cassandra Giudice has asked us to cast a net for interest in a swim across the heads of Botany Bay: "I think it would be good to swim from one head of Botany Bay to another," said Cassandra in an email. "I'd like to find other like minded individuals and make it happen!"

There are issues in this swim. It's a shipping lane, so swimmers may be well advised to let the maritime authorities know what they're doing. And there is known to be sea life in the area.

If you're interested in swimming with Cassandra, get in touch... Click here


A crowded Sundee, but...

Will Billie make it this time?

fos series 15 nswCrowded in NSW this Sundee with four swims, three of them either in or within coo'ee of Sydney.

Sat, Feb 7 - Phillip Island, South Melbourne (Vic), Port Arthur (Tas)
Sun, Feb 8 - Avoca e, Ballina e, Bilgola e, North Bondi e, (NSW), Auckland (NZ), Busselton (WA)

We hope it's third time lucky for Bilgola this Sundee. It's been postponed twice, in December, then last Sat'dee, and this Sundee is looking... Well, not too bad at this point: seas of around a metre, or less, and with a gentle offshore breeze, a sunny day and a rising tide. Check the usual sources for up to date info on conditions..., and

Entries from the December and January dates all roll over to this Sundee. Check your entry on our progress entries list. Be aware that Bilgola's start time this Sundee is brough forward two hours. It used to be the luxurious, pre-Xmas 11am Sundee start. This year, though, Billie offers a short, 800m swim ahead of its traditional 1.5km swim, with start times at 9am and 10am.

Free parking

Pittwater Council waives parking fees at Bilgola Beach carpark until 3pm, awgies say. But you must still park legally. The free parking areas are the beach carpark, the back carpark off The Serpentine, and the carpark at the northern end of Bilgola beach. You also can park hassle-free at Porter Reserve, Newport, from where a bus will shuttle to and from the beach.

Have a geek at Chris Ivin's course preview of the Bilgola swim... another stunning bit of movie making. To check it out... Click here

Online entries to The Bilgola Swims close at 3pm on Saturday, Feb 7... Click here

north bondi 02

North Bondi runs its second annual swim this Sundee, too. Good that it's on the south side, whilst Bilgola is on the north side. Two distances in this Sundee's North Bondi Classic: 1km and 2km. This is another chance to get amongst the colour and pageantry that is Bondi in summer. It's a wonderful place, a colourful spectacle, a sample of life that all Sydneysiders must sample at least once a year. Remember the runout by the pool: check beforehand, but it may be the quickest way to sea on Sundee.

Online entries to The North Bondi Classic close at 3pm on Saturday, Feb 7... Click here

ballina shaws bay 02

A new event on the Far North Coast, at Ballina, the Shaws Bay Swims over two distances -- 850m and 1.7km -- and a 200m Dash for Cash in Shaws Bay, just inside the river mouth. This means the water will be relatively current free, and certainly surf-free, although there could be a bit of chop if the wind gets up. Always good to see new swims start up, so get down there and support it.

Online entries to the Shaws Bay Swims close at 3pm on Saturday, Feb 7... Click here

At Avoca on the Central Coast, it's the second iteration of the Central Coast Beach Fest, two days of surf and beach-related events. There are swims of 2km and 500m on Sundee. Avoca is a stunning beach, just right for surf events.

Online entries to the Central Coast Beach Fest close at 3pm on Saturday, Feb 7... Click here

cole 15 kilponen
Herald photographers took some stunning images of the Cole Classic last Sundee. That's the advantage of having a whole stable of phots on staff. This one was tweeted by Dallas Kilponen.

Cole Classic - Somebody could do it better

As entries to last weekend's Cole Classic fell again, for the fourth year running (For an analysis of the stats... Click here), we make some suggestions to make the largest swim in NSW more attractive event to punters -

1. Make it cheaper. Average entry fee to ocean swim events around NSW is $35-$40. The Cole charges up to $65 ($75 on swim day). Only Byron Bay matches this entry fee, and their numbers have fallen, too. Bring the entry fee to around what punters think is reasonable, and more will enter.

2. Allow punters to enter at reasonable rates right up to swim day. Most swims charge a premium for race day entries, and a couple of swims do not allow new entries on swim day. The Cole offers its cheaper entry fees months ahead of the event, evidently encouraging punters to enter early. This might work with street runs, of which Fairfax Meeja operates several. But swims are different to runs. It might rain on a run, but the street doesn't change. It's not like the sea. Fairfax should recognise that swimmers like to get a feel for swim day before entering, and this is not unreasonable.

