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February 26, 2021 – Dezzie to Hall of Fame

Dezzie into a Hall of Fame?

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Early morning swim, Bongin Bongin Bay, Feb 21. Imasge by David Helsham (@glistenrr)

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Return of the Dezzie

The more astute followers may have noticed an addition to our reporting of swim results on our sibling site, oceanswimsresults.com. We refer to the Dezzie, a digital number to four decimal points posted alongside everyone’s individual result, with a version overall and by gender.

Who or what is the Dezzie?

The Dezzie is the ratio of your time to the winner’s time. If you’re the winner, your Dezzie is 1.0000. If your time is half as long again as the winner’s time, your Dezzie is 1.5000. If you were twice the winner’s time, (twice as slow… or half as fast, if you’re a cup-half-full person), then it’s 2.0000.

Week to week, your Dezzie will vary according to your performance relative to the winner. This is despite who else is in the race that week, despite who wins, and the conditions. It’s particular to that day, that beach, who else turns up, etc. It is, therefore, a way of measuring improvement, or deterioration, that you can’t see in raw times, or places, or without performing calculations which are, for some, quite complex and difficult, perhaps impossible without an electrical calculator.

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Diptych: Forster, Main Beach. Early morning swim time.

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The past

We used to post the Dezzie some years back—probably ten years or so—and we used it, too, to calculate points in our fine ocean swimmers (fos) series, which was a season point–score that we ran over selected existing events.

The fos series was designed to level the playing field amongst boofheads and laydees of all ages and sizes, to make it possible for everyone to compete against each other in a meaningful way. We calculated points in the series by combining the Dezzie with a weighting according to age and gender, and by turning the result into points which, when sorted in Excel, gave us a completely different set of results. But it allowed, say, a 60+ boofhead to win the race instead of the boring old usual suspects; the same kids on the dais week in, week out. Taken over a seasonal point–score, it gave us the genuine outstanding swimmer of the season. All things are relative, after all. (We’ll talk more about the fos series concept soon, because we’re looking at bringing that back, too.)

Parenthetically, we were inspired in this by our days as boofhead surfboat rowers, many, many years ago. After Sat’dee surf carnivals in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, for example, we’d head back to the late Oceanic Hotel at Coogee, where the big fancy pub now stands at the high end of Arden Street. Out the front of the Oceanic was a long flight of steps, which stretched the entire length of the frontage of the pub, down the hill from Carr Street towards that monument to Sydney culcha, the Coogee Bay Hotel. There was maybe one step at the Carr Street end, but as the hill descended, by the time you got to the Coogee Bay Hotel end, there were half a dozen or so. And there, on the steps out front of the Oceanic Hotel, overlooking Wedding Cake Island, in an ever–increasing circle of eejits, we’d spin yarns about the day’s events. We’d re-row the races we’d rowed earlier that day at some other beach, but this time, miraculously, we’d win them. It was all about how we’d have gone had we had a better draw at the start (eg, a draw with no waves in front while everyone else had to battle through the waves that we’d actually had; about how we’d have gone had we not caught that crab with our blade whilst we chased that run half way back from the turning booees; about how well we’d have gone if our sweep—known fondly, as it happens, as Alec the Crab—had not lost it on the wave on the way back in; about how well we’d have gone if we’d let the oars go and come back to the back of the boat in an orderly fashion rather than the higgledy–piggledy way we actually did, thus destroying the balance and making it impossible for Alec the Crab to hold it straight on that wave, etc, etc.) We’d re-row the races and finish them as they would have finished had life been just, ie by winning them. We used to refer to the steps of the Oceanic as Lourdes, because miracles happen there.

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Justice for all

Anyway, the fine ocean swimmers series was our attempt to make life just for the vast sea of rank-and-file ocean swimmers, who plod up and down every week without any meaningful result at all, leaving them otherwise with nothing to brag about… not that that ever stopped any genuine boofhead. And the Dezzie was integral to that.

The idea for the Dezzie came from our cobber, Mikey Dobrijevich, an IT consultant from Curl Curl, who these days can be seen as the quiet, background strummer—the one in the back whom they won’t let anywhere near a microphone—in the Northern Beaches ukulele-based band, The Fukers (Freshwater Ukelele Ensemble). Mikey is a driving force in The Fukers so much so that he is known amongst his inner circle as ‘King Fuke’.

