By Vita Forest
Last week was fairly typical February weather in Sydney – the kind of weather that drains me of energy. High temperatures and high humidity, what my mother calls “stinking hot!”
After such a week, it was tempting to stay home and do not much. But on Sunday Max and I ventured out with Briony on an expedition to the Northern Beaches of Sydney to get us some surf. We ended up at Long Reef (Briony’s favourite). But after we had parked the car, picked our way down the road, and walked over the reddish sand hills, we arrived to find a sign planted squarely in the sand saying “Beach closed”.
The water sparkled and the day was hot, but there was no safe spot to swim, the waves were big and dumpy and there were dangerous currents – so we were told by the lifeguard. Perhaps they would open the beach in half an hour or so. Or not. The surf would be rough all over. Cyclone Winston from Fiji you know? (The butterfly effect of it being felt on Australia’s East coast as big seas and rough surf). But maybe Collaroy might be better, though it could be weedy. And it did have a rockpool.
We decided to chance Collaroy rather than standing in the sun, staring longingly at water which may or may not be safe in thirty minutes. So we trekked back to the car over the hot, heat-hazed sand and drove north.
It certainly was weedy at Collaroy – the breakers rolled beach-ward green and prickly with the stuff.
But there was a rockpool…
The pool was divided up with lane ropes, the central section home to the local swimming club, while each side was free for more leisurely swimming. We walked past the swimming club’s sausage sizzle, and leapt out of the way of a swell of water rising so high, it carried an esky out from under the serving table. Swimmers bobbed breast stroke up and down the lanes, trying to swim straight, as the water rolled through, showing who was really in control.
As Max and I waded in, a thuggish 4 year old wearing goggles and a floaty on his back, tried to cut off my progress, but I would not be thwarted. The relief of the cool water!
We moved over to the far side of the pool closer to the sea. There was a row of kids clinging onto the chain link loops of the fence on the side of the pool. This was in order to catch the waves that were rushing in, smashing on the rocks, then crashing over into the pool. There was surf in the pool, its forced diluted somewhat by the rocky headland, but still strong enough to knock a grown man into the pool. (He emerged unharmed, cap still wedged on his head.)
Max and I sat on the ledge while Briony watched from the safety of the water. We would follow the heave of a wave from out at sea, then wait as the crest rose over the headland and smashed, bubbling foam over the concrete barrier, carrying us forward with it. We yelled and laughed as we surrendered to the power of the water – the danger of it, the lack of control.It’s times like this that I am happy I am still agile, still fit, still able to heave myself up out of a pool and into the way of a churning wave, into the path of a roaring sea dragon. It reminds me I am alive. It cleans out the cobwebs, all the tiredness, stiffness and lethargy of the last week gone. Everything brought back to the here and now, sitting beside my son on a concrete barrier and waiting for the water to carry us away.