International Rescue

1 Apr

I hadn’t intended to do me blob this weekend. I thought I would leave os.c to its #easterswimorgy without commentary from me. But then I had a bit of a barney. Barney: origin uncertain but thought to be cockney rhyming slang – Barney Rubble – trouble. Yes, I got myself into all sorts of trouble at the Barney Mullins Swim Classic.

The swim at Freshwater is named after Life Member and Freshwater swim legend George ‘ Barney’ Mullins. The day started nicely enough, though it was a bit fresh, appropriately, for Freshwater. The full moon and high tide combined with an onshore and suddenly, conditions were officially declared challenging. Avid readers of this blob will know that I am scared of the surf. It’s all in my head, I know. I have the surf skills but then my inner critic starts out, I doubt myself and slip quickly into panic and hyperventilation. So my skills are fine, but my mindset could kill me (and if I am not careful, worse still, someone else).


What I should have done

I was reassured that these waves looked mean but lacked power. I went for a quick dip, heard them call the race brief, turned for a moment and got flattened by a shore dump. Not a good start. But, I am fed up of being scared by my own shadow, and without assessing my current resilience stores, I thought I’d give it a go.

Consistent with my intent not to give a blow by blow commentary on the swim, please refer to a better writer and more courageous swimmer than me for a race report.  Note however that even Shayne resorted to praying for survival to get herself back through the break.

Suffice to say, Glamorous Glenda talked me out through the break and about 1.5 of the, as it turned out, 1.7km swim before I went into total melt down, unable to contemplate the trip back out through the nasty looking wave zone and volunteered to be rescued from ‘behind’ so to speak. I had already, unbeknown to patient GHB, spent much of the back straight swimming after stingers hoping that I might get stung so that I could justify being hauled out before confronting the way back through the break. I did suggest swimming to Manly as preferable to an exit at Freshwater, but the gal was not to be persuaded.

Maybe I was the laydee Mr Mild Mannered saw, Shayne. Maybe not. I was reassured by many, many, (thank you Katie P, Priscilla, Em and lots more) that I wasn’t the only one whose courage turned out to be lacking. The ignominy was still worse than at Big Billy though. But on the positive side, this time, I got out, just not in. One better I suppose, than not getting out in the first place. I just need to work on my hokey cokey – in and out (hokey pokey for colonial readers).


Can’t. Can Too togs canned.

Safely back on the sand, I ran away from Gill in embarrassment at my failings only to find that he had had a bigger barney. He actually had broken skin and blood running down his face having been kicked on the cheekbone by a breast-stroker. Anyway, the old sea dog was fine by the time we got home. My Can Too headspace on the other hand was in tatters.

Lucky then that I had committed to head back in to the water at Bondee yesterday to swim with one of my old rowing mates from London who is out visiting for Easter.

She’s a triathlete but had never done an ocean swim before.  It was delightful.  The break was gentle as anything, the water crystal clear and warm.  And I was able to mosey about and recover my surf mojo, be a proper tourist guide pointing out the shark net, icebergs, where to get a chardy later, all so civilised and relaxed.


It was especially good to do this swim after Bondi had offered to be the Can Too goal swim, been thwarted first by Waverly council and then by one of the many cyclones.  Bondi provide water safety for the Bondee Can Tooers.  Thanks for your support Bondi SLSC.

Feeling deflated?  Plenty of support at the finish...

Feeling deflated? Plenty of support at the finish…

John Spillane was the last buoy home – despite his garb, a Can Tooer.  I met him at Caves and he told me that this was his goal swim – though I note John, that you did the 1km first and finished Freshie on Sat’dee – awesome effort.

So Shayne, like you, I have come over suddenly a little religious this Easter.  I have found a saviour.  It’s the buoys and gals that keep us safe every week when we take a deep breath and take on Mother Nature.  Ironically of course, it is (usually) the movement that we swim to support.

An exhibition on lifesaving curated for the 2007 year of the lifesaver said ‘Surf lifesavers are not all bronzed and beautiful. They are men and women, young and old. They are passionate about their beach and their community. They are competitive and committed. They are part of a great tradition that echoes across the past 100 years, from Darwin to Devonport and Bondi to Bunbury. Surf lifesavers are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job, voluntarily.’

Appreciate it’s not quite Thunderbirds but it’s International Rescue to me

Appreciate it’s not quite Thunderbirds but it’s International Rescue to me


I say, like, Lone Hand in 1910, ‘The lifesavers represent the very highest class. They are the Samurais, the oligarchs, the elite. They strut the beaches with superiority that is insolent, yet at the same time, tolerant … of lesser breeds — a gladiator class, envied by all the men, adored by all the women.’

Have a look if you have a moment.  All sorts of interesting stuff including the history of surf carnivals and the development of rescue craft.

Men running in a chariot race at the Piha Surf Carnival

Men running in a chariot race at the Piha Surf Carnival



Appropriately, Gill, is on his way to becoming a lifesaver.  Elsewhere on this blob, I have mentioned that Gill has suggested that we do our bronze medallions.  I declined, understandably feeling inhibited by my lack of confidence in the surf (oddly, doesn’t seem to have precluded quite a few on his bronze medallion course mind you!).  Gill is taking to it like a duck to water, which doesn’t surprise me for many reasons including that as a former marine commando, he is accustomed to wearing a bear suit and tights in training.  According to the Between the Flags exhibition….

Bears on the Beach

In the 1940s, trainee Royal Australian Air Force pilots wore flying suits with fake fur on the inside. After the Second World War, the linings were available from war surplus stores. Surf lifesavers wore the linings with the fur on the outside. Known as bear suits, they were a cheap and comfortable way to keep warm while on patrol. Lifesavers also wore them to dances and on road trips.

Safe from stingers

Lifesavers in northern Australia need protection from venomous box jellyfish and other marine stingers. In the 1970s, they wore pantyhose while on patrol. This led to the development of the tight-fitting lycra stinger suit.

So, pantyhose on patrol and faux fur to dances.  Interesting.  My mojo is definitely making a come back.

5 Responses to “International Rescue”

  1. shaynesands April 4, 2013 at 3:14 am #

    Hi Lizzie,
    Look at it this way – you are out there giving it a go. Most people aren’t half as game as you. And you have every right to put up your hand if you’re feeling uncomfortable in the ocean. Often if can be a big scary place and should be treated with respect. Love ya work – an excellent post from a different perspective. Thanks for the mention. Hopefully, we’ll catch up one day soon on da beach!

  2. shaynesands April 4, 2013 at 3:14 am #

    Argh. I meant ‘it’.

    • lizziecantoo April 4, 2013 at 4:16 am #

      It took me ages to even notice Shayne. No stress and makes me feel better about getting all tongue tied myself commenting on your excellent work last time. I really appreciate your comments. I respect the ocean but sometimes I let her spook me unnecessarily. I was lacking a bit of resilience on Friday but it was good to have the rescue experience and the life savers were awesome. Lovely swim on sundee and my mojo is back! I’ve actually booked a trip up to Byron for the swim (first time) so hope to meet you there if not before. If not on the beach, then at the Beach [Hotel]. I’ll buy you a beer.

  3. London City Mum April 18, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Thank you for being my trusted guide and mentor at Bondee on Easter Sundee – loved it (and the photos were fab!)
    When we move back I will be tailing you like a lovestruck puppy on all your ocean swims, promise.

    LCM x

    • lizziecantoo April 18, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      Moving back? Yay! Well done on your first ocean and first ‘newd’ swim. I know the triathlete in you felt naked but I hope it was liberating. Can’t wait ’til you make a come back. x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: