Category Archives: Ocean Beach

No 48: Malabar – A winter solstice beach (25 June 2017)

In 2014 I heard a story on the radio about ceremonies people create for themselves. A caller described a women’s winter solstice ceremony she had been conducting for years. The Winter Solstice, marking the moment when more light begins to fill your days, is the beginning of a new cycle and a nadir. The caller’s ceremony involved letting go of the past year – which I then sorely needed to do.

I had then run my worst turn around the sun to date and was, finally, starting to recover. I’ve missed marking the solstice in 2015 (I was in the northern hemisphere) and 2016 (I was focussed on other things), but this year I’ve returned to the idea and set off on a glorious winter’s day to beach number 48, Malabar.

I like how the demographics on the bus shift as I travel from home to beach. From the city to the University of New South Wales we are a mixed crowd leaning East Asian, from UNSW to Kensington mostly East Asian, from Kensington to Maroubra moving towards working-class whites and Southern Europeans. Beyond Maroubra – mostly working-class whites with maybe a few Aboriginals as well.

Malabar has a strange not-in-Sydney vibe – it feels like it could be a down the South Coast someplace … a village between the ‘Gong and Kiama. A row of old-school 1950s – 1970s family homes face the rich blue inlet and the undeveloped green headland to the north.

This is an ocean beach but set at the back of Long Bay and the big waves just don’t reach the shore. When the water is clean enough to swim in (which it isn’t always) it’s a great spot for a lazy paddle.

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I’ve come with my pocket datebooks of the last year. On most days, I’ve recorded three short bullet-points – an event, my mood, the weather, a movie I saw or book I finished reading, that sort of thing.

The sea is a saturated indigo, the sky pale cerulean. The park behind the beach is filled with families, the barbeques in high demand. I sit on a bench facing the beach and, accompanied by the metronomic squeak of a child being pushed in a swing, review my year. One day’s snapshot after another. It takes nearly an hour.

Looking up from my task I notice two frolicking naked 3-year old children – a boy and a girl – and think “I love Australia”. Shame about our bodies is a learned thing. And until they learn it and stop wanting to run around naked, let kids be free – it’s lovely that these kids haven’t had embarrassment and fear imposed on them. People see people in public and think what they will think – it does no harm (predators who act do harm). That the parents of these kids are, themselves, unashamed of their naked children and not fearful that someone might be masturbating in the bushes or about to swoop in to snatch their kids, makes me happy.

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I retire to the Malabar Beach Café for the writing of the Lists – one of all the worst things that happened this past year: the disappointment of a thing not working out with a man, the long search for work, the unexplained silence of a friend, the outcome of the US election, boredom & uncertainty. And then a list of all the best things: that I maintained old and developed new friendships, became a baseball fan again and attended games, that I met my birth mother and her family, the excitement and pleasure when I thought the thing with the man might work out, getting involved in the Women’s March in Sydney, and finally landing a job.

All those things – the good and the bad – are done. They are equally behind me – I can let them all slip into the past today and begin afresh.

I walk to the northern end of the beach and prepare to burn the paper – first the bad, then the good. All the best rituals involve fire. But the paper won’t light – it just smoulders and chars. Rather than take this as a bad sign I move to an alternative. I tear them into little pieces and fling them into the sea. (Actually, I discreetly sprinkle them in an area from which I hope they will quickly be washed away from the beach.) Frankly, it’s not as satisfying as fire – I’ll have to prepare better next year.

Ceremony finished, I go for a walk on the Malabar Headland.  I am passed by two teenagers on bicycles. When they get to the sign for the National Park which says “No bicycles” the boy urges the girl to ignore it, “who’s going to be checking? Come on” he pleads. She refuses – nope, not going to do it, it’s not about being caught it’s about the rule. I like the strength of the girl’s refusal to do what the boy wants – I think that bodes well for her.

Not much further along a couple in their 50s or 60s, difficult to say as they have clearly lived hard, pass in the opposite direction talking of the wisdom and regrets of age.

I think about the lifetime of experiences between the rule breaking teenage boy and the craggle-faced man with regrets. I think about how distant the man’s age must seem to the boy and how near the boy’s age may seem to the man. Time is a funny thing.

Malabar and its beach from the National Park
Malabar and its beach from the National Park
Ancient rocks, endless sea
Ancient rocks, endless sea

The last time I did this Solstice ceremony I had feelings of lightness and release, unexpected but real. Today I’m trying to feel those things – and am sort of succeeding: being in the moment, breathing in big lungfuls of clean air, watching the sea. But, it’s not quite as good as the first time. Then I was farewelling a momentously bad year, while this one just past has been … well, just a year really. Better than some, worse than others. Even if the ceremony is about putting things behind and moving fresh into the new year – the reality is life is a continuum and the effects of the last year will continue.

