1000 Sunday Swims

Triumph for Fr Greg Trythall. Photo by Carl Tracey.

Blue skies and clear water greeted Father Greg Trythall on Sunday morning 28 December when he notched up 1000 consecutive Sunday swims in Australian waters with a 200 metre swim at Williamstown.

Nine-hundred and nintey-nine down, one to go.

Nine-hundred and nintey-nine down, one to go.

Father Greg entered the water just before 7am and swam freestyle out to the western buoy and back.

Millenium approaching.

Millenium of Sunday swims approaching, with Rick Powell accompanying.

The odyssey began in November 1994. “I tried to form a habit by swimming 10 Sundays in a row. Then after trying for 20 somehow along the way I tried for 50, then 100. And the rest is history.”

More than 700 of the swims were at Torquay, where Greg was the parish priest for many years. (“I swam at the front beach, not the surf beach.”)

Over 50 of the swims have been in the warm waters of Byron Bay, where Greg spends his annual holidays.

And just over 200 of the swims have been at Williamstown, where Greg has been St Mary’s parish priest since April 2010.

Williamstown.

“There were also two Sunday swims in Perth, in 1998 and 2008, during the National Council of Priests bi-annual Conference. And one Sunday I swam at the beautiful Yamba beach in Northern New South Wales.

“ In May 2003 I left Australia for six months sabbatical leave and had already notched up 443 swims not out since November 1994.  When I was about to return to Australia, I realized that I had not missed any Sunday swims in Australia since 1994. Rightfully I could continue where I left off as I had not missed one while in Australia.”

Greg’s pattern of swimming is almost every Wednesday and Friday during year, but never miss a 7am Sunday swim before church services.

“While overseas on sabbatical in 2003 and again in 2010 and following the footsteps of Jesus, the footsteps of St Paul and the footsteps of the Australian soldier (as a former National Service man 1968-1970) I swam at: Gallipoli (37 degree day), Sharm El Sheik(45 degree day) El Alamein (perfect blue waters), and Alexandra (with about 2,000,000 Egyptians).”

Greg has also swum at Xlendi in Gozo, Malta, the Dead Sea, the Black Sea, the Red Sea. France, Honolulu, and Maui.

A worldly swimmer.

A worldly swimmer.

“At one stage I had worked out I had swum from A- Z, with Z being Zeally Bay, on the Geelong side of the Torquay front beach.”

Amongst Father Greg’s well wishers (his acquatic apostles?) on Sunday was his Torquay mate Carl Tracey, who left his home at 5am to witness the achievement. Carl, a keen surfer, brought not only his good wishes and friendship, but congratulatory signs.

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

“I first realized the value of the sea as a teenager from Footscray,” recalled Father Greg, “when my parents and I would come down to Williamstown beach.”

When the family move to Parkdale, in Melbourne’s southern beach suburbs, Greg found swimming good for counteracting hayfever and eczema.

“Although I love the effects of the beach and the great feeling of wellbeing on the days that you swim, my main love affair has been with sport. I’ve been a former runner, boxer, footballer, cricketer and squash player. At 67, my sporting passion is now golf.

“It is a pity I was never taught technique in swimming. Accordingly, I have always been a relatively poor swimmer. I only swim about 100 to 200 metres each time I have a dip. The last time I swam the Lorne Pier to Pub, in 1990, I took pride in the fact that I came third in my category of over 40s: that is, I was third last!”

Carl and Greg, and congratulatory message from the Willy Dolphins.

Carl and Greg, and congratulatory message from the Willy Dolphins.

“ When you know the health benefits of the swimming and one has got into the habit then even winter cannot stop one if there is sufficient motivation and self discipline. Even saying that, there are those once or twice occasions during the year, and it is one of the coldest, wettest, windiest days and the seawater looks dirty for  some reason, then though you are changing on the foreshore, it would be very easy just to spit the dummy!

“ On those days I might start singing some song just to get my mind off the sheer cold of the conditions, like ‘ Zippety do da zippety day, my o my what a wonderful day!’ Or other old songs like ‘ If you knew Susie like I know Susie, oh what a wonderful girl.’ Usually no one else is around!

“My toughest swims have probably been the nights after the Saturday night wedding receptions when I have had a few drinks, or the night after the annual debutante balls that the Parish of Grovedale/ Torquay use to have year in and year out. Even on those days I always felt better for the swim and I believed I always treated people better because of it.

