We were plunged into another COVID lockdown in June 2021, so we returned to Malabar and started getting used to colder water once again. It was a bit shocking at first because our regular outdoor pool is pretty well-heated. Weather conditions in June and July were not always great so a couple of swims were cancelled or postponed.
Once again, most of us swam in wetsuits and the shallow waters of the bay had not warmed up at all. According to my Garmin watch the water temperature varied between 18 and 19 degrees Celsius, but it stabilised around 18C as we moved into July. Little did we know at the time, but we would soon be looking back on this as “positively balmy”.
Once again we would structure our swims so they resembled the variety of our regular pool sessions. This meant including some medleys, drills, build-ups, pyramids, distance-per-stroke work and some change-pace work. Because we were not confined by 50m laps, it was usually based around stroke counts, during our laps between the ocean pool and the northern boat ramp.
In 2021, however, we could only swim at Malabar in June and early July because once the 10 km radius restriction was introduced, most of us could no longer make it to Malabar from our homes.
Now we had to farewell Malabar and find somewhere else to swim …
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.