The Nut Huggers

31 Mar

We swam with our cobber Cookie at North Steyne yesterdee. Cookie’s training for a 10km swim across Auckland Harbour at Easter. She’s very excited because as soon as she entered, the awgies (as Paul would call ‘em, the Kiwi ones not the North Steyne ones, obviously) announced to all and sundry that the swim was now an international event because our Cookie was entered all the way from across the ol’ dutch (aka the Tasman). She’s so excited in fact, that I’ve even offered her an Easter Bunny guest appearance on me blob after the event. Now I can’t wait either!

Needless to say, Cookie did the double at North Steyne. She went hard in the 1km and quite pooped herself out. So she was grateful when I offered to include her in me 2.8km mission, moseying along at the back of the fragrant wave, looking for a Nut Hugger.

Now I’m a Manly LSC groupie myself. Being a sometime B&Ber and a Can Tooer (Manly LSC provides water safety boards for Can Too Manly), not to mention (even though I have before when I’ve blobbed about his penchant for pantyhose on patrol) that Gill patrols at Manly. So, I’ve never really paid much attention to the other clubs on the beach. I’d say surf life-saving clubs but of course, officially, Manly isn’t.   A surf life-saving club that is. It’s ‘just’ a life-saving club.

P1010018

Manly Surf Club

Here’s Manly Surf Club, at the bottom of the Sebel. Not a lot of people know that. But that’s a story for another time.

Manly has a North-South divide, around about the storm pipe, with North Steyne claiming the northern half until Queenscliff assumes dominion. I’ve done Queenscliff’s swim before but never North Steyne’s and yesterdee seemed a good day to put that right.

The weather was glorious and the ocean crystal clear – a fabulous opportunity for Manly to show off her lovely marine bottom. And admire it Cookie and I did, including a beautiful sting ray that swam along underneath us and a stealthy wobbegong (Cooks didn’t see the Noah though even though I gesticulated wildly in its general sharky direction). No cuttlefish though. Too bright for the B&B Cabbage Tree Bay favourite I suspect although maybe, they have all headed off for a bit of er, how’s yer father (er mother, er which one are yer?) at Point Lowly.

And just while we are on the subject of marine life, I’m afraid to say, North Steyne SLSC, that on the sea lice front, your swim was lousy. I’m itching like, well, an aquatic parasitic ocean swimming host. Eeeeuurgggh! Still, hardly your fault and after all that rain, it’s hard to expect your swim to go without an itch.

Anyway, before I entered the swim, I thought I’d check out a little ‘bout North Steyne.

Did you know that they are one of the oldest surf clubs in Australia? Currently presided over by Tracey Hare-Boyd, yes, that’s right, a laydee. How refreshing in surf culcha! Their swim is run by the deliciously named Damian O’Shannassy with assistance from Tracey and Bernie Burrows (who holds a current course record for the Cott to Rott).

Now that I’ve got the ‘awgies’ attention, why is the maximum age for your swim 75? Shame on you! Particularly so soon after Seniors’ Week. On that basis, beautiful blogger and Seniors’ Ambassador, Murray Cox who has gone before me on this swim and ingeniously described the peloton as a wee beastie snaking out from the shore, only has a decade or so left to compete in the swim.

Glad to see that you let John Kelso sneak in nonetheless. Although no prize I assume for the optically naked octogenarian despite the fact that at less than 55 minutes for 2.8km, he would have beaten more than a third of the field (including me. Whether I was pansying about like an aquatic squirrel looking for nuts or not).

So, here’s a little seniors’ moment.

Big Blue's Jill Hardwick wins the 60-65 category in the 1km at North Steyne

Big Blue’s Jill Hardwick wins the 60-65 category in the 1km at North Steyne

Here’s Big Blue swimmer Jill Hardwick. Winner of her age group. She said, ‘I must have been the only one’. Well, yes, Jill, you were. But you swam really well and though you won’t be looking forward to the likes of Mrs Sparkle coming into your ranks in a few years time and nipping, nay, ripping at your heels, you’d have won the next category up too so there’s plenty of challenge and opportunity for you yet. As I say to Marie at Can Too, you are only a whippersnapper in ocean swimming terms.