3. Be kinder to the ill and unfortunate. Fairfax allows up to 50 per cent refund if entrants fall ill before swim day, but only up to a cut-off point a month ahead of the swim, and even then only with a medical certificate. There is absolutely no reason why Fairfax, with all the resources at its disposal, cannot be more understanding of punters who fall ill or suffer misadventure right up to swim day. For some punters, their circumstances simply change. Allow them to withdraw, with a reasonably administrative fee. That will build goodwill.

4. Attract swimmers to take part in both swims. Fairfax offers no concession to swimmers who wish to do both swims, so entry to both costs $120, or $140 on swim day. Doing both swims is attractive to many swimmers. The earlier, generally shorter swim is a warm-up for regular swimmers. Other events that run two swims offer concessions. Fairfax could boost its entry revenue at minimal extra cost to overheads by offering concessionary entry. And to those who argue that the shorter swim should be reserved for inexperienced swimmers, they could bar entrants in the longer swim from prizes and places in the shorter swim.

5. Clean up the Cole Classic website. Currently, the Cole's website is a mess. Try to navigate around it and find relevant information, and it becomes very confusing. And information in some parts of the website contradicts other parts. Someone clear-headed needs to go through the website to make it clearer and simpler, and more accurate. There's history being rewritten on parts of that site.

cole 15 kilponen 02
A very keen starter, or is that becasue he knew the camera was on him? Another image from the Cole -- the start at Shelly Beach -- as tweeted by the Herald's Dallas Kilponen.

6. Happily facilitate changes to entries. Allow entrants to transfer between events and even to expand their entries from one event to both more easily and more cheaply. We'd have thought it's in Fairfax's interests to do what they can to help punters, rather than making things difficult for them. We know, from all the entries we take for other events, what is involved in what are minor adminstrative changes.

7. Allow punters to collect their "race packs" on event day. Everyone else does it. Lorne, the biggest ocean swim in Stra'a -- we suspect, the world -- allows registration and pack collection on swim day. They deal with 5,000 swimmers on the beach on swim morning. And they're just a surf club. If Lorne can do more, surely Fairfax can do likewise. Forcing punters to travel across the city and back during the days ahead of the swim is unreasonable and absolutely unnecessary. Not only that, but there is a safety issue involved here: if punters pick up their packs ahead of swim day, then organisers have no certainty about who is in the water on swim day, even with starting pads.

8. Ensure your cap colours optimise safety for swimmers. The Cole has had a terrible record in past years of clothing swimmers in the "lost-at-sea" range of cap colours - charcoals, purples, blacks, blues, maroons, etc. Even white is a "lost at sea" colour, for on a windy day with white caps, you cannot tell white caps from whitecaps. At Manly last Sundee, we spotted only one "lost at sea" colour: baby blue. Yes, baby blue is a "lost at sea" colour, particularly in conditions like this race day. You cannot pick it out easily. Cap colours need to be readily seen and identified. This is why the Surf Life Saving Association stipulates a range of fluoro colours for caps, and we agree with them. It's a matter of water safety, not simply a matter of ensuring that no two colours are repeated. This is one reason why we reckon Fairfax has no feeling for ocean swims. They just don't seem to understand these issues.

9. Fairfax should donate some of the cash it raises from events such as the Cole to a charity fund. It makes a big noise about how much money its events raise for charity, but not a single dollar of that comes from Fairfax itself. Fairfax pays Manly Life Saving Club a fee (last we heard, it was about $25,000) for managing the water side of the event on swim day, but that's a fee for service. Fairfax shouldn't just make out that it's supporting charity, it should actually do it, too.

Other things will come up, but this will do for starters.

If you have suggestions on how the Cole can do it better... Click here

We ha e comments already on our blob... Click here

budgeysmugglerlogo150mastersnswlogofine ocean swimmers series, round 4

nsw masters logoBilgola is Round 4 in the fine ocean swimmers series NSW. All swimmers who finish the swim will earn points in the series, provided they're wearing "legal" cossies. There'll be random draws of a voucher from and NSW Masters Swimming membership from all online entrants who also finish the swim.

