January 22 - 28, 2017: Issue 297

Peninsular Rock Pools

Peninsular Rock Pools

By Selena Griffith

Today was one of those languid end of January days, hot, intermittent drizzle, vainly anticipating a southerly to deliver some relief. It never came. On Monday I’m returning to work after one of those very blissful Christmas / New Year periods where the days blend into each other and you don't need to know their order or name. Emails from colleagues, that need attention, began dribbling through last week.  I’ve been writing and editing a technical academic book for the last two days. Twenty chapters, thirty authors – all have, frustratingly, interpreted the style guide differently so it’s been a chore. Time to hit the reset button to bring my brain back into focus. One of my favourite ways to do this is to swim in the ocean pool near us. Something I particularly like to do when it’s raining. My best chance to have the usually busy pool to myself. 

It’s lightly raining. Perfect!  I eat dinner and head to the pool. Tonight the sky out to sea is a dark, rich steely blue populated by moody clouds. As I round the bend to the pool I’m met by a double rainbow, intense coloured bands arching out of the pool and back bending to meet the headland to the north. The water is refreshingly cool as I wade in and begin my laps. I start with breaststroke so I can watch the rain drops bounce and run along on the velvety illusion of the water. I reach the end of the pool and back stroke back so I can keep an eye on the rainbow as the sky begins to clear turning all sots of pinks, yellows, oranges and purples – if you painted it you would be accused of being kitsch. 

Lap 3 is breast stroke again- keeping an eye on the rainbow still -  I recall a great book by Caroline Ford, about the beaches of Sydney, discussing the historical, economic, social and cultural value they bring our city. I bought a copy when I was serving on Sydney Coast Councils Executive to learn more about how these pools came to be.

Lap 4 I’m floating on my back reminiscing being very pregnant with my first child and finding relief on hot February nights at Bilgola pool. Years later I was standing in Mona Vale pool with her on a hot, full moon evening watching sand worms swimming in the water when a rock octopus climbed right up her leg!

Lap 5 Time to actually do some swimming – freestyle – thinking about all the wonderful local volunteers who teach our kids to swim at Narrabeen, Collaroy and Bilgola.

Lap 6 More freestyle remembering that day, three years ago, when I woke the kids up early with a mission to swim in every rock pool from North Narrabeen to Palm Beach. We did it! We also managed a couple of the ones on Pittwater side too! My daughter though that Whale beach was so beautiful with all the stone work and my son loved Newport because of stones stacked in cairns around the pool .

Lap 7 The sky is turning blue and gold to the West and peach and pink to the East.  I recall conversations with artists, writers and poets, from a project I curated at Eramboo, discussing how they swim every day at Avalon. The pool is where they have their best ideas, meet up for chats and collaborations. 

Lap 8 My time alone at the pool is about to end. A young couple walks toward it hand in hand to enjoy the sunset. To my relief they keep walking out to the rock shelf and I keep my solitude as the water reflects gold, purple and blue. I have seen so many weddings photographed here. It truly is a beautiful location. May I never become complacent about appreciating it.  

Lap 9 The penultimate lap. Freestyle. Someone once confided in me that they swim at the pool at Palm Beach in summer to eavesdrop on businessmen and bankers in the hope of investment tips. If that fails there is always the possibility of a celebrity sighting or two that they can dine out on.

Lap 10 A lazy Australian crawl back to the steps. Everything is still. In contrast to those summer cold water, king tide days where you can be adventurous and hold onto the chains as the swell comes through.

Our peninsular accommodates more than half the ocean pools in Sydney, most built in the time of The Depression to provide work for the unemployed. Each one has its own stories and idiosyncrasies. They have served generations of locals and visitors. Explore them this summer.

North Narrabeen Pool

Extra: Pittwater's Ocean Beach Rock Pools: Southern Corners Of Bliss - A History