I have swum naked, in front of hundreds of people.
The first question I seem to get asked is “What was it like?”
Frankly, I had a great morning on site and I loved the swim. Because I am a lucky girl, I picked a girlfriend (aka support crew member number 1) of mine up at 7:45am. Due to nerves, I only managed 3 hours sleep, so I was fairly tired, but despite the overcast weather, and the remaining nerves, I was looking forward to doing what so many people were cheering me on to do – swim 900m in the buff.
It was fairly quiet when we first arrived so I registered and picked up my Nudie goodie bag and headed over to a grassy knoll where my mate and I chillaxed and people watched. It was a fairly big space but there were lots of sponsor stalls, BBQ, free massages, food trucks – it had a really lovely community, relaxed vibe to it. After taking a good look around, it was obvious there were all sorts there. Old, young, middle aged, tall, short, male, female, big, petite. I was a little surprised there weren’t many ethnicities, but that could also be a cultural thing. I spotted one Indian, and my friend spotted one Asian.
After 45 mins or so of taking it all in and chatting to some other participants I headed over to the bushes and changed from shorts and a top, into a dress. Having done practice runs before, I wanted the process of undressing to be seamless, so I only kept a bright pink, loose fitting dress and my knickers on. I knew my bra would be too fiddly for me to want to deal with on the beach so that came off too.
As the time approached for me to head over to the marshalling area my nerves were certainly coming back – it didn’t help that I had spotted a guy I went to university with – and as fate would have it, he was in my wave! The green wrist band was glaringly obvious.
I walked through the marshalling area very quickly, and headed down the unpaved path to the beach – a path I had become familiar with over the past few weeks.
Before you head down to the actual beach there is a slight landing which overlooks the beach. There were hundred of people there waiting to head down to the beach for the swim. The same people that I would be swimming naked next to in a few minutes! EEK!!!
As I watched the people near me chatting away and laughing, it was impossible to not just be happy. Sounds simple, but often its not. Nervous sure, but the atmosphere was so relaxed and inviting that it felt exciting to be there. We watched wave 1-2 come out, and wave 3 go in, everyone with smiles on their faces enjoying the moment and the freedom that comes with being completely naked.
We were then told we could go down to the beach and that was when my nerves flared up again. I don’t think they were nerves because I didn’t want to do it, and I don’t think it was even because I was about to get naked. I think it was just my brain f*cking with me. Building it up into something that wasn’t justified.
So, I put my few possessions on the sand and spent the next 5-10 mins looking around at all the people.
Then I heard the announcer say it was time for wave 4 to start the swim. Funnily enough, I didn’t panic.I has practiced, I knew what to do. I took off my thongs, my glasses, put my goggles on my head, took off my knickers and finally, I took my dress off. I calmly walked into the water, dodging people on either side, trying not to stub my toe on the rocks, and just focused on what I had to do. Get. In. The Water. When I finally made it, it was certainly crisp, but I walked my way in and started swimming.
Unlike other ocean swims I’d done, there weren’t too many people around me, kicking, pushing, etc. It was a lot more respectful and calm. A big part of that I suspect is because it wasn’t timed. It was a leisurely swim for some, particularly those who took flippers, kick boards and noodles to help them finish the swim.
A minute or so in I did start to panic. During my first ocean swim at Coogee, I did mildly panic as I went out into deeper water, so I knew this may happen again. And it did, but it was easily managed by just focusing on my breathe and the swim. I closed my eyes for much of it so I didn’t need to look down below me. The unknown is always the most scary part for me. I went past the first buoy, then the second, then at the third which was the peak of the diamond shaped course. I remembered a comment a friend of mine made ‘Enjoy the experience’. So I stopped and looked around at the other swimmers, back to the beach which was colourful with cream flesh, and the Nudie purple from the beach umbrellas and towels across the entire beach. It was an amazing spectacle.
