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Good water: Bondi Bay
I live in Bondi now, writes Murray Cox. But even as a kid from the harbour side, Bondi was always my beach. I can’t ever remember my dad Stan in trunks. He was an older man, dapper in his blazer and addicted to golf, but my mum Beryl would take me and my friends to the harbour pools, or Coogee Beach. A real outing was a ferry ride to Manly, but Bondi was our favourite.
Bed to beach is a 10 minute walk so I swim across Bondi from north to south most mornings: it’s a lazy k. The rocky sides to the bay host a variety of fish and crustaceans, the resident blue groper, Bob, is everyone’s favourite. The sandy bottom has whiting, flathead and small rays. Occasionally, a seasonal shoal of Australian salmon or mullet will appear and take minutes to swim through. Dolphins turn up pretty regularly for a feed or just to show off in the waves. Sharks? Thought you’d never ask: haven’t seen one.
On 9 January 2011 I swam the 1k and 2k Bondi Roughwater races organised by the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club. It was a calm, warm morning, and my 60th birthday.
I swam well out from the shore, which is where I found myself after the bustle of the beach start. Following those bubbling toes around the first buoy I was already a tad weary and the water was thick with my personal history of Bondi. It was shaping up to be a long swim.
I remembered the carnival atmosphere of the beach when I was a child and breaking my neck as a teenager when the wave I was bodysurfing smacked up against the backwash and flipped me head first onto a sandbank. And I thought about when I left Sydney at 18 for the hippy trail and four years in London. When I stepped back off the plane in 1973, my friends were so shocked to see this Cockney-accented, Pommie-pale, smoking vegetarian they took me straight to Bondi for a hamburger and a swim. So I was initiated back into the beach culture. Bondi was fun and leisure, and also ritual where the cleansing power of the ocean worked on body and soul.
I have worked as a landscape gardener for over 30 years, and have always loved a surf or swim after work. If the waves were small I would walk out to Ben Buckler and swim across the Bay. It felt like diving off the continent, washing away the dust and duty of the business day, and coming out refreshed for the evening.
A friend encouraged me to try the ocean swims about ten years ago. The first one was leaving the safe arms of Bondi to go to Bronte (south of Bondi); and a few years later we went the other way to Watson’s Bay in a team of four. The images of those cliffs and rounding South Head are a key to my current adventure.
Murray Cox is swimming the Sydney Coast by increments to celebrate his 60th year, and writing a blog as he goes. You can keep up with him at www.swimsydney.com