Anyway, Mikey suggested the Dezzie concept to us one day, and he said, ‘You should name it after Deke Zimmerman,’ whose nickname, among his own squad up in The Hills district of Sydney, was Dezzie (D–Z). the reason, Mikey said, was that, at that time, ocean swimming had been invaded by a horde of handy swimmers, some of them destined to become World Champeens (Grant Cleland, soon to be World 5km OW champ, and Josh Santacaterina, world 25km champeen, Shelley Clark, and Shane Oliver, known to the Francophones as Olivier Shane, etc), and, Mikey said, ‘Deke doesn’t get the recognition he deserves’.

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Deke?

Up to that point, Deke had been the outstanding ocean swimmer on our circuit: he won, week in, week out. And he did some quite extraordinary stuff. Deke’s dad was involved in Rotary up in Sydney’s north-west, and Deke did a charity fund-raiser for them by swimming from Parramatta Ferry Wharf to Manly Wharf. We’ve just measured that route on Google Earth, and it comes in at 30.9 kms. And we haven’t mentioned factors like the ferocious tidal currents that run through there, or the state of the water, which would make anyone sick for months, or the fact that Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River are jam–packed full of bull sharks.

As if he hadn’t learnt his lesson, the following year, Deke dived in at Manly Wharf at 2am and swam to Parramatta Wharf, and then he swam back again. He arrived back at Manly in mid-afternoon. We watched him as he passed the Ryde railway bridge and it was just Deke and a bloke on a ski, schlepping away.

zimmerman deke single colSome people said Deke was mad. We say, whilst Deke certainly was guilty of some eccentric calls at times, he was also a tremendously authentic, good–natured bloke with a remarkable gift for swimming who was generous with his time, his attention, and his good nature. When recently we posted something on Fbook about the Dezzie and Deke, Olympian and coach, Neil Rogers, said of Deke, ‘No doubting Deke’s talent or ability, what put him among the best of that elite was his ability to do various distances from 1k to the 20 k plus and his complete disregard for any fears or dangers that covering those differences can throw at you, by anyone’s standards. Well played!’ Indeed. Andrew France, known in these pages as, ‘The Park Wino’, for his predilection for picnics post-swim and his remarkable knack for finding cellar doors near any country swim that he attended, said of Deke, ‘He was a very good swimmer. I remember after he won Warriewood (perhaps Warriewood-Mona Vale), aged 16, his mother asked him how he did it. His response was that he "just got in the water and sprinted as fast as he could the whole way".’ Not a lot of subtlety about Deke, but that was part of his charm.

As we got to know him, it emerged that Deke’s dream wasn’t swimming, gifted as he was. His dream was to become a skipper of luxury cruise boats on Sydney Harbour. To that end, Deke commenced a career on the harbour, starting as bar staff (so we were led to believe) on a night-time cruise vessel called Wild Boys Afloat.

Swim your dream

We see Deke occasionally still. He worked for years as a casual deckie on Sydney Harbour Ferries, and we saw him often at the gates at Circular Quay. But that was whilst he was working his way through study and practice to gain his skipper’s qualifications. And now, Deke is master of his own luxury cruise boat on Sydney Harbour. How many of us can truly say that we achieve the dreams we set for ourselves?

Anyway, Mikey suggested we name the Dezzie after Deke because he had suddenly become swamped by a host of other good swimmers. He ranked with them, but it wasn’t just Deke any more. Thus became the Dezzie.

Trophy hunters

We lost interest in the fine ocean swimmers series as we saw, over the course of a few years, gun swimmers would turn up and win it, then disappear, despite assuring us they would continue to swim the circuit. It was like when you promise the cleric that you’ll certainly become a regular after the wedding, never to set foot inside the church again. And you knew that all along. We’ve never been big on trophy hunters.

With the demise of the fine ocean swimmers series, emphasis diminished, too, on the Dezzie. One has to keep doing new things, eh.

But here it is back. Our new results website is geared to calculate the Dezzie and adds a gender base to it as well as overall, thanks to the website’s developer, ‘Big Chris’ Stephenson, proprietor of The Timing Guys.

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We like taking pitchers of waves, but sometimes, we see stuff (like much of Glistening Dave's work) that makes us wonder why we bother. These images, by Californian lensman Shaun Smith (@smitherspix on Insta), leave us in awe.

