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March 23, 2020 – Virus snuffs season

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Emailed to 41,000 ocean swimmers weekly in season.


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Look carefully, although you don't need to look too carefully. This is one of the most beautiful images we have ever seen. Glistening Dave at the Mona Vale pool. Image by David Helsham @glistenrr

Look below...

Just like that... It's all over

Season 2019 snuffed by a virus

And, just like that (snaps fingers), it’s gone!

Our season. Gone in a flash.

Just over a week ago, Sat’dee, the COVID-19 issue was still nascent. It was building, but surely it wasn’t all that serious. Things like this don't happen in first world countries in modern times, do they? We live in Strã’a, and Strã’a is protected from all these nasties from overseas. Aren’t we?

There had been plenty of talk about it. Last weekend week, Stanwell Park had just cancelled, in light of the prospect of rising seas, and nothing else was open for online entry that weekend. But we were struck by how, in the face of the rising clamour about coronavirus, people continued to enter swims online. That Sat’dee, there was a steady stream of entries to swims that wouldn’t be held for over a week, at the earliest. There was absolutely no need at all to enter swims that day, particularly whilst there was so much of the unknown about the immediate future.

We expect punters to watch events themselves and decide whether conditions are right to enter. Over the past few years, we’d noticed how, if weather conditions were not propitious, entries would slow. We are loath to proffer advice ourselves, because we are not experts on individual beaches, and conditions can change dramatically from forecasts. These days, people know how to watch the weather for themselves. But not pandemics, apparently.

Bear in mind, this was the day after the Prime Minister announced a limitation on public gatherings, to take place from three days hence (not from straight away), due to coronavirus concerns. That, particularly, made us take more notice of how the situation was developing.

It alarmed us that these entries for swims at least a week into the future continue to roll in. We wondered, in our head to ourselves, Aren’t these people reading the papers and listening to the news on the electric wireless? Apparently not. And it struck us that we needed to do something to protect people from themselves, at least put a pause on entries until we could confirm with individual swim awgies what their intentions were. After all, there is no central authority in this caper, handing down decrees from on high. There was no-one to tell individual awgies what to do in light of a developing situation.

We made a decision. We halted entries to all swims. And we contacted all awgies of swims scheduled over the rest of the season and asked them, with the COVID-19 situation developing, what they intended to do. Would they still run? Or would they cancel? If there was any real prospect of a swim not going ahead, we figured it was unfair to continue to accept entries to it.

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That's the last we see of her... Random swimmer heads around Second Head, Forster.

Cancel… cancel… cancel…

Some responses came back straight away. On the home page, we have a list of 18 swims that have cancelled. One swim, South Head, scheduled for mid-May, paused entries for a fortnight, hoping for clarity. But now they have cancelled for season 2019/20. Two swims have "postponed", thinking they might be able to run the postponed event early in the next season, 2020/21. We're not naming them right now because they are thinking about it still. But as news of individual swims is confirmed, we shall update their event pages on We will also update the event's date, so you may need to find it further down the Featured Swims list than you might have been expecting.

Thus, the 2019/20 ocean swimming season is snuffed out. Just like that.

March and April normally are our two busiest months of the season in terms of numbers of swims. While most swims around the country are well and truly over, on Sunday, April 5, there were five swims scheduled in NSW alone, including one of the biggest of the season (the autumn outing at Coogee). Now, we’re sitting here, twiddling our thumbs, self-isolated (we’re not sick, but we are being careful), wondering what we’ll read next. (Actually, we’re not reading anything much because we now have tidying up to do for 14 swims for which entries were coming in. But after that, we’ll be wondering what to read, we hope.)

Most swims have decided to cancel and roll-over entries to next season, when, we trust, COVID-19 has been brought under some kind of control.

We also noted the comments of the Prime Minister on Thursday last week when, for the first time, we heard someone in “authority” say how long they expected this situation to last. “These conditions will last for six months”, the Prime Minister said, or words to that effect, when outlining yet another tranche of pandemic measures. Then, the next day, on Friday, the same Prime Minister said, “…six months at least”. Since then, it's been consistently "six months at least".

Will we have a next season?

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Bondi beachgoers practise social distancing in the age of coronavirus. Image tweeted by Isabelle Truman (@isabelletruman). Next day, the Bill closed Bondi down.

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The road less travelled

It’s not just domestic ocean swims that have been affected by the pandemic. We had an entire winter of oceanswimsafaris planned over the next six months – French Polynesia (May), The Philippines (June), Sulawesi in Indonesia (later in June), Tonga (July), Spain (August-September), and Fiji (October). That’s all gone, too, at least the earlier oceanswimsafaris. At this point, the only oceanswimsafaris that we’re not ruling out entirely are to Spain’s San Sebastián (late August) and Costa Brava (mid-September), and Fiji’s Mana Island (late October) and the Yasawas (later October). We haven’t ruled out Spain and Fiji yet only because they are so far into the future.

But, right now, they ain’t looking great, other than on paper, where they look tremendous.

We work with some very good providers in all these destinations, and we have been able to roll over all our bookings in the first part of our season. Instead of being 2020 oceanswimsafaris, they will be 2021 oceanswimsafaris. Those providers are suffering, too, of course. All of these resorts, hotels, and other providers themselves will be shutting down completely. Spare a thought for all these businesses whose cash flow has just dried up, in an instant. We know how they feel.

The effects of this pandemic will be profound. Society always is a dynamic thing made up of mixes of trends and influences, and constant changes. But how will they be influenced by COVID-19? When everyone realises they can work from home productively, what effect will that have on the future of work and industrial relations (which we don’t have much of in Strã’a these days)? What effect will it have over the long term on transport planning? On social interaction? On hospitality? On our expectations of government?