I then kept moving and reached the final buoy where I picked up my pace (it’s the racer in me). With only a short distance left, I decided to slow it down because I felt the experience was passing too quickly. So I flipped over onto my back and looked at the blue sky. After a few strokes, I rolled back over, but another woman was fairly close and swimming breaststroke….yeah…..I had goggles on (which were not fogged up at this stage), and I saw more than I needed to see as she was in the middle of frog kick. I worked my legs a bit harder and overtook her, another man, and was now so close to the beach that I stood up and walked out. I was greeted by some lovely volunteers who were handing out sarongs which I graciously accepted, unfolded and started to dry the front of my body as I walked up to my belongings.
It was done. Just like that. All those fears were no longer. I had just had a really pleasant leisurely trip to the beach – with hundreds of naked strangers.
I think what surprised me the most was how I didn’t feel naked in the water. There were times when you swam through colder parts of the water, and it felt like a piece of satin being draped over your arm, belly, or breast for a split second. I have said it before, but the experience felt very civilised and very community focused. Odd, I know, but it makes me think how powerful the mind is in discouraging someone from doing something they are not comfortable with. And that in itself is what this blog is about. And my involved in the swim was about. Pushing your boundaries and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone – you may find it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
So, after I dressed myself, I slowly made my way up the fairly steep hill back to the festival area. On the way I asked one of the workers what the time was – it was just after 10am, which meant I did the swim in about 15 mins. A size 22 woman, swam 900 metres in the ocean, naked, in less than 15 mins. Take that, critics! The best part, I wasn’t even puffed, I could have easily done another 900ms, no problem. Next time, I will do it twice.
As I walked up the hill I started chatting with a lovely man about the overall experience. He loved it as well! He used flippers, but he did complete the swim.
When I reached the top, I was met by my friend and was keen to find somewhere to put my bra back on before I started chatting to other people! We wandered around for awhile, looking at the stores, and patting a baby crocodile !
My other friend Lucy then brought her baby D down, and the four of us hung out at the local cafe like it was any other Sunday.
I am really pleased I did the swim. Despite my initial reaction, I’m glad to have pushed my boundaries the way I did – and it far exceeds just doing the swim. I’ve physically worked hard to increase my fitness, I’ve had some tough conversations with friends about the mental process. But, I have also taken the essence of who I am, and what I believe to very public forums. I have certainly been criticised for being me. But, I have also been accepted and defended by people who do, and don’t know me.
Going through the process has also made me realise how supportive and loving my friends are to me. Whether it be going for an extra walk, donating some money to charity or calling me to check in to find out how I am after vile comments were spewed my way. Or even just reading the blog, liking my status updates, and allowing me to be passionate about this topic. For being proud of me just the way I am. There are no words than can ever explain how grateful I am, but please know that it is true, honest, authentic, love.
I am also so grateful to Vision Personal Training Mosman for taking me under its wing and making me sweat and puff. The results speak for itself. My body is physically stronger, fitted and tighter. I have enjoyed heading into the gym and seeing everyones smily faces.
Blackmores – what an amazing company it is. For putting $1000 on the table for The Foundation of National Parks and Wildlife, no problem. Its generosity, and the generosity of my friends, means I can donate $1,770 to help preserve the local animals and plants. But, Blackmores did more than just put money on the table. They also provided me with advice, support and vitamins to help my body be strong and healthy for the swim.
I am sad to see the end of this journey as the process has been very good to, and for, me.
But, with anything in life, I always ask ‘what’s next?’. Well, I am pleased to say that I have decided to do the 9km jog as part of the Blackmores Running Festival in September. I am not a runner (definitely a water baby), so this will have its own unique challenges.
Another goal, is to feature (leading lady, of course!) in a professional music video. I am getting old (turning 30 this year), so if it’s going to happen, it needs to happen soon. I love to dance, and can shake my hips n booty like a polaroid picture. So, if anyone knows anyone in the music biz, please hook me up!
Thanks again for all your support!