Recognition

Deke ‘Dezzie’ Zimmerman came to mind, too, with a recent email we received from Chris Guesdon, a long time official in open water swimming both in Strã’a and internationally. Chris has been the director of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, and was a driving force behind the recent creation of the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. In his email, Chris asked whether we were interested in setting up an Ocean Swimming Hall of Fame. (Marathon swimming is defined as swims longer than 10 km; ocean swimming presumably would take in everything outside a formal pool.)

Would that be a good idea? And who would we include in such a joint? Not that it would ever be just up to us…

We could see such a celebratory hall (Ocean Swimming Hall of Fame – OSHF or AOSHF) as including many of those already inducted in the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (AMSHF), which sounds a bit like Yahoo Serious pronouncing E=MC2. It could include many others, too, who didn’t qualify for ‘marathon’. Curiously, Deke qualifies for ‘marathon’ with his Parra wharf swims, but it was all informal; nothing official. Would they have him? A pertinent question. And would an AOSHF be a good thing? A necessary thing? A beneficial thing?

As we say above, it’s not just up to us. It’s up to everyone. If there is momentum in support of such a thing, then one will emerge. Pretty well spontaneously.
Whether it’s a good idea goes to the heart of the ocean swimming ethos (as we see it, by definition, because issues such as ‘ethos’ also are not up to just us). But all we can do is talk about it as we see it.

Idiosyncratic

Many years ago, a prominent swimmer complained to us about the age groups in a particular swim, and the inconsistency in age groups from swim to swim. Some swims had five-year age groups; some had ten years; a few have 15 years. Some swims’ age groups start at the 0 year, eg 20-24 or 20-29; some run to the 0 year, eg 21-30. Much depends on how large a swim is and how many age groups it can support in terms of prizes (damn prizes!), how many starting waves it can support, and the fact that there has been no template for these things; individual swims made up a lot of stuff as they went along. And this prominent swimmer said to us, ‘Wouldn’t it be terrific if all the swims had the same age groups?’ We responded, pretty well knee-jerk, ’Yes’.

But then we thought about it (we’ve always been strong on thinking after the fact) and we thought, ‘No’. Why no? Because the inconsistency from swim to swim is actually variation in personality. How would it be if every swim ran exactly the same way? You’d turn up each week to do the same event but at a different beach. These subtle differences form the personalities of each swim, and to try to impose a uniformity on them could destroy the character of each swim; it would undermine the character of ocean swimming overall.

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So near, but not quite… Yes, yes, a bit of self indulgence here: this image is of our son, James, on the beach on Botany Bay, and his partner, Bec, in the snow in Toronto, in Canada. James has been back here waiting on his permanent residency over there. They've missed each other. Bec (Rebecca Diem, @kthnxbex on Insta) put this image together.

Anarchy

Ocean swimming is at heart an anarchic sport. There is no central authority setting overall rules and ‘standards’ (apart from the Surf Life Saving Association insisting, rightly, that surf clubs should follow certain standards in water safety staff, for example; ditto pool swimming authorities). Ocean swim events have sprung up almost spontaneously as surf clubs, for example, see an opportunity to make a buck to support their activities. Organising clubs have told us they get a much better return from an ocean swim than they do from running a surf carnival, and with much less hassle (which doesn’t augur well for the health of the surf carnival circuit), and it’s a return that doesn’t depend on a trickle down from higher authorities in surf life saving. Indeed, during the presentations at the first inaugural Newport Pool to Peak Swim in the mid-noughties, a prominent gun swimmer, impressed by the relaxed, informal atmosphere of the event, whispered in our ear, ‘This is what surf carnivals were like 30 years ago’.

We see this informality, this ‘anarchy’, this lack of sport-wide rules as central to the ocean swimming ethos. There is no central authority telling us all what to do; miring the sport in rules and overheads; turning the sport into an anal headache, as it were. We’re not like other pastimes, such as triaffalon. Where other sports cost half a lifetime’s savings to enter (in triathlon, there’s a bike and associated equipment, all the running gear, and wetties, etc, potentially costing many thousands), there is but a minimal entry cost to enter the sport of ocean swimming: a pair of cossies and a pair of goggles (although some don’t’ need the gogs: witness 92-year-old John Kelso, still beating most of the kids and sans gogs). If you wish, you can pay $30-40 to enter an event, but you don’t need to, to be part of it all. In cooler areas, some perceive the need to acquire a wettie, either to keep warm or to be competitive. But that’s about as far as it goes. That’s one of the reasons why there isn’t much money in ocean swimming: we’re not all spending thousands on fancy bikes and fast-skins.

