By Christie Preston
Growing up as a little Canadian girl there were only about two months a year I’d be by the water and actually consider going in the lake. The rest of the time it was just too cold, or I was!
I learned to do most of my swimming in a pool and actually became a pretty strong pool swimmer passing all my lifesaving levels and even getting a bronze medallion.
When I moved to Sydney and first settled in Bondi Beach, the allure of an ocean swim seemed intriguing but a few things were stopping me from taking the plunge:
- I didn’t know how
After living near the ocean for a few months and never going in for a proper ocean swim, it was time to learn the ropes from the professionals – who just happened to be close friends of mine.
What actually happened was that I ‘volunteered’ one evening after a cocktail or two with Jules and Andre, and I was convinced this was a great idea!
Turning up at 9:20 am to be there for a 9:30 Ocean Confidence clinic on a Saturday morning – word to the wise, be on-time! – I really didn’t know what to expect. The next thing I knew Andre was helping us decipher surf reports and making sandcastles (or sculptures) to show wave patterns, to help us understand what the ocean was doing.
Coming into the clinic I had a very light understanding of what Andre was talking about, but it was great to get a full explanation for things like ‘rips’ and ‘sandbanks’ that I hear so often, but really don’t know what’s going on when people talk about them.
After a full ocean awareness session, it was time for the troops to get wet in the water.
If there are any two people in the world I would trust during an ocean swim it would be Jules and Andre – they are very strong swimmers, spend most of their free time at the beach and know how to help and save people! So out and off we went into the wide, open ocean.
I was initially anxious about heading straight into a rip current! But, after hearing about how they work, my nerves were settled and I was really enjoying the experience. It was crazy to see how fast we moved away from the beach, the rip carried us right out into the ocean. In fact, at one stage I vaguely remember Andre telling us to make sure we ‘stay in the rip’ which was a very different mindset to have.
The whole water experience was about using the movement of the ocean to help us, so once the rip weakened past the waves, we ‘swam’ (I was enjoying breaststroking so I could take in the sights of Bondi from out the back) around a bit and used the waves over the sandbank to get back to shore. Too easy!
The session ended with a lesson on body surfing and time to practice and perfect our technique. Andre said he gets everyone body surfing, and he was right, I was catching waves into the shallows after only a couple of attempts and as a group, we were completely covered with sand, inside and out, and smiles as we beached ourselves over and over!
All in all, it was a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning getting to know the ocean. If you’re living beside the beach and want to know how to swim safely and even venture out beyond the waves – you HAVE to take the clinic. You will be very grateful to have the knowledge of how the ocean works and to have experienced its movement in the safe and comforting hands of the professionals.
I had no doubt the clinic would be awesome, fun and educational and it surpassed even the highest of my expectations.