“Spiritually the only main reason I have kept on swimming every Sunday is that I have always valued the work I am able to do for people as a priest. I value my job so much that I believe being happy and enthusiastic in it is my number one priority. Running and swimming have always been a means to and end and that is being at the top of my game in being healthy and enthusiastic for a job I have felt a calling to do for people.”

“If one is unhappy or lacking enthusiasm then I am not much benefit to people who are grieving and want me to perform a good job for their loved one at a funeral.

“Likewise, we have had 67 weddings at St Mary’s Williamstown in 2014. I am no good to young couples if I am a boring, tired or sick old man!”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“I am not a strong enough swimmer to join more capable swimmers. I sometimes envy their abilities or great technique but I am basically more than happy with my own lot in life. One would like to be a great singer or musician or dancer. I applaud others with those abilities and thank a higher power for my own good gifts, without wishing to be the most liked or the best looking or the most intelligent!

“I am a poor swimmer but consistent!”

Next Sunday Father Greg will be back in the water again. “I’ll see if I can do 10 Sundays in a row. Don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

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Kevin’s year of verse

Kevin Moran unveiled his annual Willy Dolphin poem at the Willy Dolphins’ annual breakfast on Monday morning, 22 December, at the Rotunda.

Rotunda Cafe, Williamstown

I will share with you the chatter that went on throughout the year; the topics didn’t matter because none of it was clear. Messages by email, floated through cyber space; egos couldn’t be frail, it was about saving face.

Some jibes were insulting, others a slur; some sounded funny, adding a stir. Feathers were ruffled with “chooks on the block”; suggesting that others might be a coft sock. Names were called and challenges invited; it was clear, they were getting excited.

We discovered new poets and writers of prose; all very clever, as far as that goes. Tom was deep, which surprises, quoting wild wind and beautiful sunrises. The Willy Lit Fest sparked even more verse, the situation was getting worse. Lester penned enlightened prose, of the swimmers, whom he knows. He sent “home remedies” and health tips and updated news of his overseas trips.

The Big Bay swim was on the agenda; Tom would swim well if he was not on a bender. Lester was timid, didn’t think he’d survive; out in the sewer, where the jellyfish thrive.

After the swim on Australia Day; having a barbie is our special way, of celebrating a great occasion; to be reminded by the owners, it was an invasion.

Away from the beach we socialize; exchanging rumours that tantalise. One of note is of a flirt; labeled as “grandpa chasing a skirt”. He played Cupid, which may seem nice, but then he had to pay a price. Of the evils, which is lesser – upset a friend; or, lose your hairdresser.

Beach photo

We all lined up for the photo snap, when someone asked, “Who’s that chap?” – The line up on the shore that day, featured more than one odd stray. Mark came up with a scheme, to have T shirts with a theme. Willy Dolphins was selected; they just cost more than expected

Many events occurred in May; one was that the buoy got away. It hadn’t floated out of reach, recovery found it on the beach. Dan took shots when he came down, Vin declaring, “The buoy is back in town”.

Winter came with a blow and it saw absences grow. Kimba was the first we missed, and then Tom went on the list. By July the morning chill, was a test of the will. Pam persevered, so we are told and wore rubber gloves, to beat the cold. Then Search and Rescue one foggy day, stopped Chop heading down the bay. Pam saw a duck, or so she thought; wearing a snorkel, Vin was caught.

The lure of the islands took its toll; as Dolphins were struck from the roll. Dolphins travelled far and near; with regularity they’d disappear. Moonlit lagoons and places exotic saw Lester dress up in something erotic. Dancing around, “what an old tart” romance of the Solomons stole his heart.

His absence was long, and duly noted; his risqué emails often quoted. He added Hawaii to his travel plan, to see daughter Rosie win an ironman. Bali attracted Paul and Pam, while Kevin coffeed in Viet-nam. Chop played in Phuket a while; all returned with a smile. But John’s warm wishes from hot places left us with sad, long faces.

Rice fields in Sapa

Rice fields in Sapa, Vietnam

A pair of comedians in dressing gowns pranced around like a pair of clowns. They weren’t in for long as they felt the pain, you can be sure we won’t see them again.

Pat tipped an ice bucket on his head, accepting the challenge is what he said. He put it to Kev, who did the same, out of fun to play the game. Vin posted a blog to spread about town, saying “one warming up and one cooling down”.

PaddyIceBucket2

The early dawns are always topical, now palm trees make it look tropical.

With the year now at an end, we wish happiness to you my friend.

Quoting Tom of what he might say, “The sunrise paints the start of another day.”