Descartes

And that’s a big part of its beauty. And our identity as ocean swimmers. I ocean swim; therefore, I am, as Descartes might say (and pointed out to us by ocean swimming gastroenterologist and former water poloist Professor Michael Burke). And many of us know what we mean by that. It’s an intensely personal thing. We’re ocean swimmers; we’re not triathletes; we’re not pool swimmers; we’re not water poloists. We can be all those things, of course, but to be an ocean swimmer is to be different. And part of all that is that we are an anarchic sport with no central authority. We have no hierarchy. We are all individuals (we’re not, of course) going about a caper that we all like doing. We just happen to coalesce. We do it to gain access to the cuppa and the bragging (much like the steps of the Oceanic Hotel) afterwards, which is where our culcha thrives. You don’t even need a formal event for that.

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Diptych: The shark booee off Forster goes off more than any other shark booee on the NSW coast. Usually, when we swim to the it, we have thoughts in the back of our mind. But none of those thoughts are of Johnny Goldfinger… They will be now.

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EMC2

And this brings us back to the proposal for an Australian Ocean Swimming Hall of Fame. To adopt such an idea is to presume that ocean swimming has some kind of hierarchy, some authority at its heart; that there is a ‘they’ somewhere deciding what should be; what is ‘best’ for us; and how it should be done. There isn’t. But if we were to have one, then we doubt our sport would be what it is. Instead, it would be a series of committee meetings and rank-and-file grumbling about what the authorities are telling us to do. We once reported to a senior NSW Cabinet minister in the Wran government that there was ‘an awful lot of disenchantment in the branches’. And he said, ”Disenchantment in the branches! That’s one of the great traditions of the ALP!’

Do we want to be reduced to that?

We do our ocean swimming because we like it. Are we about climbing some anal hierarchy within the sport to achieve recognition? Do we ‘ocean swim’ to win things? For recognition? Or do we do it for no reason other than that it’s there? Were we to caucus on the issue, we would vote for the latter, as we would wager (were we bettors, which we’re not) the vast majority of mug punters in the caper would do, too, especially all those idiots sipping their cuppas after informal #EarlyMorningSwims at beaches all around Strã’a and New Zealand, and everywhere else, and grumbling about the issues of the day.

Bon voyage

It follows that there is more at issue in an Australian Ocean Swimming Hall of Fame than simply whether to have one. It implies hierarchy, regulation, constraint, formality, compulsory order, responsibility, rules, disciplinary hearings, split votes, arguments, power trips, and much, much more.

But if we were to have one, then people like Deke Zimmerman should be the first ones in. And we would celebrate not just outstanding swimmers, but those who've contributed to the culcha and the personality of ocean swimming. People such as Killer, up there in Mur'bah. And Rich Stewart, who came up with the ocean swimmers' salute and was organiser of the Big Swim (Palm-Whale) for 30 years. Lea Hill, in her 70s and swimming with a debiltating cancer condition. And Kerry-Lee Gockel, who swims despite having no arms (she did the 5km at Malabar last weekend). John Kelso, 92 this season, who still swims without goggles and beats most of the kids. There are many stitches in our rich tapestry, far more than we can identify here. In any case, it wouldn't be up to just us.

This is just our view, of course. You all may think differently, pick up the idea, set up an hierarchy, wield your influence, and head off on your power trip. Bon voyage.  

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Your most personal item…

Goggles: About straps...

V630ASA AMBK 300Straps are an important and integral component of swim gogs. We all know that. So why don’t more punters take the time to understand them?

The problem with straps is that they’re not front-of-mind. They are, by definition, in the background; behind you; out of mind. They can be fiddly, but deep down, we all know they’re important. But they’re not as important as lenses, are they?

Or are they?

wide eyes strap slip 300Goggles are an ensemble: you need the straps as much as you need the lenses. And you need the clips that control the adjustment of straps, just as much as you need the other two. A well-fitting, clear lens is no good if the strap is not just so.

Left: Not that easy to see, perhaps, but notice how one side of the strap is not through the clip: This is a recipe for disaster.

