Flying home from Adelaide on a Friday night close to midnight I needed some sleep. In a moment of enthusiastic folly I had agreed to join my friend Paul and his son in the Byron Bay Winter Whales Annual Open Ocean swim event. My first ocean swim. Paul has become a regular participant in this growing phenomenon along the east coast of Australia.
My son had made a late decision to join us, as had Paul's wife, so from an intimate trio of swimmers we became a two car team of five. Paul had introduced me to the YHA network in Murwillumbah recently and Andrea and I had stayed at a number of comfortable and friendly hostels on our trip to Adelaide. So here we were at the Byron Bay YHA.
This one was more like the hostels I had memories of. Large numbers of young backpackers packed into dorms and enjoying each other's noisy company. We had the luxury of a family unit which slept four. My son was number five so he ended up sharing a room with eight other young men. Paul and his wife went shopping for ear plugs in anticipation of anything other than a slent night.
On Sunday morning I collected my yellow swim cap, my electronic ankle tag and my complimentary Winter Whales cap and joined 1200 others on the beach. I was swimming the mini swim - 800 metres across the bay from the Clarke's Beach headland to the surflifesaving clubhouse. About 250 other mini swimmers joined me while 1000 others headed for the Byron Bay lighthouse and Watego's Beach for their much more demanding 2.4 klm marathon.
The day was sunny, the water cool and the swell small. I was up against fellow competitiors ranging in age from nne years to eighty nine. To cut a long story short I survived. Every nine year old beat my time, half the women did the same and Paul, who swam the 2.4 k event, swam three times the distance in the about the same time as I swam my 800 metres.
I must point out that I did not come dead last. The 89 year old was behind me as were about 34 other mini swimmers. I now begin my preparation for next year knowing that there is definitely room for improvement. I aim to cut at least five minutes from my 37 minutes.
What was impressive was the broad spread of ages in the thousand odd entrants and the number of entrants in the 70+ age group. It's exciting to think that if one keeps swimming there is no reason why one can't simply, keep swimming. My son, a physical education teacher has offered to set up a training program for me. I need to train my body to be less accustomed to stopping for a breather and a cup of coffee after each 100 metres. I discovered that there are no lanes and no hand rails in the open ocean.