When the 10 km radius limit was imposed we could no longer travel down to Malabar as it was beyond our travel limit. Ugh. This new phase of our COVID lockdown had started badly. Redleaf or more correctly Murray Rose Pool is a harbourside pool run by Woollahra Municipal Council on Seven Shillings Beach. It looked ideal for us with change rooms, showers and a decent cafe for a post-swim coffee.
I was unable to find parking anywhere nearby, so I was not going to make our agreed start time. I did find parking eventually, somewhere in South Melbourne from memory, and then began the long trek with my wetsuit and towel to the pool. I may as well have left the car at home and walked from there. In the end I was only a few hours late, but I still raced to get into my wetsuit and then ran down to the beach to feel the water temperature and join my freezing comrades.
It seems to be a little-known fact, but the waters in Murray Rose Pool are piped in directly from the Antarctic. This pool is the coldest pool on our planet. Upon entering the water my brain was immediately frozen and I had no idea what I was doing for the next 45 minutes. My Garmin watch told me the water temperature was 15-16 degrees Celsius, but that is rubbish. It was nowhere near that warm.
Unfortunately there are no photos of this swimming location as my fingers were too frozen to be trusted near a camera or even my phone. It took me approximately three weeks to warm up and feel somewhat human again. My brain may never recover. Needles to say, we did not return.
When the COVID lockdown closed swimming pools in Sydney in 2020, we moved our regular swimming down to Malabar (or Long Bay). We’d drive down and most of us swam in wetsuits four to five times per week for about an hour. Most of our small group were working from home so we were flexible with the time of day that we swam, but it was usually mornings and not much later than lunchtime.
We’d usually leave from the beach area, swim out to around the first boat ramp and make sure that nobody had frozen to death, then swim on to the ocean pool on the south side of the bay. We always found the shallows at Malabar freezing, but the deeper water from about the boat ramp onwards and near the ocean pool was always much more welcoming.
As you can see we’d then do a series of crossings between the ocean pool and the northern boat ramp, with the sessions structured similarly to what we used to do in our pool sessions.
With the boat ramps used by people who are fishing there was a little concern, at least initially about certain other things in the water that also eat fish, but I don’t think we ever saw an “Noahs” there. Some days the water was pretty clear and we’d see some fish and the local stingrays. It was a real pleasure down there once we got used to it.
We saw quite a few groups swimming down there in 2020 and the bay is also used occasionally by surfers, stand-up paddlers and ski paddlers. Everyone seemed to get along pretty well and nobody was just hanging around as there were barriers, warning signs and regular patrols by Council officers.
It certainly kept us going when we could no longer use suburban swimming pools during the lockdown. I think it also made us appreciate how lucky we are to have access to safe open ocean areas for swimming like this in Sydney. It is a beautiful and sometimes spectacular area of Sydney’s vast coastline that I’d not really explored much before despite belonging to Maroubra SLSC, just around the headland to the north.