The problems that you can face with lenses are clear, as it were. Usually it’s lens fog (more often than not caused by dirty and greasy lenses; which is caused by disrespect) and poor seals (which can be dealt with at the point of purchase by a sales person with some clue about what they’re doing, eg Mrs Sparkle). They can also be caused by rubbish lenses, but we have little experience of this kind of thing these days.

But straps. How do you deal with straps.

The biggest mistake swimmers make with straps is to make them too tight. Some people think, weirdly, that the tighter the strap, the better the seal. Actually, the reverse is true. A strap that’s too tight can disrupt a seal through the tension around your noggin. Straps should be just tight enough to hold the gogs in position. They don’t have to be tight; indeed, a strap that’s too tight might cut off blood supply around your head, which could lead to all sorts of other issues. And, of course, that would be the fault of the gogs, wouldn’t it.

selene strap length 250Left: There's a lot of slack left when one end of the strap comes out of the clip; it's not easy to lose the clip itself.

Gogs that you can don straight out of the box to fit perfectly are worth their weight in gold. When Mrs Sparkle fits a punter with gogs, she always gets them to place the lenses into the eye sockets without placing the strap, which just hangs there. If the lenses sit in place even momentarily, then we have a seal. The role of the strap, then, is simply to hold them in place on your head, not to create the seal itself. We don’t wish to brag here, but that’s the experience we have every time we take a new pair out of the box. Lenses fit, they’re clean, and the strap tension is just right. Maybe we just have a perfect head. Some have said that.

Not every gog on every head is that perfect, of course. And this leads to fiddling. Fiddling happens when punters feel the strap needs to be tighter, or it’s already too tight and they want to loosen it. In the process, they loosen it too much, or they loosen in carelessly or unevenly. What happens then?
This is where the clip becomes important. Gogs have different styles of clips and strap assemblies, so it’s difficult to be definitive. Essentially, though, the clip locks the strap in place. Sometimes, however, straps flip the clip and come loose, which means the gogs can come loose, and you can lose the gogs.

wide eyes strap tighten 300Straps have to thread through the clip and out the other side, with enough hanging out to provide security for when the strap inevitably is stretched, such as when it’s being donned or discarded. If the strap is adjusted unevenly, one end might have plenty of free strap through the clip, while the other end is only just poking out. The risk is that, when the strap is stretched, this short end can slip through the clip, the strap comes loose and the gogs are gone.

Right: When you adjust the strap, particularly if the end is short, lock it into place with a gentle stretch.

One precaution you can take is that, when you’ve adjusted the strap and it’s through the clip, grab the strap either side of the clip and pull the loose end gently so as to ‘lock’ it in place. You should try to ensure that the loose ends are through the clip evenly, and that, if you can, the clip has plenty of free strap available, such as by sliding the clip closer to the goggle lens, if possible. Some straps are shorter than others, of course, and you will have more or less strap to play with. Another reason to be careful when you adjust.

Look closely at clips, and you will see that it’s very difficult to lose a clip completely. Even if the loose end comes out, the clip is designed such that the strap is still well within the other side of the clip, so it’s hard to lose the clip completely. Certainly that’s the case with View gogs. We have had a report of a clip breaking completely, but with all the more than a thousand gogs we’ve sold, we’ve heard of that only once.

Some swimmers tell us that they lose their clip, it disappears, and they can reattach their gogs only by trying a knot. Absent a snapped clip, that can happen only if the strap has been adjusted ‘inappropriately’.

So the message: respect your straps. Don’t diss them just because you can’t see them.

Swipes available

There are Swipe Selenes available in five colours. Wide-Eyes non-mirrored come in four colours, and mirrored come in three colours.

Out of left field: One of the least popular, but we reckon the best colour is the Swipe Selenes BR. The BR means bronze or brown, not sure which. It’s not a popular colour, just like brown suits, but it’s actually a very soft, forgiving colour for swimming in harsh sunlight, and a warm colour for cooler water swimming, over winter, say. We use the BR about half the time these days (alternating with BLEM – Blue/Emerald) Wide-Eyes mirrored. They’re terrific for early morning swims when you spend half your time staring into the rising sun. Every swimmer needs a quiver of gogs.

But every swimmer also needs to look after their gogs; to respect them. If you don’t respect your gogs, they will not respect you. And don’t go blaming the gogs all the time (although plenty really are shite), it will all come down to how you manage them.

Find out more and order your View Swipes, and other View swim gogs and swim gear… Click here

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Swims open to online entry…

Coming soon - South Head (NSW)

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