Swim for Saxon Ocean Swim – Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club: dirty water, politics and OH&S

Four surf rescue craft at Queenscliff.

Saxon Bird died at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships on the Gold Coast in March 2010. During the surf ski leg of the event a stray surf ski hit the 19-year-old. It took rescuers 55 minutes to recover his body in treacherous conditions.

This is the third year of the Swim for Saxon Ocean Swim, which honours the memory of the champion athlete who trained at Queenscliff. 

On the commemorative plaque dedicated to Saxon is a quote from TS Eliot: 

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

This swim was a first for me. Before today, I’d only ever walked to the far northern end of Manly Beach.  

It’s a pretty stretch of sand that ends at a small headland – on the other side is Freshwater.

Manly Lagoon is located a couple of blocks back, next to the golf course. The lagoon isn’t usually a problem, except after the rain when runoff flows into the sea at Queenscliff. 

Saxon+Bird+2013+010 - Swim for Saxon Ocean Swim - Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club: dirty water, politics and OH&S
The fund-raising Babe Watch is growing in number.

Sydney has copped a drenching since Wednesday. Today the clouds were still around, bunched like juicy grapes, but the big stretches of blue convinced them to drift out to sea. 

A sign at the ocean pool warned swimmers to avoid taking a dip there for at least 24 hours after the rain. I should have photographed the pool – the water was a yucky green. 

Another sign near the beach had the same message for the ocean. Its advice: wait 24 hours before diving in.

Oh well, not to worry. The organisers weren’t. The mild pollution didn’t stop them from going ahead with the two swims on offer – 800 metres and 1.5 kilometres. 

Other than murky water, the conditions were benign. The surf was non-existent and the water temperature a warm 23 degrees.  

I’d entered both the swims ($40 for the two), though I wasn’t feeling too chipper. Back to my old wine guzzling ways the night before! 

I packed in a high carb energy bar on the drive down to the beach, hoping that would fill the tank with enough fuel for the 800 metre dash. God, I love those bars. They’re so junky. This one contained cocoa powder, rice bubbles, brown rice oil and lots of other stuff that, to me, tastes like a compacted bowl of Cocoa Pops. Cocolossal!

Prior to the 800 swim, I noticed some commotion on the sand with a couple of camera crews hovering around. It dawned on me that this is the federal opposition leader’s stomping ground. The northern beaches is blue ribbon Liberal territory and Tony Abbott is the hero, the man most likely to become Australia’s next prime minister when the nation votes in September. And he’s a member of the Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club. It made good political sense for him to be down on the beach.

In his budgy smugglers.

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Saxon+Bird+2013+003 - Swim for Saxon Ocean Swim - Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club: dirty water, politics and OH&S
I would have squatted too. Smart move Tony.

I know I’ve said it before, but I just love it that our high profile pollies can saunter about in almost the all-together without anyone batting an eyelid. Could you imagine Barack Obama, David Cameron, Francois Hollande or Stephen Harper running around in their swimmers? 

What about Kim Jong Un? I’d like to see the roly-poly dictator with all his milky pale flubber on display. I think it’d soften his image. Add depth. Make the guy more human and cuddly, and less like an overfed nutbag despot with an itchy trigger finger. He might belly flop into the ocean and decide all he wants to do is turn back the boats.That’s what a dunkin’ in the deep blue does – it gives you a new perspective on life.

Anyway, our “almost” (sorry Julia, but it’s pretty much signed and sealed) Supreme Leader is down there on the sand, posing for photos with young children and pretending not to notice the cameras trained on him as he checks his goggles and adjusts his… cap. 

I took a couple of pics. I reckon the old Tone’s lost tone (the Abbott has lost abs) and put on a few kilos since I last saw him strutting his stuff in the budgys about two years ago. Take a look at the little handle of chubby love above the hip. And I reckon he’s sucking in his tummy. 

That’s what time on the campaign trail does to you. Tony’s had to throw back one too many schooners and Chiko Rolls to prove he’s just an ordinary bloke who’d move to the western suburbs if he didn’t have the long commute.

But enough of Tony. He did the 800 metre swim. Dunno if I beat his time. I hope I bloody well did. (He did it in 19.56, which is slow. I did it in 16.43, which is average)

What to say about the 800 metres? Murky warm water. No movement in the ocean, not even a nudge into the shore. 

No fruit or water afterwards.

I bought a red drink and sucked on one of those phlegm-like energy products that promises you an instant buzz.

The 1.5 kilometre swim took ages to start because of the five minute breaks between each wave. 

It was supposed to start at 10, but got underway at 10.15am with the youngest wave heading in first. 

My wave didn’t start until 10.45am. 

Every swimmer wore an ankle timer. The organisers could have asked everyone to sign off after the swim to ensure all swimmers completed the course safely, rather than count everyone on the start line. I mean, how do you get an accurate head-count when people are milling around and changing their positions on the start line?

There were heaps of rescue people on the water. And four inflatables.

It was over the top OH&S. Totally unnecessary on a day like today. The worst that could have happened was if one of the swimming tragics (older types) had a little episode.

Saxon+Bird+2013+011 - Swim for Saxon Ocean Swim - Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club: dirty water, politics and OH&S
The second wave sprints to the shallows.

Saxon+Bird+2013+012 - Swim for Saxon Ocean Swim - Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club: dirty water, politics and OH&S
Running through the shallows.

The swim seemed longer than 1.5km but it was just me. Too much red stuff – on the day and the night before.

Because the tide was out, competitors had to run into the water through the shallows. I was mindful of the troughs and worried about twisting my ankle, which slowed me down.

I got out to the first red buoy and lost my way because I didn’t have a handle on the location of the next buoy. 

I ended up, along with other swimmers, heading towards the furthest red buoy when I should have been swimming to a closer yellow buoy first. What a pain in the bum.

It was all a bit of a murky blur and the swim back to the beach wasn’t helped at all by a total lack of swell. 

I went searching for water and fruit because I was sure the commentator mentioned it was available for free for competitors. But I couldn’t find it.

No fruit, no water. 

Rating out of 10: 7.5

Any gripes: No fruit, no water. No nothing*.

Why the late start? And the five-minute wait between each wave wasn’t necessary. Nor was the head count, which would’ve been unreliable anyway. Better to give us a number and call it out. That’s a good idea. 

The poor water quality wasn’t the fault of the organisers. It was just a shame swimmers had to compete in less than pristine conditions.  

This swim is to honour a beautiful boy who died in tragic circumstances.  I’m aware of that and understand the organisers wanting to get it right. They want everyone to be safe in this swim.

But today the conditions were calm, and at this end of the season the participants are die hards who know what to expect, especially in calm conditions. There’s no need to be hypervigilant, unless it gets nasty eg: Freshwater two weeks ago. 

Next week it’s the Coogee autumn swim. I’ve heard the swell is going to be massive by next weekend. Wait and see. 

*Apparently there was fruit and juice – I don’t know how I missed it because I wandered around looking for it. My apologies to the organisers for not giving credit where credit is due.

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Sausage sambos after but where was the free fruit and water?

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.