Lorne, Pier to Pub

Sat'dee, Jan 11, 2020

The swim that must be done

So, the Pier to Pub. If there is one ocean swim that everyone in the country knows the name of, this would be it. For some reason we’d never been all that interested. Possibly because we live about 1,000 km away. But as it happened, about 4 weeks out, we discovered that we would be passing through Lorne on the same day as the P2P. Our eyes lit up as we jumped on os.c for a reccy and read “If you consider yourself an ocean swimmer ….. then you must do the Pier to Pub at some stage.” There were some other words in there too, but these were the words that we remembered, as we jumped to the booking site to plunge in. Yeah, plunge in. We went there. Aggh. Sorry.

That decision was almost instantly reversed when we saw the price tag ($70 for a 1.2k swim, who does that?). But we knew we’d regret it forever if we were driving through Lorne on the same day as the swim and didn’t go in. So after bungling our way through an incredibly annoying website, we wound up with a place in the swim and, somehow, an order for a women’s size 14 t-shirt. Which would have been fine, if we were a size 14 woman, but we are not.

Fast forward to the day of the swim. It was balmy, with a 2-foot swell coming from behind the pier and a cross-shore wind cleaning up the waves. For the first time in days there was no smoke haze from the awful bushfires on the east coast. Nice conditions for the P2P and Lorne was displaying its natural beauty. We got there earlyish and somehow managed to (eventually) find a park, our cheesy little rent-a-car snuggled between the Range Rovers and the Mercedes.

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Noice, noice, noice. The morning of the Pier to Pub, from the Pub end.

Down to the registration where we were simultaneously impressed and appalled. Impressed, because we’ve never had an easier registration, and these guys have to deal with 5,000 swimmers, not 500. Appalled, because the whole crazy palaver was right there. There was media, and tents, and more tents, and people, thousands of people, and there was even a couple of cherry-pickers going up and down. We do not lie; people were lining up to pay even more $$$ to get in the cherry-pickers. It was all topped off by the never-ending ear-blasting blabber of the announcers in the media tent, who seemed to think that a second of silence was a pause too long.

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They paid $$$ for a ride in the cherry-pickers.

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The full palaver.

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Will someone please ask them to pause. Take a breath. Just for one minute. Please.

After rego there was plenty of time to wander round the main street, before moseying along the path to the pier. We were quite possibly the only one in our wave without a wettie. We couldn’t see anyone else, anyway. It made us feel a bit exposed, but, whatever. The water was 18 C or thereabouts, which is quite comfortable for a 1k swim, we reckon. In fact, there was a bit of chatter in the crowd about whether or not wetties were really warranted. But we didn’t see anyone taking them off.

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The march of the wettie-wearers.

The pier was the business end of things. Gone are the days when 100 or so swimmers just jumped off and swam to the beach. Instead, we became part of the thousands being progressively shovelled into a little enclosure, until the time came to shuffle down a ramp and into the sea. Then we had a couple of minutes to swim to the start, which was a line of buoys in front of the pier. A couple of paddlers were going up and down in front of the start line. We waited there, treading water, for a minute or so, then the paddlers moved out of the way, the gun went off and the whole 100-metre line of swimmers took off.

The whole experience felt remarkably like being in a horse race. Or at least, what we imagine being in a horse race is like. If we were a horse that swims.

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The start line.

It was a flurry of arms, legs, heads, feet and sea spray and we don’t know what got into us, but we started to race. Usually we’re pretty happy plodding around a course at whatever speed we feel like at the time, but today something had got into us. Maybe it was that we could see the finishing line from the starting line, or that it was basically just a straight line all the way to the beach, with the swell behind us, maybe there was some pride about being the only “skin” in a sea of wetties, or maybe it was just such an easy, joyful swim on a sunny day, we don’t know, but whatever it was, we went for it. We didn’t want to be stuck in that flurry of elbows for 1.2k, we wanted to be out in front of it. We have a reasonably strong stroke when we wish to apply it, and apply it we did.

And it was, indeed, a joyful swim. It was gorgeous. The view to the right was spectacular. We’ll never forget it. Every third stroke was an eyeful of the Otway Ranges, stretching for miles up the coast, at a right angle to our trajectory. Every 10 seconds or so we had the long, rolling swells push us along, then go past and away out in front, their backs sparkling in the sun on their way to the beach. On the left, the pub on top of the hill was gazing down upon us. The only disappointment was that the water wasn’t all that clear, which I guess was not too surprising given the number of swimmers going through it.

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Some sparkly little waves on the way in. 

As we got closer and closer to the beach, we kept our pace up, but we couldn’t lose the hairy bloke about 5 metres to the left, who seemed as determined as we were to stay just ahead of the main pack. We caught a bit of a wave on the way in, and he disappeared, either behind or ahead of us, we’re not sure which. Then it was out, a quick run up the beach, and after hours and hours of lead-up the whole thing was over in 22 minutes flat. It really was somewhat akin to the Melbourne Cup. 

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The finish and the carnival that is the P2P.

So, after all that, what would we say to any other skins who are contemplating this one? We would say, do it. Read the last paragraph on os.c’s swim summary page because he has it spot on. It’s expensive, but it’s an experience and it’s a bit different to any other swims we’ve been in. If nothing else, it’s worth it for the view to the right, and to admire the efficiency with which the whole thing gets done. Apart from the initial website debacle, the organisation was smooth, confident and faultless. Our wave was due to start at 13:15 and it started exactly at 13:15. You’d never have suspected that there had already been 12 other waves with lord knows how many other thousand swimmers either still in the water, going up the beach or coming down the ramp behind us.

Oh, and just a quick PS to any size 14 women … we’re very sorry, but there were no men’s t-shirts left, and the website would not let us book into the swim unless we had chosen a t-shirt of some kind, we don’t know why, we just wanted to book into the swim, not play some kind of internet guessing game, so we had to choose something out of what was left, and that was it. As it turned out it fits fairly well. Probably because the man-pecs that we were once so proud of have, to our undying horror, turned into man-boobs. Which we will not provide a photo of. No no no.

Glenn Muir

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