Only one thing is for certain: Only time will tell.

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Calling crusty old sea dogs

pitt helen 250Attention all ocean baths swimmers: an ocean swimming journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, Helen Pitt, is seeking ocean baths swimmers for a coffee table book she is doing with photographer Chris Chen, to be published by Thames and Hudson. Helen is seeking baths swimmers to talk to about their favourite ocean pools, and why they are their favourites. Ideally, Helen says, she would love the subjects to agree to be photographed in their cossies at their favourite pool.

Please email Helen (link below) with 100 words on what you love about your ocean pool (more if it has an interesting history).

If you are not willing to be photographed, Helen says she is open to suggestions of swimmers to photograph or talk to... Crusty old sea dogs, please apply.

Many will know Helen from The House (Allen & Unwin), her history of the Sydney Opera House, which won the Walkley Book Award in 2018.

Contact Helen Pitt... Click here

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All these persons from that person

mccreery cover 250We always like to celebrate the contributions of ocean swimmers to culcha, particularly to ocean swimming culcha. And so we tell you now about a book of short stories by Wollongong swimmer, Susan McCreery. Mind you, This Person Is Not that Person, McCreery's collection of stories, is not so much a book of short stories as a book of 22 portraits, of relationships. Many of those relationships are unsuitable, but that is the story of life, isn’t it. Life is grappling with a series of transient, often inappropriate relationships in the search for something meaningful and enduring; something that will feed your soul; something that will help you to leave your mark on the world. If you don’t conduct a search, you won’t find anything.

In this sense, McCreery’s book is a life manual in recognising relationship atrophy, forcing the reader to face up to it -- are they talking about you? -- and, perhaps, prompting them do something about it. You might wonder how much of this is autobiographical – all writing is autobiographical to some extent, particularly creative writing – and how much is picked up along the way from friends and acquaintances. We hope it’s not all from the one source.

McCreery has an eye for the detail of life which most people might notice, but she has stitched it fluently into her stories to add dimensions that many writers would struggle to describe, and so pithily. This, when hubby arrives home from work: “... I happen to glance up at our house, smiling, to see that my husband is home early. His face looking down from our bedroom window is grim and grey, and I deflate in an instant. Our smiles are no longer for each other.” 

That said, it’s not all bad news. There is plenty of uplift in this book, not least from the pleasure of its style. McCreery is an observant writer, and it is the detail noticed by observant people that gives life its colour.

It's also an eminently easy read. McCreery has an accessible style; none of the word portraits are a chore – one of them has a small dose of saccharin, but that's just one from 22. The reader will grimace as, so often, they might recognise themselves in the situations she writes about. We've all been there.

For a swimmer, only two of the 22 stories reference ocean swimming or swimming, one of them in passing, the other as the catalyst of a relationship situation. But don’t let that put you off. There is more to life than swimming.

When the book was published, on March 1, McCreery posted on Twitter (@SusanMcCreery2), "This ss collection, written by me, is out today, w means if you care to you can wander into your local bookshop (or distant one) & ask for it, & the person at the desk, after looking at you blankly, will check screen & say, Ah yes. Like us to order it in? Then you get to decide."

This gives you a feel for it.

This Person is Not that Person, Puncher and Wattman, March 1, 2020. ISBN 978-1-925780-44-4 

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New Swipe Wide-Eyes

More Swipes in stock now

V630ASA AMBK 300We have new stocks of the very popular View Swipes just arrived this morning. Even better, there's also a new model: the V630ASA (we call them Wide-Eyes) offer a wider field of vision, an adjustable nose piece, and both plain and fully sick mirrored versions. They will be more suitable, perhaps, for punters who need a longer or narrower nose-bridge. The Wide-Eyes also come with the latest Swipe technology.

We wore our original View Selene Swipes for 56 outings, until we lost them at Bondi last week. Left them in a change room, didn't we. We're now onto our 2nd pair, although now we're also looking forward to trying the new Wide-Eyes at our next swim.

We had been cautious about promoting the Swipes when we heard about them from the folk at View. We wore them 30 times before we were comfortable with flogging them to you. If they do fog at all, generally it's in one corner of a lens. Each time, we took them off, wiped the foggy bit gently with our forefinger, and no more fogging for the rest of the session. No goo, no spit, no nothing, except wetting them and wiping them carefully

We've sold 290 pairs of View Selene Swipes since we launched them just prior to Xmas; so many, in fact, that we'd sold out of four colours and we'd almost sold out of the fifth. New stocks arrived this morning, so get your orders in now.

The Selene has long been our most popular gog. A year or two back, View introduced a mirrored version of the Selene, and now they also offer the revolutionary Swipe, offering anti-fog capacity that lasts 10 times as long as existing goggles, the makers say.

According to the makers, the "10 times as long" refers to distance they say you can swim before you start to see some fogging with new goggles. They say the standard is 4km, but the Swipes will go 40kms. Whatever, all gogs will fog if you don't respect them and look after them. The issue also is how to deal with the fogging if and when it does occur.

For advice on looking after your gogs... Click here

Find out more and order Swipes... Click here

Controversy Corner...

What do you reckon about any of this stuff? We received a lot of feedback after last week's newsletter. Check it out... Click here

Let us know and we'll facilitate the debate... Click here

(Also see posts at the end of this newsletter.)

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Stare down the barrel: Forster Main Beach, last Sat'dee.


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Don't be an emergency eejit. It's 'strordnry how many punters enter swims online and list themselves as their own emergency contact. Just say something happens to you out in the sea, who are awgies going to contact? You? Get real. Think about it, and enter someone else as your emergency contact, event if it's your boss at work.

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