Remember, to qualify for points in the series, you must wear conventional cossies only: no fastskins, no jammers, no full body suits, no wetties. We try to police this rule, but we also rely on dobbers. Please feel free to dob... Click here

See our fine ocean swimmers series page for more info... Click here

Swims open to online entry on

Bilgola (Sun, Feb 8 - postponed date)... Click here
Avoca (Sun, Feb 8)... Click here
Ballina (Sun, Feb 8)... Click here
North Bondi (Sun, Feb 8)... Click here
Malabar (Sun, Feb 15)... Click here
Henley (Sun, Feb 15)... Click here
Nobbys-Newcastle (Sat, Feb 21 - postponed date)... Click here
Bondi (Sun, Feb 22)... Click here
Caves Beach (Sat, Feb 28)... Click here
Evans Head (Sun, Mar 1)... Click here
Freshwater (Sun, Mar 1)... Click here
Port Noarlunga (Mon, Mar 9)... Click here
Jervis Bay (Sun, March 15)... Click here
Lake Macquarie (Sat, Mar 21)... Click here
Fingal Bay (Sun, Mar 22)... Click here
Balmoral (Sun, Mar 22)... Click here
Stanwell Park (Sun, Mar 22)... Click here
Wollongong (Sat, Mar 28)... Click here
Forster (Sun, Mar 29)... Click here
Terrigal (Easter Sat, Apr 4)... Click here
Queenscliff (Sun, Apr 5)... Click here
Copeton Waters (Inverell, Apr 11)... Click here
Mollymook (Sat, April 11)... Click here
Shellharbour (Sun, Apr 12)... Click here
Coogee (Sun, Apr 12)... Click here
Black Head (Sun, Apr 19)... Click here
South Head (Sun, May 17)... Click here
Vanuatu (June 6 and 10)... Click here
Mona Vale (Sun, June 21)... Click here
Mana Fiji (Thu-Sat, Oct 15-17)... Click here

Coming soon... South West Rocks (Sun, Mar 22), North Steyne (Sat, Mar 28 - Date TBC)

Late breaking news on swim day...

It's swim day, and you want to know... Is the swim on or off?

We tweet all our latest news, especially on swim day. Follow us through our handle @oceanswims.

Our Twitter feed also loads on to Click the Twitter banner near the top of our home page. Or check the ticker of our latest tweets near the bottom of the home page.

If an affected swim asks us, we will also send an SMS to all online entrants.

And we post late-breaking news in the Stop Press box near the top of our home page on

Mobile phone numbers

When we are informed of swim cancellations and postponements, we like to send an SMS to entrants letting them know, provided the swim awgie wants this. But we can send an SMS only to swimmers who leave valid mobile numbers with their online entries. Landlines won't do, and neither will those silly mobile numbers that some entrants leave with an international prefix (eg +61). That renders the mobile number inoperative for SMS purposes. Why anyone would think we'd be sendiing them an SMS from some foreign country is beyond us. So if you want to be informed about postponements and cancellations, do yourself a favrour and leave a valid mobile number.

Swim entries of minors

As we all know, online entries of swimmers under the age of 18 must be done with the consent of a responsible parent or guardian. Sometimes, the "responsible" parent or guardian evidently leaves it to the minor to enter online, and too often, the parental consent field in the online entry form is left containing only a phone number or maybe even only a first name.

This is not enough. It does not constitute parent's or guardian's consent.

For a minor's entry to be valid, it must contain the full name and the phone number of the parent or guardian. Leaving it to the kids, evidently unsupervised, is not good enough. Some parents have found this to their cost when their child has messed up their entries. One child recently entered four times in the space of six minutes, with four payments for the one event. We refund, but there's an admin fee attaching to refunds (the bank charges us for every transaction) and it can be costly.

Best if parents take responsibility themselves and make sure the entry is done correctly in the first place.

The child's entry will not be accepted unless and until the parental/guardian consent is valid.

Not getting our newsletters?

If you expect to receive our newsletters, but they're not turning up, or you know someone who isn't getting theirs, chances are they're being diverted into your Spam or Trash folders. Some ISPs put them in there because they think they're spam. Gmail does this sometimes, as does Hotmail, Optus, etc, and some of the larger business houses. So check your Spam and Trash folders. Often, that's where you'll find them.

You could also put on your White List of approved email senders. You should be able to set up a white list by logging into your system settings.

List your event

If you'd like us to list your event on our calendar, you can complete our List your event form on

We list all events, of which we're aware, free of charge. If you'd like further exposure, as a Featured Swim (which gets you onto our home page), then there is a charge attaching to that. For information on event services... Click here

To leave your event details... Click here

See you on the beach,



If you know someone who would like to receive our email newsletters... Click here

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