Wsinking in the ocean the cold takes my breath away. Less than an hour ago I was under my hot donut in bed, and now the sun is setting on the winter horizon and I am wearing two millimeters of neoprene on most surfaces of my body. It’s Sunday, 7 a.m., and I’m ready to swim from Coogee Beach to Wylie’s Baths and then across the bay and back again with a group of others, some just in their swimsuits, others in full uniforms and some (OK – only me) with a full wetsuit with neoprene boots and fins.
If you told me I would do it three years ago, I would say you are crazy. I hate the cold, I’m afraid of deep water. But Covid lockdowns have brought strange new hobbies to many. And mine – dynamically – is swimming in the ocean.
My parents are from Nebraska, in the center of the USA, as dry as possible. Sure, there are lakes and even rivers, but why sink when you can scream with a two-stroke jet ski? Once, as a teenager, we were rafting in West Virginia when my father fell into the sea at a rushing speed. My mother panicked. “He does not know how to swim!”
I was not surprised to learn this, since I could hardly swim. A basic dog paddle to stay afloat and a front granny with my head above the water was the breadth of my ability. But when I moved to Australia in my early 20s, I took an adult swimming class at Victoria Park and learned to swim freestyle. Bubble, bubble, breath, elbows in the sky.
My new ability remained largely inadequate, as swimming pools seemed repetitive and I preferred to do my exercise on land. But years later, with the injuries of running and the limitations of the Covid lockdown, I was persuaded to try swimming in the ocean with friends. The beach was within my five kilometers. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “You have to do what you think you can not do.”
In the words of my husband: “You never regret swimming.” (What a nuisance he’s right.)
We swim near the rocks at the southern tip of the Coogee and the fish swirl through the clear waters below. Moving my arms and legs has warmed me. In June the ocean is not so cold. It is later, in August or September, that your face begins to numb. Outside the ocean near the Walls Baths we stop and form a loose circle, with glasses on our foreheads, smiling at each other, pressing water. Someone shouts “turtle” and we all put our glasses back. The sea turtle drifts from below, ignoring our joy, paddles flippers and stretches its long, prehistoric neck. We go out for a swim again, beyond the bay and the white sand below is rippled in patterns. Silver bubbles slip out of my hands.
It is unstable here and I have to change my breathing, lift my throat more to avoid a bite of sea water. I think of the turtle’s neck, which is stretched, suspended. The sun is above now, the ocean is shining with light.
We swim to the shore and there is a minute or two of warmth before the real cold starts. My fingers are stiff and they peel off my uniform. Teeth chatter. The great Australian tradition of change in public places – should be part of the citizenship test. Can you get out of your bearings and get on your slopes without flashing unsuspecting dog walkers? Even harder with icy fingers.
I brought the layers – ugg boots, boots, fleece, and as I wrap myself in a scarf, the people on the seafront point to the sea. Beyond the Wedding Cake Island there are splashes. Not the most daring swimmers, but the violating whales. They throw their massive bodies in the air and hit the surface of the water, hitting their tails, making a fuss. It is raining water from their huge fins. Are they fooling around? they dance.
“They are inspired,” says my friend, “by our swimming.”
I hate the cold, I’m afraid of deep water. Here’s why I leave my hot donna for swimming in the ocean | Eleanor Liebrecht
Source link I hate the cold, I’m afraid of deep water. Here’s why I leave my hot donna for swimming in the ocean | Eleanor Liebrecht