Time, in the end, is like the the sea, it keeps rolling in – today, right now, both are steady and calm.

And that’s okay too – it’s been a gorgeous day and I’ve enjoyed reviewing and letting go.

The wreck of the MV Malabar
The wreck of the MV Malabar

Malabar is not named for the region of India but after a ship, the MV Malabar which shipwrecked on Miranda Point on 2 April 1931. Europeans, since arriving in the area in the 1860s – had called the suburb either Brand or Long Bay, the latter still naming the nearby prison.

Wiki says that the area had been a camping location for the original Indigenous residents. There are said to be carvings on the headland and that a rock overhang on the south side of Long Bay was used as a shelter for Aboriginal people suffering from smallpox in the late 1700s. An English historian wrote in 1882 that Aboriginal people referred to Long Bay as ‘Boora’. Scraps, all we have are tiny scraps from a once thriving culture and the few strong descendants of the survivors of a horrible, horrible injustice trying to hold on to what remains and piece together some of what was lost.

In the 2016 census Malabar was home to 5,420 people of whom 64.8% were male – I’m guessing the prison population is skewing that statistic as the state is only 49.3% male. 359 (6.6%) Malabar residents are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders heritage. 67% were born in Australia with England as the top overseas location with 3.5%. One-third had one or both parents born overseas (England, the top location). 1,925 (35.5%) show their religious affiliation as Not Stated (again, I think that’s the prisoners as state wide it was 9.2% – 1,920 did not state their education level as well – state wide 23%). Catholic came next with 26.5%. The top language, other than English, was Greek for 90 people or 1.7%

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Malabar is 12.3 km (7.6 miles) from home.

Malabar is in the local government area of the City of Randwick, the State Electorate of Maroubra (Labor – Michael Daley), and the Federal division of Kingsford-Smith (Labor, Matt Thistlethwaite) (prior to Matt this was the seat held by Peter Garrett, presently touring the world with Midnight Oil).

Long Time a Coming – Long Reef (No. 47*: 16 April 2017)

You’d almost think I’d grown weary of this project given how slowly I’ve returned to it after my time away, but that’s not it at all. I continue to love the idea but sometimes it just becomes hard to get there.

No 47: Long Reef ... slowly, slowly
No 47: Long Reef … slowly, slowly

While unemployed, my weekends weren’t a break from my labours – I could just as easily search for jobs at the weekend as any other time. Even if I wasn’t looking for work at the weekends I felt the pressure that, perhaps, I could be, I should be.  While unemployed, I was also more conscientious of spending money and felt that if I stayed close to home I’d spend less than if I went to the beach. That may not be true, but that’s how I felt.

So, I’ve been meaning to get to Long Reef for weeks but now that I am again professionally employed in a 9-5, Monday to Friday kind of way – it’s finally time.

It’s Easter Sunday and a cracker of a day: blue sky, light breeze, hot for April but not scorching. Australians being Australians are flocking to their chosen places of worship: the beach, the footy grounds, and other places of recreation and beer. I’m heading for the Manly Ferry – such a perfect day for it.

I walk through the picnickers and off-leash dogs in Hollis Park on my way to Macdonaldtown Station where I join a trainload of Sydney’s diversity for the ride into the city. At Circular Quay, I make my way through the throngs to Wharf 3 – where I find there are enough passengers queued to fill a ferry and a half. I guess I’ll take the bus.

From Wynyard Station I get a limited-stops bus which drops me at Collaroy Beach in about 40 minutes, from there I catch a local bus back two stops and pop into Outpost Espresso for a pick-me up.

It’s nearly 2 pm, and closing time, the only other customers are a salty, sandy, end-of-summer bronzed family of five getting milk shakes and iced lattes.

I find myself in a state of joyful liberation because I am employed and it is Sunday and there’s nothing I must do. I have employment and pay coming around the corner – so, no worries.

With this feeling of lightness, I set off for the walk past the golf club and Fisherman’s Beach (No 27 – visited in April 2013). Around Long Reef Point the footpath is crowded with families and couples. A paraglider is circling on the breeze, casting the occasional shocking shadow – like a giant raptor looking for prey. The sea is an autumn steel blue and crashing into the rocks below. I turn the corner and eye Long Reef Beach from its tucked-in northern end sweeping south and melding into Dee Why Beach (No 21 – visited February 2012).

