The Rhodesian Swimmer

Mona Vale Pool

Years ago somebody put names to those two boulders that define the way out off the Mona Vale pool when the conditions are too big to contemplate paddling out from the beach.

Fraught passage indeed is that route, especially when the whitewater sweeps its powerful way across the slippery fifty-foot runway that is the test of most of us youngsters as we sprint over that slick and mossy rock with only an eye for the sets we are missing and all the other timing gone to buggery in our haste to be out there.

Joe was one of the old men who always seemed to be in the pool doing slow laps those mornings, no matter what hour our early demanded of us.

Occasionally we two would meet and talk for an instant, him grabbing a breath at the top end of the pool and me timing the final squirt over the last fifty foot of rock platform in between the bigger sets.

The old boy had a slop sided grin and a big spark in his eye and my bet was he would have been a boardrider if he had ever had the chance as a lad.

Joe is about eighty five now and real slow at getting in and out of the car and the other day I bumped into him up at the Chemist in Mona Vale and after all the usual bullshit about howyezgoin mate etc etc he lined up for a serve of some painkiller or other to relieve the pain his bad back.

Chronic condition reckoned Joe.

Even slower now is this old swimmer, leaning heavy on a walking stick and thinned away to bone and shaky with age but keen to know if I’m still surfing.

Still out there riding the horizon?

He asks this with the old grin, he’s about eighty-five and even if I haven’t been out for a while I don’t tell him, he might be disappointed.

Then he put his big old Rhodesian farmer’s hand on my shoulder and squeezed it he did like an old mate would and just before we went our separate paths I asked him whether all that winter swimming was what did his back in.

‘ Not so ‘ said Joe, ‘ it was a couple of beatings I took in a German prison camp in Austria in WW2, they seemed to like hitting me with their rifles-butts from behind and I reckon now I’m paying the price for being a young smartarse.‘

‘ But you keep surfing you hear ‘