 

Williamstown beach

 

– Kevin Moran, 22 December 2014

Close to the sea

Man at beach

Photo by Karen van Wyngaarden

He wakes up at dawn. Puts on his togs. Pulls on his Willy Dolphins windcheater. Slips on his thongs. Drapes a towel around his neck. Collects swimming cap and goggles.

Walks out the door. Down the laneway, across the Esplanade. Less than a minute.

He pulls off his windcheater. Slips off his thongs. Takes off his towel. Places them by the steps where Roundy used to leave his shorts and t-shirt and runners.

Into the water. Not out to the buoys. Not in the shallows. In-between. Dee enough. Strong swimmer. Knows this water. Knows this beach. The sand, the rocks, the fish. The past. The present. The temperature.

A man close to the sea.

The Pink Dressing Gown Edition

Comedians Damian Callinan and Mickey D visited Willy beach on Wednesday morning 18 June, as part of their intensive research into their Road Trip show. They arrived in style, wearing pink (salmon?) dressing gowns. After introductions to the Willy Dolphins, Damian plunged into the shallows with much grace and flair. Mickey D, despite Andrew Featherston’s encouragement, barely dipped his toes into the mildly cold water. (14 degrees.)

That evening Damian and Mickey D presented Road Trip at the Williamstown Mechanics’ Institute to an audience of locals who enjoyed having a good laugh at themselves. As well as their beach adventure, the duo visited Blunt’s Boatshed, the Titanic and the Altona market, picnicked by the Altona refineries,  dobbed goals from the boundary at the Morris St ground, challenged Geoff van Wyngaarden to a quiz about the suburb, and asked  shoppers about the Nelson Place development (“How about a giant coffee shop down there? There aren’t enough coffee shops in Willy. Or hairdressers.”).

 

Damian and Mickey D’s Road Trip National Tour

Dolphins on sand

Beach photo

Friday 30 May. Photo by Ray. Poem by Tom.

Standing captured for ever under grey skys

Clearly this swimming caper not a youngster’s game

The Dolpins on sand bringing together a disparate group

Commonality in the clear salt water and the daily stories unfurled

Whether it be the sea in all its mystery or personal tale

Dolphins rarely leave the beach without a smile and a friendly word

An ongoing daily dance as we plunge or wade into the bay

We would have it no other way. The sunrise paints the start of another day

 

Tom Cannon

The Willy Dolphins Swimsuit Edition

Willy Dolphins

The Willy Dophins lined up for their inaugural photo shoot on Friday 30 May, just after a month of mild weather and just before the official start of the winter-to-winter swimming season. Many thanks to photographer Ray (a mate of Pat’s) and to Andrew  for organising the whole shebang. Not all the Dolphins could attend – maybe we’ll have a full house for the T-shirt photo shoot.

Here’s a recent  poem by Kevin.

Save the bay

Upon the shore at Willy Beach, you can spy hearty souls swim out of reach

All year long each and every morn, they take a plunge before the dawn

In winter time their numbers thin, but the dedicated still have their swim

The Willy Dolphins have a cause and ask the litterers to take a pause

We like the water crystal clear and free of rubbish throughout the year

The rubbish dropped at your feet finds the drains in the street

It travels on to a creek or stream and finds the bay it would seem

So think of us when you throw away, use a bin and save the bay.

 

 

And here’s a poem by Tom

Rain

I wasn’t on a plane nor in Spain

It chased me as my hands rhythmically stroked the still sea

Flying forward into darkness no beacon to guide my heart working

Pushing me into the unkown but out there is my direction

I can glimpse the lights just across the bay

The rain continues  I turn my face to the sky my lips open tasting wetness

Then I plunge deep into the depths chasing nothing but myself

Day 365 – not drowning, waving goodbye

Day 365   Saturday 1 June 2013

Exit sign at Williamstown beach

No marching bands. No media mayhem. No merchandise. Not surprising, really.

365 Swims completed its less-than-epic year of dips at 7.30 last Saturday morning, the first day of winter.

Walter and I huffed and puffed through the water and the rain as far as the Forster Street rocks, and then back again, followed by breakfast at the Rotunda, overlooking the water and the rain. (And, appropriately, there was a swimmer out near the buoys.)

Karen (the swimmer of darkness) and her son Jack arrived just as we were leaving, Karen mentioning she is counting the days to the winter solstice, after which  the mornings will, incrementally, begin to lighten.

I’ll keep going for a daily  dip but the 365 Swims blog has run its course. Time  to concentrate on music, sport and life in general.

Thanks to everyone for your company, comments, and  contributions.  They have been very much appreciated.

It’s been fun. I wish you all the best.

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