SWIM OUT PAST THE BREAKERSThe human being is a mighty strange creature. What other animal will not just flirt with death in the pursuit of pleasure, but dry hump its side like a Chihuahua that’s chewed through an entire packet of its owner’s Cialis? We jump out of aeroplanes, climb sheer cliff faces with no harnesses and, here in the Eastern Suburbs, you will often see a bunch of lunatics out beyond the surfers in little more than an old pair of togs and a set of goggles.
The metronomic wave of their arms serves as a signal to the lifeguards that they’re still out there, still swimming. It is a nice sight. More so when you consider the unique sort of insanity that compels these individuals to paddle out there and serve themselves up on a platter.
We will begin to see more of them over the next few weeks as the ocean swimming season really begins to kick off. If you’re keen enough, there’s an official event somewhere in Sydney every weekend once the season starts. One of the first events on the calendar is the Coogee Island Challenge on November 27, but the highlight locally is undoubtedly the famed Bondi to Bronte, which takes place on the first weekend of December.
Every once in a while I try my hand at this queer pastime and delve into the darkness beyond. I am not ashamed to admit that it scares the shit out of me. After all, it is a rational fear. In occasional moments of wild paranoia, I still fear a slimy green hand is going to grab my ankles and drag me down to the great depths – even when I’m in the bloody Bogey Hole! I know it won’t happen, of course, but on a drizzly day with no one else around, irrational childhood fears can really begin to settle in.
I do not share this fear on a surfboard. The fibreglass between me and the depths below gives me some comfort. False comfort perhaps, but comfort nonetheless. The fact that I surf also led me to believe that I was naturally a strong swimmer, but about six months ago I realised I was living in a fantasy world. Not quite a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory fantasy (thank Christ, as those goddamn Oompa-Loompas would soon turn it into a nightmare), but more a mildly delusional alternate reality.
In support of my fiancée, who was training for a triathlon, I thought I’d accompany her to the local pool and punch out a few laps. And that I did. But after five hundred metres my arms jelly and my whole body felt like a piece of lead.
None of this has anything to do with the mad lot doing hot laps behind the breakers, of course. Those guys are in a league of your own. And while they can’t see it, you can be assured that while they’re out there waving rhythmically, I’ll be waving back at them from the safety of the shallows.