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Ocean Swimming

Wednesday 21st September - take me back to Fiji time!

Wednesday 21st September - a week ago I was arriving in Fiji, Mana Island for the Mana Swim Fest run by Oceanswim safaris.  We were blessed with (mostly) calm seas, sapphire blue, warm, clear water teeming with fish and coral all the colours of the rainbow.  


Such a contrast to today:

water temp: 16.8

air temp: 16.1

conditions: bumpy and blustery 

Vibe:  bold and brave 

Back to Fiji.....  A few months ago (May, to be exact) a friend suggested I join her and a few other friends for the "Mana Swim fest" in September - on Mana Island, Fiji, run by Ocean swim safaris.   On offer was 5 days marooned on an island in the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by coral reefs, ensconced in a beachfront Bure lulled to sleep by the lapping of the water, hydrated with a swim up pool bar,  endless cocktails, nourished by bottomless buffet meals and relaxation in a day spa & mesmerising sunsets ........  oh, and two swim event days:  day 1 - a 10km solo swim or a trio relay (supported by paddlers and a "feeding station"); day 2 (after a rest day) a choice of 5km, 2.5km, 1km and 500m individual swims.   


I must have been caught in a moment of weakness as I almost immediately booked, and signed up for the 10km solo (my longest swim to date was 6km!).  I had already signed up for a ski weekend the weekend prior meaning I would transit from Ski to Sea within 24 hours.   I figured I had May to August to train and I couldn't think of any reason (aside from that i had never swum more than 6km, and i am not fast!) to NOT go.  Life is far too short!     


Fast forward to 13th September and a 3am alarm having returned from the snow at 6pm the evening before (luckily i had already packed!)...  12 hours, one taxi, one flight, one bus & one boat later and with matchsticks holding our eyes open we arrived on Mana Island - absolute paradise.   


Almost immediately Fiji time was observed.  Straight to our Bures, just like the brochure - surrounded by coconut palms, hibiscus and frangipani, literally steps from the beach -  so close we could hear the lapping of the water onto the sand with the reef literally two strokes away.  


Of course our first stop was the pool bar - a welcoming G&T of course, then a swim to say "Hi" to the fish - so many - all colours of the rainbow.  And a glorious sunset swim - without fear of sharks. 


The group of 24 (from all around Australia and NZ) included fellow B&B swimmers Nikki O’Shea (fresh from the 21km Keppel island solo!), Peter Carroll and his wife linda.  We were united by a love of swimming & camaraderie, challenging ourselves and supporting each other, having fun and the excitement of travelling to explore and swim in tropical waters. 


I was absolutely not prepared for the 10km - the training I had planned went out the window after becoming very sick after an invigorating (but fun!) "swim" in the Thredbo snowmaking dam in July.  And a long boozy ski weekend immediately prior … However,  here I was in Fiji and determined to give the 3 lap course a go - the worst that can happen? I am pulled out or swim to shore.


The beauty of Mana is that swimming is possible safely on both the North and South beaches.  The 3 lap course was set at South beach due to the unexpected arrival of a feisty sea breeze from the North East.  As a sailor I would normally be enthused at its arrival but as a swimmer, about to embark on - for me and others in the event - a mammoth challenge, a sea breeze over a shallow reef makes for quite uncomfortable swimming and unintended ingestion of salty water....  to cut a long story short - the 3 laps were all different -  due to changing tides, changing  breeze and reef currents that can behave like rips.   


However there is something special about swimming above a reef - clear, warm (about 26 degrees) water teeming with fish and colourful coral.  Every lap presented different fish coming to say Hi and even a giant sting Ray - probably wondering "WTF"?.    The paddlers accompanying us were amazing - always checking on us, reassuring, offering water (I had gels too), frequently ever so politely re-directing me back on course (even in a pool i have trouble following a straight line!) and sticking like glue to us all the way to the finish.  


The first lap was tough and it would have been easy to quit knowing that 2 more laps were required.   However, I took the view that this is the ocean after all and mother nature dictates conditions by the minute, so no two swims are the same.  In my mind, I was swimming "3 swims".   The last 3.3 kms lap hurt however i found the mental and physical strength to keep on going, and I crossed the finish line - thinking I was DFL but in fact coming in a slow 3rd in 4 hours 15 minutes (fellow B&B Nikki O'Shea won in a time an hour quicker than mine!  she is a legend!).  As the swim was unaided (ie no flippers or wetsuits or swim aids)  the 10km is a qualifier for the ultra swims like Rottnest (dont worry - NOT on my radar!)....   I had Pina Coladas and chocolate cake for lunch - having ingested so much salt water I couldnt think about food - except sugar.  yep that poison called sugar.  but gee they tasted sooo good! 


