Keeping it Fresh

3 Mar

Here t’is. Freshie, early yesterdee morning.  Before the start of the Barney Mullins ocean swim classic.

fresh start

The only swim (to date) from which I have been rescued. I was looking forward to a Fresh start alright.

Funny because the locals must have been as well when they chose to change their suburb name.

When I first arrived in Australia, some of my scuba diving buddies lived in Harbord. My friend Kim moved to Freshwater in late 2012, and I went to visit.  I had this whole déjà vu experience which was really odd.  I realise now that Freshie is indeed bipolar or is following in Madonna’s footsteps and trying to reinvent itself.  First it was Freshwater, then (not without controversy) known as Harbord until 2008 when it plumped again to be Freshwater. That’s why the high street has an identity crisis!

Of course there is a certain irony to it – Freshwater…because of course, it’s not (fresh water).  And that didn’t assist my state of mind on Saturday when I was contemplating whether I should enter and try to conquer last year’s demons.  The chattering monkey that lives in my brain (and once got me thrown out of a yoga class) had gone off on a tangent about swimming in fresh water versus salt water.

It is more or less universally accepted that swimming in fresh water is harder because the swimmer is not as buoyant as in salt water.  All those Harbord divers will tell you that’s because sea water is more dense.

No one seems (or have they?  Let me know.  On the internet triaffleets seem obsessed with this question) to have actually done scientifically recognised research to work out exactly what the difference ought to be in a say 100m time trial.  Sea water, I have read, is 3.5% salt by weight.  So a kilo of the ocean should contain 35 grams of salt.  If the average Olympic swimming pool contains 2.5 million litres of water, by my calculations, we just need to pop in 875kg of salt to find out.  Assuming that the average person weighs about 80kg, then 11 of Lot’s wives chucked in the pool should do the trick.

The Sharkbaiter once asked the exact question about how much quicker one should be on the os.c blogspot back in 2010 and Steve de Lorenzo claimed that it was about 10 seconds over 200m after some testing at Bondi Baths.  Of course!  No need to chuck Lot’s wives in the pool – just check it out by swimming in a ‘normal’ pool and then in an ocean pool.  Sometimes I can be quite blonde (reputed to be more dense just like sea water).

But then again – in the Ig Nobel experiment about swimming in gloop as opposed to an ordinary pool mentioned previously on this blog (in the box on who dares swims), they concluded that it shouldn’t matter (more drag but also greater propulsion cancelling the drag out).  They reportedly emptied the guar gloop down the drain in Minneapolis after the Ig Nobel experiment though so not so easy for ordinary (non-blonde) swimmers to compare times swimming in ice cream, salad dressing and shampoo as to compare salt and fresh water.

FINA will only accept world records in fresh water – including this swim perhaps?

Chattering monkey also alighted on the fact, so the statistics apparently go, that more people drown in fresh water (90%) than in salt water (10%) – not necessarily to do with the preponderance of pools without fences or young children and puddles and buckets but actually chemistry – because of the way the different fluids interact with the body when they start to fill the lungs.  I started to read up on how the osmosis process differs when salt is present but it all got rather (a) technical and (b) graphic (in an horrific not pictorial way) so I stopped.  Suffice to say that you have much more chance of full recovery from a near drowning in saltwater as compared with fresh water.

I entered anyway.  I needed some Fresh air and didn’t want to spend the whole of mardi gras weekend obsessing about drag (in the water).

And I wanted to check out the ‘Duke’.  Yes.  Having checked out some of the suburb’s history, I Iearned that Freshie claims to be the home of surfing in Australia.  In 1914, a visiting Waikiki man, Duke Kahanamoku wanted to know why locals weren’t making good use of the break.  Realising that they didn’t know how, he fashioned a board from sugar pine after those in Hawaii and took to the surf to give a demonstration.

His board is in the Freshie clubhouse.  It’s beautiful and huge (the board, but now you mention it, so’s the clubhouse).  We were busy peering at it when the hordes descended.  We thought their chattering monkeys had also piqued their interest in the suburb and they had popped in to join us perusing the club’s excellent display of local history and knick knacks.  There were even tales of ‘Soccer’ Matheson, a huge bloke (even bigger than his dad Dick) who used to train with a four gallon kerosene can tethered to his middle to make extra drag (just had to mention drag again in me blob this weekend)!

fresh swell

But in fact, the hordes had come in to shelter from the teeming downpour that arrived like a grey shroud around 9.30am just before the Fresh start sending swimmers huddling into the clubhouse.

As the clock edged near to 10am, the good people of Freshie SLSC enticed us out onto the wet sand and in no time, had us off in 4 large waves into the welcome warm water with us Pink laydees  marking almost the rear with only the clubbies stroking at our heels. 

It was tough at first, heading straight into the swell swimming through a forest of leaf litter washed into the Pacific by the rain.  The break was benign though although there was a fair bit of argy bargy including one woman in a jungle suit who seemed to be exercising blocking tactics to maintain her position in the peloton.  She swam clean across my (snotty) nose and parked her bum right in front so that an unlucky laydee swimming between Glenda and I got caught in a nasty pincer movement.  Eventually, I simply had to stop for fear that the poor lass in the sardine sandwich would drown.  She didn’t.  Brave soul.  And we all regathered and set off again. 

Across the back strait the swell pushed us along and it seemed to me, though not to Glenda, that we sped round the bottom of the P shape and back into the beach slowing only to wipe the constant dribble from my nose after a week with the flu (chattering monkey spent most of the swim dreading that Mr Oceanswims would spring out from a buoy with his brownie in a plastic bag snapping the guar gloop seeping more readily from my nose than a Minneapolis drain).  But Paul didn’t catch this bogeyman and the bogeyman that made me fear I would have another Barney at the Barney Mullins this year was nowhere to be seen in the abundantly clear water.

It was actually a beautiful swim and I am Fresh out of superlatives to describe it.  Back in the huge warm and dry clubhouse, we listened to the presentations chomping on Fresh fruit and sadly failed to win any of the amazing lucky door prizes.

the duke

Before we went home, we went in search of the immortalised Duke.  Here he is.  Surfing the sandstone, up on the cliff near the (still) Harbord Diggers; looking towards Curlie and yearning for the Fukers to come and put the swing back in his hips perhaps (not long to wait now Duke Paoa Kahanamoku!).

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