Looking south from Long Reef point to Long Reef Beach and Dee Why beyond
Looking south from Long Reef point to Long Reef Beach and Dee Why beyond

 

Walking on Long Reef Beach
Walking on Long Reef Beach

I walk up the beach to the flagged area, plant myself near the Surf Lifesavers marquee and survey my fellow beach-goers. They are mostly white, mostly local – I’m guessing. There are a lot of families, a few clusters of teenagers, a smattering of couples. A toddler with caramel skin, curly locks and nothing but her Manly Sea Eagles bottoms on – dashes, laughing, away from her Surf Lifesaver father, who is trying to wrap her in a towel.

The sea is a bit dumpy and the flags are planted narrowly together so it is through a crowd I wade into the surf. The water is cool but I grow used to it, dunking my whole self beneath a folding wave and I’m happy to bob in the power of the ocean for a wee bit while dodging little kids on boogie boards and full-grown men body surfing into shore.

I realise I have not been in the open ocean – not a bay or harbour – since before I left for my Midlife Gap Year. Anywhere. I visited some on my ride home to Sydney from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland but for one reason or another didn’t swim at any of them. Admittedly I’m a bit intimidated by the surf – as a native of the American Midwest I came to ocean swimming late in life and being dependent on glasses to have clear vision – the power and mystery of rips and waves unsettle me. The last ocean beach I visited as part of this project was No. 31 Freshwater back in January 2014 – wow.

Autumn, Sydney-style.
Autumn, Sydney-style.

Wet and sea-salty I take up a position on the beach in the sun and enjoy the warmth of the autumn sun – generally more pleasant than Sydney’s often bitingly hot summer sun. It’s already late afternoon and I don’t stay long – but it’s been a lovely day for it and I’m glad I got to Long Reef before the beach season ends.

Long Reef was part of the homeland of the Dharug people, probably, before European invasion of Australia. The commonly used name, by Europeans, for the people who had been living in this area is Guringai, however, it now seems this is not what the people who lived here called themselves. Some rock engravings done by these people remain in the area.

European settlement began in 1815 when William Cossar (a master shipbuilder) was granted some 500+ acres (200+ hectares) including Long Reef. By 1825 it was in the hands of James Jenkins, a former convict who had been transported in 1802 for stealing sheep. His eldest child, Elizabeth, had inherited land in North Narrabeen in 1821 and with the 1825 acquisition, the Jenkins family owned all of the foreshore form Mona Vale to Dee Why. At the extent of their holdings they had 1800 acres (728 hectares).

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 Long Reef is 24 kilometres (15 miles) from home.

For census purposes it’s in Collaroy, which was, in 2011 home to 14,388 people of whom 50, or 0.4%, identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Conversely, 110 residents listed the United States as their country of birth. So there are more than twice as many Americans in Collaroy as there are Indigenous Australians.

It’s in the Northern Beaches Council local government area, the state electorate of Wakehurst (Liberal – Brad Hazzard), and federal division of Mackellar (Liberal – Jason Falinski).

*The next beach in the alphabetical list is actually Little Patonga – another Pittwater beach needing a boat. Four of those have now been set aside to be visited in one weekend out on the water, eventually: Gunyah (Brooklyn) No 35, Hallets No 37, Hungry No 39, and Little Patonga No 46.

No 31: Freshwater Beach – 5 January 2014

I would have posted Freshwater sooner but I got distracted by Duke Kahanamoku.

Kahanamoku, a native-Hawaiian, Olympic swimming champion and sometime-movie star, is credited with introducing board surfing to Australia.  Australia without surfing is unimaginable; surfing culture is, to many, synonymous with Australian culture.  Board surfing surly would have arrived by another route but we can credit Duke for surfing starting when it did and where it did – Freshwater Beach, Christmas Eve, 1914.

This from a report in The Daily Telegraph of 25 December 1914:

Going out into the water some distance, the Hawaiian laid full length on the board, and, waiting for an inrolling wave, he propelled himself beachwards with his hands.
As the roller gathered momentum, he raised himself on to his knees, then stood up, and rode gracefully for a considerable distance.

Duke surfing Freshwater as depicted in the Daily Tele on Christmas Day 1914.

When Laura and I arrive at Freshwater the local denizens are readying for Duke’a Day, which is to be held the following Saturday.

The beach itself is utterly chock-a-block.  I haven’t been to Freshwater often but I’d never seen it this crowded.  At a guess there were a thousand people there.  Swimmers, including a great gaggle of children, are massed between the flags with more filling the rock pool at the northern end of the beach.  Surfers fill the rolling waves at the south end.

It’s steamily hot in the sun and I cower beneath my beach umbrella.  New arrivals wander about looking for an empty spot to make their own.  The waves land rhythmically on the shore with a sprinkling of excited children’s voices greeting each arrival.

