The Inviting Cold Ocean

Winter snorkelling near Apollo Bay

Boo about to snorkel on ocean reef
This extensive shore reef can only be snorkelled at low tide (less than 0.7m) and ideally without big swell. On the day Boo and I decided to go snorkelling this meant getting in the water not long after dawn. This particular ‘pool’ (it is in fact connected by a channel to the ocean at all tide levels) at its deepest point on a low tide is 3-4m deep. The reef surrounding it is thickly covered with algae and seaweed, which is very comfortable for sitting on and sliding into and out of the water.
Ocean reef at dawn
Two worlds.
Boo snorkelling at dawn in reef pool
Boo glowing in the golden light of the low-angle morning sun.
Colourful algae and kelp underwater on reef near Apollo Bay, with snorkeller
Brightly coloured algae and kelp beds are in abundance, with all sorts of inviting nooks and crannies to explore along the reef walls.
Colourful algae and kelp underwater on reef near Apollo Bay, with snorkeller
So much to see.
Because snorkelling is less energetic than swimming consistently for some distance, in cold water I make sure I wear my thickest wetsuit and something warm underneath it. This extends the time I can enjoy the experience before the first involuntary shiver ripples through my body despite all the neoprene. In water of these temperatures, the hypothermia clock is ticking from the moment you enter the water, with or without a wetsuit.
Snorkeller with colourful rock
Boo found this perfectly smooth pink rock, which may have come from a creek which feeds into this reef area. In the previous photo this rock can be seen on the seabed below Boo’s left hand. It was returned to where it was found.
Boo snorkelling over seaweed and algae
The reef pools are a winding maze which constantly changes with the tidal changes in water depth.
Snorkeller over white sandy seabed
Pristine sand.
Colourful algae and kelp underwater on reef near Apollo Bay, with snorkeller
Boo motoring along.
Colourful algae and kelp underwater on reef near Apollo Bay, with snorkeller
There was a moderately strong current in this area, as shown by the kelp and other plants. Fins are handy in the areas where there are currents.
Colourful algae and kelp underwater on reef near Apollo Bay, with snorkeller
Flourishing and vibrant green and red algae.
The reef and rock pool in which the snorkelling photos were taken.
The exposed surface of the reef at low tide gives no hint of the colour and beauty of the world just beneath the surface in its pools and inlets. The reef keeps its secret well.
Thanks for the company on this snorkel Boo.

Winter swimming at Apollo Bay

Ocean swimmers heading out to sea at Apollo Bay
Quite a few Apollo Bay locals swim in this bay all year round. The sea temp here varies from about 18°C in summer to 12-13°C in winter. The lowest temp I have measured was 11°C, a few years back. The lowest water temps seem to be around late August. Modern wetsuits of the appropriate thickness and construction, combined with a neoprene hood (booties and gloves are optional) allow comfortable swimming all year round. ‘Comfortable’ in this context does include cold faces with lips being reduced to single syllable conversation for a short time immediately following a swim of 30 minutes or more. The swimmers here were striking out to the north from the southern end of the Apollo Bay beach on a sunny July day. The proximity of the swimmers to each other shown is very short lived as they invariably strike out in individual directions at individual paces. Occasionally small groups swim together. Despite this practice, there is comfort and camaraderie in swimming in the bay at the same time as your friends.
Three ocean swimmers offshore at Apollo Bay
L to R: Gabrielle, Mike and Deb. The starting point of this swim is on the left of the pine trees in the distance, where the beach joins the rock wall of the harbour. The masts of the yachts in the harbour can be seen left of Mike’s head.
Two ocean swimmers offshore at Apollo Bay
L to R: Gabrielle and Deb.
Should the need ever arise for the town to field a synchronised swimming team, Gay and Deb will be the first selected and they are ready and waiting. I have seen them in years past performing offshore with a small select audience of fellow swimmers. They are not your prissy swimming-pool synchro swimmers with identical floral hats, unsmiling faces and mechanical balletic moves. They are exponents of a unique and more free-ranging form of synchronised swimming, in which splashing is not forbidden and smiling and a lot of laughter are essential elements. They also require a ‘stage’ at least as deep and wide as a bay to give their creative performance room for full expression.
(The black object on the left is not a seal).
Two ocean swimmers offshore at Apollo Bay
Apologies to Gay for the water droplet on the camera lens partially obscuring her smile. Ocean swimming with friends is a great pleasure.
Two ocean swimmers offshore at Apollo Bay
Sky, ocean and bubbles image
Swirling elements and colours of the sea and the sky from an ocean swimmer’s perspective.
This afternoon as I was collating these few photos and tapping out a few captions, I checked the Apollo Bay surf life saving club surfcam (the above photo is a screenshot of its feed) and could not resist going for a dip. The air temp was 11°C, the water temp was 13.5°C (I measured both), the wind was offshore and the tide was near full. I rode my pushbike to the beach and swam my usual 1000+m without another soul in the water, and with only a few rugged-up dog walkers on the beach. I had the sun on my back for some of the swim, and rain at other times. The water was clear and cold. There was a tidal current from left to right (in the photo) which contributed to swimming pace numbers I was proud of going south and then the watch appeared to malfunction with obviously erroneous pace figures going north against the current.
As always, the swim was energising and exhilarating. I have never regretted an ocean swim.

Winter waves on a local reef

Lone surfer on winter wave
Solo surfer well dressed for the cold on an exposed local break in mid July.
There is beauty in a surfer’s bold and graceful lines across a wave face. A fleeting performance that neither seeks nor needs an audience.

The wave shown in this sequence of shots is not surfed, because it forms and breaks over the exposed slab of reef shown in each of these photos. I always find the power and beauty of the waves breaking on this reef mesmerising. I spend hours watching them when the swell is up.

The Twelve Apostles viewed across a cold stretch of Southern Ocean

Twelve Apostles photographed from offshore perspective
A less common perspective on the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road coast east of Port Campbell. Sunset winter photo. These cold ocean waters are teeming with life. I would love to do some swims along this coastline, but the conditions would have to be exactly right and an IRB riding shotgun (and with a spare seat) would be essential.

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