A Summer of Swimming in the Southern Ocean, Australia



Summer does not always bring warm skies and glassy seas to this pristine corner of the coast of south-eastern Australia.  But on the day this photo was taken, it did. This is Apollo Bay, where I swim.  During the short cold days of winter the sea temperature drops to around 12 degrees C. Snow can even dust the hills just inland from those shown above. But in summer the water is in the 16-18 degree range. The air temperature during the day in summer can more than double such temperatures.


Finishing one of many summer training sessions for a 5km swimming race at Lorne in January (the Lorne 5000), and the Port Campbell 1.2km ocean race in February (see earlier blog post).  Race face on.
My GPS track of a warm up ocean race I swam at Anglesea (the ‘Rock to Ramp) between Xmas day and New Year’s day. This was a 2.5km swim. There was a stiff southerly creating wind waves, whitecaps and a head current for the long leg to the south.  A character building swim.
My home training ground at Apollo Bay.  My pace slowly improved as summer rolled on.
Navigation on track.
Increasing the training distances – perfect training conditions at Apollo Bay.
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5km training swim at Apollo Bay in the shore break. Track reflects diving under waves, and currents around the sand bars and gutter. There was some texture on the water in a strengthening gusty NW wind. Conditions not conducive to high average pace.
The 5km training swim was not done in the conditions in this photo. My target time was 2:00. Close. Dawn over the harbour.


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The GPS track of my swim in the Lorne 5000 in mid January. There were cutoff times at two points – the 2km mark (northernmost turn buoys) and the boat ramp (starting point). I made the first one, but due to a head current and strong head wind thereafter did not make the final turning point (the boat ramp at the 4km mark) before the cutoff time. Hence my race ended at the 3.56km mark, with a ride to shore in the IRB (the SLSC rubber duck). Another character building swim.


For a bloke who likes a good set of numbers (pace, stroke rate, place etc), the DNF was a disappointing substitute. I was swimming strongly (albeit clearly not fast enough) at the 3.56km mark and was looking forward to the final km with a strong following current. I would easily have finished left to my own devices. But it was not to be. Rather than DNF, I would’ve preferred GIHBS (gave it his best shot). The DNS relates to the 1.2km afternoon Pier to Pub swim which I registered for, but did not swim.


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This is the track of my 2018 Lorne 5000 swim which I completed. I made the first cutoff time at the northern buoys with 45″ or so to spare, and at the boat ramp (second cutoff point at the 4km mark) had 5 minutes or so up my sleeve. Different currents that year. I swam the 1.2km Pier to Pub race after lunch on this day. It was a good day in the ocean.
The January 2018 Lorne 5000 course, looking north.



Sharks are not a problem for swimmers at Apollo Bay. I swam an hour or so before this warning was published, and a handful of my friends swam an hour or so after it was published on the Victorian Emergency App. We all consider that what was seen and misreported, was a seal. We saw neither sharks nor any fish or bird behaviour indicating a shark was in the area.


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An Apollo Bay invitation to a dawn swim. Who could resist?
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The rising sun filtered through a thin layer of cloud on the horizon.
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Most of my ocean swims are in this bay.
An early morning swim coinciding with the passage of a cold front included the pleasure of the unexpectedly pleasant sensation of large raindrops tapping on our swimming caps as a squall swept across the bay.
A few of my ocean swimming friends – Aileen, Tom, Marion, Mary, Michelle & Mike.
Some summer mornings start with a thin layer of stratus over the bay, which quickly burns off as the sun breaks through. Mariners Lookout in the distance was in brilliant sunshine, while I was still under the last of the low cloud. Well spaced sets of green swell were rolling through the bay.
This beautiful misty morning turned into a hot day.
Small glassy swell giving Susan a lift.
L to R: Marriners Lookout, Wild Dog Creek valley, Susan.
Tom relaxing in the trough and Susan enjoying the wave as it silently rolled across the bay.
Monique and Susan
A joyous duck dive in a clear ocean on a sunny morning. It’s really not about the numbers.
Me in my element.

3 thoughts on “A Summer of Swimming in the Southern Ocean, Australia

  1. A good summers’ work John.
    For you, ocean swimming is both a physically rewarding and creative pastime. The GoPro proves it.


    1. The GoPro has its limits, but it certainly enables me to capture images that give me pleasure long after the swim is finished. I just wish I’d taken the GoPro with me on our last swim at Waratah Bay, in the shore break…..


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