Monday, April 7, 2014

Tassie - A Devil of a Swim

 Shane Gould (Aussie swimming legend who once held the world record for every freestyle distance from 50m to 1500m) has set up “The Devil of a Swim” in her hometown of Bicheno on the east coast of Tassie. This year the format had changed slightly so you could do both the 5km and the 2km swims. Training bud Liam and I headed down to take on the frosty Tassie waters and rack up some kms whilst we were at it. Also Tassie was the only state in Australia I hadn’t done an ocean swim in. Gotta keep ticking items off the Bucket List.
Tassie is completely stunning and we both had a great weekend, both swimming and sightseeing. Highlights including Salamanca markets, Freycinet national park, swimming in Wineglass Bay and the Devil of a Swim.

Salamanca Markets        
The water in Tassie is of a completely different character and hue. It’s as clear and blue as tropical water whilst being quite the cold. We were coming off 21 -22 degrees and were prepared for 19. It turned out to be 17. We hiked down into Wineglass Bay (past a snake – Liam was not impressed) and swam in one of the more stunning locations on earth. We had the whole bay to ourselves. Just amazing. The shore dump was not to be underestimated though and it completely took me out when I was too busy taking photos to pay attention. After swimming 1km we both decided that we’d have to don wetsuits for the 5km swim.

Wineglass Bay – complete with shoredump

We hiked back out and headed to Bicheno. Where of course, we found ourselves seated next to friends of Shane Gould. We would then run into one of them the next day in Hobart. The scale of Tassie is simply delightful.
Some of the pre-race registration had been a little bumpy but the on the day organisation was absolutely perfect. The whole town gets behind this swim and Bicheno SLSC were just wonderful. They run nipper operations and are the base for the ocean swimming community in Bicheno that Shane has pretty much created from scratch. They swim year round. Without hot showers. Legends.
The devil of a swim highlights the plight of the endangered marsupial Tasmanian Devil and remembering the aboriginal heroine Waubadebar.To quote Shane: The name “Waubs” is an abbreviation of “Waubadebar” a female aborigine with an heroic and tragic life. She was probably from a band of the Oyster Bay (Paredarerme) tribe living nearby.
 A strong swimmer, she saved two white men from drowning by swimming them to shore one by one, when their boat was smashed against the rocks during a storm. It was rare for any honour such as a place name to be bestowed on an aborigine.Her grave is located at the back of the Lions Park, near the Silver Sands Hotel. The headstone reads “Here lies - Waubadebar a female aborigine of Van Diemen’s land, died June 1832, aged 40 years.” She died in a boat off the coast whilst travelling towards the Furneaux Group of islands and her body was brought ashore and buried. John Allen, an early settler, in his notebook, dated 24th June 1840, mentions “Waubs Harbour”. Sufficient was thought of her memory for the local settlers in 1855 to contribute funds to erect a headstone.
 The Devil of a Swim is in honour and memory of Waubedebar, as I presume her rescue effort was 'a devil of a swim'.
Bicheno (L) and Penguins (R)

 Sandbar Checkpoint
It’s out from Waubs beach, around Diamond Island, onto the sand bar where you have your name marked off and then 2km back to the beach. It’s completely, totally, utterly stunning. I lack the vocabulary to do it justice. Thank goodness for photos.

I’m always in it to complete not to compete. So I was having a whale of time, taking photos, absorbing the scenery, admiring the penguins, coming last and yet still setting a 5km PB. Must have been the despised wettie.

Which I happily stripped out of for the 2km swim. Liam and I were the only ones who swam without a wetsuit in either the 1 or 2km. Everyone thought we were nuts. Given we both came down sick the following week they may have had a point. But the water temperature was totally bearable and the clarity made it thoroughly enjoyable. I really enjoyed the two lap course and was feeling very comfortable with this stretch of coast and it’s incredibly flat water.

Non wettie 'nutters'

The awards ceremony was a very friendly affair. The winner of the 5km did it in just over an hour despite a solid night on the turps the previous evening. Thank goodness for the rest of us he was at a disadvantage. The female winner had just swum 15km to raise funds for coastcare. Amazing!

Headed back to Hobart for adventures at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and atop the blustery and cold Mt Wellington. Will definitely be back for more Tassie swimming adventures!