Always try to say yes (to open water swimming)
Tel Aviv, Yaron Davidi and Frank Turner’s wisdom
I love music; it’s nearly as important to me as swimming. A year ago I found myself listening to Frank Turner and a particular lyric caught my attention. In the song, Frank’s advice to a child is “always, always, always try to say ‘yes’”. I fully appreciate that only a lunatic would apply this wisdom to every aspect of life, but I decided to apply it to open water swimming.
I am fortunate to have a career involving international travel and it has taken me to some fantastic places around the world. Frank’s advice has led me to some amazing swim locations, but none as spectacular as my most recent adventure.
Before travelling to Israel, I sent some messages to an Israeli open water swim group on Facebook. The swimming community never fails to amaze me with their welcoming attitude. I received many kind replies and found myself chatting with Yaron Davidi, who is training for the English Channel this summer. Yaron invited me to join him for Channel training from Hazuk beach (pronounced ‘Hassoook’) in the north of Tel Aviv. I immediately applied ‘Frank’s logic’ and said ‘yes’ to this invite.
I arrived in Tel Aviv, checked into my ‘carefully selected hotel’ and took in the view from my room.
As you can see, I know a good hotel location when I see one! The pool in this shot is the Gordon Pool, a 50m sea pool that is emptied and filled every night. This is my new favourite pool in the world and is completely dedicated to swimmers that want to train, rather than people who stop annoyingly after each length to have a chat!
My alarm sounded at 5am local time (3am in my English head) and I dragged myself into action. I prepared for the morning’s swim with a packet of Oreo cookies from the mini bar and a strange coffee that tasted like hot water with a dash of sand for texture. My colleague explained to me that getting a taxi to a random beach in Israel, in the dark, to meet strangers is not a clever move… I respectfully disagreed and off I went.
I arrived at Hazuk beach and was greeted by a giant of a man with an equally giant smile – Yaron is ahead of me in his training and will be taking on the English Channel this summer. Without too many pleasantries, we donned our caps and goggles and waded into the sea (avoiding rocks by sliding like seals for the first 100 metres or so).
Yaron is a man of few words, and matter-of-factly declares that we are to swim 12km. Before I have time to protest we are off and swimming. Swimming with Yaron is very reassuring. If any beasties from the deep were hungry, I am pretty sure Yaron would send them packing! Yaron is also a very good swimmer and has a consistent metronome of a stroke. It will take some exceptionally nasty conditions in the Channel to stop this determined man from achieving his dream.
The early part of our swim was truly spectacular. Watching the sun come up from the sea in Tel Aviv is an awe inspiring sight and one that will be etched in my mind forever.
Our swim route took us from Hazuk Beach to Tel Baruch beach and back (twice), a total of 12.3km according to my watch. Yaron kindly provided feeds for the swim, which consisted of a Maltodextrose drink and a bag of dates. To be honest, my first thought was ‘Dates have a laxative effect don’t they?’, but I was hungry so took the risk and fortunately the call of nature did not arrive.
As with any long swim, I went through many thoughts including ‘I am invincible’, ‘My hips ache – maybe I am not invincible after all’, ‘When is the feed stop?’, and ‘I wonder if there are sharks here? –maybe I should have checked!’. But my overriding thought throughout the swim was ‘I am very lucky to have this opportunity’.
The swim came to an end and I don’t mind saying I was very pleased with myself. Almost all of my training and distance swimming to date has been in fresh water, so this swim was a real achievement. The salt water’s natural buoyancy and waves made for a great learning experience. I threw on my trusty Team Selkie Sherpa to warm up and was presented with another unidentifiable warm beverage. This was a definite improvement on the coffee that had started my day, but was not ‘tea’ as suggested.
After the swim, I met some of Yaron’s friends who had completed a Channel relay last year… more great people and more evidence that our sport is the best out there.
I am looking forward to more adventures and will continue to embrace Frank Turner’s advice.