11 Mar

Along with many others, we went on a pilgrimage this weekend. It wasn’t just because Gill was getting withdrawal symptoms 3 weeks after Malabar Magic with no ocean swims; nor that we had contemplated it earlier in the season when Caves Beach was going head to head with the Cole; we went to pay homage to the home of Mr Oceanswims.

We went North. To Caves Beach. We didn’t follow a star like the wise men searching for the birthplace of the Messiah, just the GPS. And it took less than 2 hours to find ourselves in a delightful, sleepy village with a Bottlemart, 5 shops (I think it was), an hotel, and a surf club. The surf club likely competing with the numerous other Caves Beach houses of worship (5 churches I think we counted) of a Sunday.

We were eager to learn more about Paul, the man who established the virtual club house for ocean swimmers in 1999 and has presided over the growth in the sport from an alleged 3,500 in 1999 to 37,000 in the season ending in May 10 according to Paul himself. Alongside his other career as a journalist (SMH, Ten, Bob Hawke’s press secretary and SLSA) that is.

We were eager to learn and clearly we had come to the right place for an education. I thought it was just older and wider but after an afternoon on the lawn at Caves Beach SLSC, I feel older and wiser after all.

The seat of knowledge

The seat of knowledge

The seat of higher learning

The seat of higher learning

Paul Ellercamp grew up at Caves Beach. Peter, Don and Mick Ellercamp feature as surf rowers at Caves Beach SLSC. Mick Ellercamp swept the U21 crew to victory at the State Titles at Bondi in 1991. Paul however is strangely absent from the surf club walls.

I approached the Messiah to question him about his birth place, birth right and absence of hangings. Intent on watching the Dash for Cash however, just as I reached him, he turned and hobbled away in the direction of the largest of the beautiful caves.

The Caves

The Caves

So I can’t tell you anything personal about this particular Cavesman.

I can tell you, courtesy of Caves Beachside Hotel (where we stayed – gorgeous!), that Caves Beach was originally known as the Plains, then the Plains Beach, then Caves Beach. Mr Mawson, a Swansea hotel-keeper and business man was integral to the development of Caves Beach, involving a Japanese consortium in a failed mining venture. The breakwater at Spoon Rocks which was constructed to load coal onto ships stands as a reminder of the failed venture.

The peloton gathered at Spoon Rocks

The peloton gathered at Spoon Rocks

No matter, Mr Mawson (Caves Beach was later renamed Mawson for 5 years but the residents objected and the Caves Beach name was restored), I appreciated your breakwater as it shielded me from the swell long enough for me to reach the first buoy and get into a groove. In fact (albeit as pedestrian as ever), I had a great swim. I spotted the buoys apparently more easily than my squad mates from Big Blue and the laydee perpetually swimming across me in her shopping trolley meander. Not that that mattered, there was none of the usual urban argy bargy in the peloton and she kept stopping to apologise and ask where she should be going.

As it happened, I came closer to following the Messiah than I imagined. Despite the serious orthopaedic interlude that he has been enjoying or enduring of late, Paul made a quiet return (as quiet as you can be sporting Hawaian funky trunks and a limp) return to the water with his camera. He came from behind as I rounded the first buoy and if I only I could have kept up, I might have contemplated some serious heel wafting. Driven by the inspiration to interview my subject, I plodded (tore doesn’t really describe my top speed in the ocean) after him. But clearly for fear that he was being chased by some os.c blog tart, every time I caught up with him, he stashed his camera and turned tail until I was so preoccupied with negotiating the break that I almost failed to notice him.

The writer and her subject (courtesy of the Glistener), both out of their depth

The writer and her subject (courtesy of the Glistener), both out of their depth

It was a great day. The club that has apparently boasted Midnight Oil singing on its balcony did itself proud. There were random prizes, a free pen and chammie towel from the sponsors, lashings of water melon, water and homemade showers on the lawn. The bar was well and truly open and the live music outdid Peter Garrett any day in my book.

Everyone seemed happy: the prize winners, including Mrs Sparkle and Shelley Clark (no need to worry about cows falling from Canyon Tops here Shelley) and Judy Playfair, and the guy in black footloose tights doing his first ocean swim in the Back of the Pack. Even the club was rapt having found out that it won the March Past at some Surf Lifesaving Comp that afternoon.

I don’t profess to understand that quasi military marching thing with the reel, but if we are talking about a talent for reeling people in, Caves Beach clearly has it. Both your swim and your most infamous home grown Cavesman are amazing. Thanks for having us and we will try and come back some time soon.

Reeled in by Caves Beach and its infamous son

Reeled in by Caves Beach and its infamous son

One Response to “Pilgrimage”

  1. Janelle McCosker March 12, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    A great read – I never knew any of that about Mr Oceanswims!

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