The Big Issue : Edition 545
28 THEBIGISSUE8–21SEP2017 ILLUSTRATIONSBYLUCIEVERETT THERE IS A buzz in the air when I arrive at the Williamstown Life Saving Club on Saturday morning. I am here for my regular ocean swim with the Mussels, but today the buzz is more than the usual frisson and nervous bonhomie my fellow swimmers and I increasingly experience as Melbourne’s winter deepens and the water gets colder. Apparently two southern right whales had been sighted off the beach the day before and – who knew? – perhaps they were still out there. Not only that, but legendary ocean swimmer Chloë McCardel had been in the clubrooms earlier, and was now out in the waters training for her attempt to do a quadruple non-stop crossing of the English Channel, to go one up on her 2015 triple crossing. Today’s workout for Chloë is eight hours in the 11°C water without a wetsuit. Last seen she was heading towards Point Cook. I’ve never met Chloë but I feel a connection. Easter 2010 I was swimming with my cousins between the heads at Bondi while she was swimming back and forth, in training for her first Channel double crossing. A member of her support team gave us Easter eggs. Now, seven years later and training for a quadruple crossing (which ultimately flounders), I feel like I’ve come on the journey with her. There is much said about the health benefits of cold-water swimming. It is claimed that it will boost your immune system, burn calories, improve circulation, treat depression, even increase libido. I don’t know how much of this has been proven and I don’t care. For me it feels good. It’s invigorating. When I join the crew in Williamstown I usually swim for an hour and cover up to three kilometres, sometimes more. For the rest of the day (after I warm up) I feel fantastic, from both the exertion and the cold. The Mussels group has grown from when I first joined four years ago. The six or so regular swimmers grew to more than 50 last summer. Even in the middle of winter, there are still 15 to 20 swimmers fronting up each Saturday. More and more are donning their wetsuits. For weeks I’ve been in the full kit – wetsuit, hood, booties and gloves. But there are some who continue to eschew wetsuits and have pledged to swim on through, bare back so to speak. It seems ocean swimming has become all the rage. Once, it was the domain only of a few hardy souls – usually groups of barrel-chested octogenarian “icebergers” who every so often would be featured in feel-good segments of the evening news on wet, midwinter, slow news days. Now there are ocean swimmers of all ages CHLOË AND THE WHALES TONY KELLY IS GETTING BACK INTO THE SWIM. IN WINTER.