And second, good luck to Helen Rubin who I met in the changing rooms at Belmont 16 footers last weekend after I commented on her place on the Lake Macquarie dias. She’s swimming Lake Argyle on 3rd May. You can sponsor her here.

Enough said. Back to peeps of the day – North Steyne SLSC.

There’s quite a few brags on the history page on their website (like they invented surf lifesavers’ hats – I’d keep quiet about that if I were you) including:

It was not Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku who introduced surfing to Australia but North Steyne’s first President Charles Paterson, who brought a board back from Hawaii years before. The Duke only gave his surfing exhibition at Freshwater in 1914 because there were too many surfers dropping in on him at Manly.

WHAT!? Clearly a battle for historians not hapless gullible blobbers like me!

They also boast (and rightly so, this is most certainly not a criticism – you’ve got the gongs to prove it) about their surf boat skills in particular. Including this:

Club legend Rastus Evans was the first ever to take a boat crew out and “crack the bommy”, which still breaks dauntingly in front of North Steyne SLSC in big swells today. (Ed: it was raging the weekend of the re-run Bilgola swim this year).

He recalled the monster wave stood the boat perpendicular. “Then the boat and crew disappeared as the wave came down … there was nothing but swirling foam. The boat drove on underwater and I was sure they’d all be drowned.”

A bit like this was it?

The Colonel.  One of the Bluebottle's successors.

The Colonel. One of the Bluebottle’s successors.

They survived and the North Steyne boat Bluebottle, so named because they stung everyone on the beach to pay for it, dominated surf carnivals and conducted astonishing rescues in giant swells for years come.

If they were looking for a bit of surf yesterdee, they wouldn’t have found much although at varying times, there was a bit of a shore break and the odd set banked up a bit on the sandbank. The boat crews were nowhere to be seen.

And that was my problem.

Maybe they had all headed out to the right hand point break at the Bower.

The Bower, a boulder-strewn break on the left hand of Shelly beach, starts at a ledge called Winki Pop (that usually makes a tube section and opens up to a wall section called ‘suck up’) then there’s the infamous ‘Surge Rock’ in the middle of the break while further round is a supposed suicidal way inside break at Blue Fish Point aptly called Deadmans. The wave then works its way around the headland towards South Head to the final section called race course. Race course is supposed to be a good beginners and grommets area.

Bringing in the buoys.  There was a dizzying array of them.

Bringing in the buoys.

When the Bower is pumping, it’s a place for the superhuman rather than the fairies that you might expect to see at Fairy Bower. I looked for the boat crews at the Bower. But the Bower was barely breaking and no superheroes were to be seen.

So Cookie and I swam up to every (male) lifesaver (lots of them – great water safety in this swim), one by one, as we passed the dizzying array of directional conical, cylindrical and spherical buoys (very well marked swim it was indeed) and asked –

‘Are you a Nut Hugger?’

‘A what?’ ‘What’s that?’ ‘Excuse me?’ came the diverse range of responses.

Anyway, some clubbies were in the know and repeatedly told us that they were in the IRB.  A boat; where else? Of course! And that’s where we found ’em.  Eventually.  After swimming after a few IRBs over the whole course.  At least one of ‘em anyways. A Nut Hugger called Chris whom we met just as we went through the gate on the way home.

Free hugs!

Juan Mann – Free hugs!

It was nice to meet you Chris.

We wanted to ask why they were called the Nut Huggers. I was ever hopeful that they might offer free hugs to nutters (or just random strangers) à la Juan Mann but I thought maybe it was a reference to their togs (Urban dictionary – nut huggers –really tight jeans worn by a man). In which case, it was worth a look but I didn’t get close enough to say! North Steyne SLSC tried to answer my quest:

 

Twitter nuthuggers

Perhaps this is a reference to what they do to the competing crews on the surf boat circuit.

Good luck for the rest of the season boys and we hope the laydees’ crew lives up to its name too (=Nirvana).

Thanks for the fabulous swim. It was a nutcracker!

The North Steyne Nut Huggers: Photo -Tiger Talk

The North Steyne Nut Huggers: Photo -Tiger Talk I bet they’ve cracked a few bommies in their time!

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