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A Lazy Way To Swim The Length Of Sydney's Coastline



About 18 months ago I finally got around to reading Waterlog by Roger Deakin. Those who are familiar with the book will recall it as a record of his idea to swim his way around the British Isles via rivers, lakes, ponds and lidos (open air swimming pools). In part it was inspired by John Cheever’s short story The Swimmer and by the film of the same name, starring Burt Lancaster. As I read this excellent book, I wondered what a similar journey in Sydney might look like, and thought about swimming in all the saltwater rock pools along Sydney's coast.


However, I completely forgot about this idea until about a year later when, during a winter holiday in London, I went swimming in the (heated) London Fields Lido. Later that same day, I was discussing London's remaining lidos with a friend. She suggested that I should return in summer and swim my way across London via the lidos, and, she also referenced the film, The Swimmer. Her idea was to record the journey by taking photographs at the various lidos and ponds still open for swimming in the metropolitan area. While I'm still keen to attempt this, it also reminded me of my idea to swim along Sydney's coast.


Sydney has, by my reckoning, about 80 seawater pools along its coastline. These range from large swimming enclosures protected by shark nets in the bays, to tidal baths in the river estuaries, to enlarged rock pools on ocean promontories or rock ledges and to constructed 50 metre swimming pools fed tidally by seawater. By far the majority of these pools are unrestricted and can be used at any time for free. They were built, or improved upon, to provide swimming areas safe from sharks and, on the ocean coast, dangerous surf conditions. 


So in April 2009 I started on the first part of the swim - from Cronulla to Bondi. My idea was that I would swim every swimmable rock pool and tidal baths along the coast and bays (but not west of Captain Cook Bridge on the Georges River nor west of Gunnamatta Bay on Port Hacking). Later I decided to include the baths and enclosures on the southern shores of Sydney Harbour. I would, as my friend had suggested, take photos at every location. My only rule was that I must swim at least one length in the direction of completing the overall swim. Of course, I swam many more lengths and laps than this, simply for the fun of it. 


It took three days to complete, and I immediately regretted ignoring the baths further west, so on the final afternoon headed west of the Harbour Bridge to The Dawn Fraser Baths and Chiswick Baths. A day later I returned to swim the tidal baths in Port Hacking and the Georges River that I had ignored on day one.


Several months were to pass before I continued this Deakinesque swimming trek on Sydney's north shore and Northern Beaches.