Over the PA came the Midnight Oil surf tune ‘Wedding Cake Island’, calling the swimmers to order at the northern end of Coogee Beach. The nervous chatter dropped as the guitars swelled on the mild Sydney autumn breeze; then the starting gun fired, and the 2018 Coogee Island Cool Water Challenge was underway. Jo ran in fast, dived cleanly under a breaker, then surfaced and steamed towards New Zealand.
She swam out past Wedding Cake Island and fought the lurching open ocean swell beyond it for a hundred hard metres, then turned into the channel between the island and the blocky base of the South Coogee headland, the surge behind her now. After passing the Ladies’ Baths, the swimmers swam parallel to the beach behind the breakers, and Jo hit the gas. She powered past the tiring field before turning in and catching a rearing wave that propelled her inshore. Exhilarated and breathing hard, she crossed the finish line on burning legs at a shade over forty-six minutes, a personal best.
Jo towelled off, feeling better than she had in ages. She was fit and strong, ready to be in the world again after a long period of emotional retreat. Her small family was thriving, her career nicely on track. Mellowed by a mild, pleasant summer unmarred by fire or flood, Sydney felt vibrant and optimistic. The year had started well, and Jo felt it was shaping to be a good one.
She could not have been more wrong…