(my track - all tacks and gybes and my gps gave up after 7km... a sign?)

The next day, half our group took over a guided snorkelling "three hour tour" to nearby reefs and a cool sand cay - so many fish parties, coral, turtles & black tipped reef sharks patrolling the depths at the reef drop offs and it was pretty surreal standing on a little sand cay in the middle of the ocean as the tide washed in.. (and looking with envy at the day sailors with their eskys of Verve!)..




On Saturday, in picture perfect pristine sparkling sapphire conditions, the 5 km and 2.5 and 1km (Nikki and Sally who came 1st & 2nd in the 10km backed up in the 5km against Fijiian Olympians and Nikki came 3rd, sally 4th!)  events were held. Over the two events, everyone in our group swam further than we had before and way outside our comfort zones.    Peter Carroll, whose team came 3rd in the 10km relay, backed up for the 5km - his first - finishing in well under 2 hours.   His wife Linda completed her very first open water swim, finishing the 1km.   Massive achievement! 


I swam the 1km alongside a friend in her first open water event swim and i was so proud of her - facing her fears to finish!  Big smiles lit up the afternoon and belied tired bodies (the day spa was well patronised and i can recommend the hot stone massage!).  


We bonded , laughed and told our stories over buffets, beers and poolside cocktails   We are all very grateful for the ocean swimming community  - supporting and encouraging each other,  no matter how fast or slow, or how efficient our swimming was, or not.  

Celebrations were capped off nicely in the bar with the swans 1 point win against the pies!  


If you are thinking of maybe possibly one day completing a swim over a longer distance and challenging yourself (and having a holiday too!), I would recommend Mana Swim fest - you are well supported, on and off the water, its warm, you wont need your wetsuit and of course the "fiji time" and island life is very conducive for relaxing.    And the deal is pretty good too with the meal plans.  Another fun fact about Mana - American survivor is filmed on mana and the cast are "living" in rudimenatary conditions on a small beach about 100m East from the resort - so close they can probably smell the delicious scent of the Food in the Fijiian Lovo.... that would be torture! 


So, next year the dates have been (or soon to be) set - in October.    I am almost definitely going back (this time hopefully having actually prepared and trained!) - who is coming with me?

Stay well, stay kind, look out for one another, and have a wonderful wednesday!

Jocelyn (still recovering from Fiji time!)


Public service announcements:

2022 Winter Badge Ceremony – Sunday 9th October

You’ve done the hard yards and earned your Winter Badge(s), so why not collect them personally with all the pomp and ceremony the B&B can muster. Our Winter Badge Ceremony will be held at the Royal Far West’s Centre for Country Kids at 14-18 Wentworth St (opposite Rialto Square) on Sunday 9th October, at 8 am, straight after the regular swim! Everyone is welcome, family, friends and swimmers alike. Bring along $10 for each badge you have earned (credit cards accepted at this event). For the first time at this event, $2 will be donated to the Royal Far West for each badge purchased on the day. So, if you can’t make it, get your friends to collect your badge for you. Or if you have previous badges you have forgotten to collect, now is the time to do it.

A $5 per person donation will be payable to the RFW at the gate for hosting this event, and .... RFW will provide a FREE breakfast (sausage sandwich and a coffee/tea). Bookings are essential to ensure there is enough food. Book here NOW

Quiz Night - The Manly Mile  – Tuesday 11th October

Reposting info below from Friday. Unfortunately the trivia night seems to be sold out but the raffle is on for everyone!

WhatsApp Image 2022-09-16 at 8.51.46 AM (15)

It seems unimaginable that our friend, Nigel Scozzi, who taught many young locals how to save themselves and others on our beaches, would have a freak surfing accident at Queenscliff leading to life-changing spinal cord injuries.

But six months ago, this actually happened. Nigel was surfing with his son and was found unconscious in the water.

Our legendary lifeguard Wayne administered life saving resuscitation and with the help of a Careflight emergency doctor and paramedics brought Nigel back to life. Once stabilised they took our friend, teacher, mentor and surf lifesaving legend to the Royal North Shore Hospital. He hasn’t been home since.

Let’s give back some of the energy and love Nigel has put into our community by helping him back to the beaches to live with his young family, friends and community again. We need to raise funds to help modify his house for wheelchair access and to cover ongoing care, medical expenses, treatment and transport.

A portion of the proceeds will also go to Royal Far West and the environmental charity for Cabbage Tree Bay.

Come along and bring a crowd upstairs at Steyne Hotel on Tuesday 11th October for a BnB fundraiser hosted by our Quiz Master JK from 6pm. Tickets on sale Friday 16th September from midday for $35. Tables of 10 or singles all welcome


If you can’t make it, please donate at GoFundMe Support for Nigel




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