I go for a dip.  This will be the last surf beach for a while and I can’t avoid getting in it.  I wish I had grown up with surf and had learned to read the ocean and feel comfortable with its power.  Without my glasses I’m not blind but I can’t see well and that undermines my confidence in the sea.  So I don’t spend long in the surf – I fight with the muscles of my legs and torso against the pull and push of the current, the power of a wave knocks me off balance.  It’s all good but it’s also enough.

We finish our visit to Freshwater with a coffee at the Pilu kiosk.

Although a land grant was made in 1818 by Governor Macquarie the area wasn’t really settled by Europeans until the 1880s.  From 1900 a working-men-only camp was established at the beach with tents soon giving way to huts.  After World War I working-class families began establishing camps in the area.  In the early 1920s the camps were viewed as disreputable by the local burghers – they were particularly concerned with those who flowed in at the weekends.  They lobbied to have the destination sign-board on buses coming to the area to read ‘Harbord’ rather than ‘Camp City’.  The beach didn’t regain the name Freshwater until 1980.

Freshwater marks the northern end of the Manly-Freshwater World Surfing Reserve which was declared on 10 March 2012.  Its one of only five reserves so-dedicated worldwide, the others are: Malibu, USA; Ericeira, Portugal; Santa Cruz, USA and Huanchaco, Peru.

Freshwater Beach 30 kilometers (18 miles) from home.  It’s in the Warringah Council Local Government Area; the Manly State Electorate (Mike Baird, Liberal); and the Warringah Federal Division (Tony Abbott, Liberal).

Mateship means helping each other with the sunscreen.
Deceptively peaceful … thousands await over the horizon.

Distant Memories of Fishermans Beach (No 27 – 28 April 2013)

These beaches – the ones in this gap, the ones I visited during my old life, I had to wait to do them because I didn’t need anything extra to make me sad.

Now, however, it’s been so long (it’s now October 2014) I am the opposite of sad. I’m really very happy in my life and looking forward to the future. Going back to these beaches is now just sort of a pain in the ass rather than a pain in the heart. I don’t care. It doesn’t hurt to look at the pictures so much as it makes me gaze with wonder at this life of old.

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Now it’s a matter of just getting them done – the one’s without notes are difficult because I need to scratch away the barnacles and try to remember something of day.

Here’s what I can recall … it was warm but with something a bit cool in the breeze. We again collected Sabra for the journey north. I’d never been to Fishermans and it proved a weird sort of beach. It’s an ocean beach but not a surfing beach – there was a diving class going on, and there were – not surprisingly – fishermen.

We sat, we swam, we watched for the scuba divers. We went for a walk around Long Reef Headland and had coffees at Outpost Espresso – which I remember as good.

 

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Fishermans Beach is in Collaroy which is the Warringah Council LGA, Wakehurst State Electorate (Brad Hazzard, Liberal) and Mackeller Federal Division (Bronwyn Bishop, Liberal).

Aeroplanes and Surfing Nippers – Number 25: Eloura Beach (23 March 2013)

Another beach from under the shadows of last year … no picture to depict this as Number 25 because while I won’t remove pictures of Mitch from this blog, nor will I add any. Enjoy.

The best beach day all year, maybe, and here we are nearly to April. It’s already biting hot at 10:30, not oppressively hot but the hot that sends you into the surf, then back to your towel, then into the surf again.


The nippers have just wrapped up their session and the coach is talking with them and their parents; they’re the little ones – five and six year olds. When the official session is complete a Surf Life Saver takes a few of them, one at a time, out on the board to the buoy. A girl, who couldn’t be more than five, paddles all the way out by herself and rides in on the waves. I’m impressed and a little jealous. I’m neither that competent nor confident in the surf at 44. I was raised next to a giant lake which was frozen during part of each year – what should I know of surf?

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When we flew in over these waters a few weeks ago from our weekend away in Tasmania the sea had that hard gun-metal blue hue of autumn but it had been but a tease. Summer temperatures have returned and with it the sparkle, sparkle aqua blue of a shimmering summery sea. Gentle, simple waves break. I try bodysurfing into shore – missing a few waves before I catch one just right and I glide into the beach, head high and pushed by the eternal force of the ocean.

Eloura is the moniker attached to a stretch of beach between North Cronulla and Wanda beaches. My mate Adam warned me there’s not much here, but a good beach. When he moved to Australia from Boston as a little kid this was his beach, it’s where he learned to surf and that’s a big deal for an Australian.

Eloura is a beach without distinguishing features but its nice and full of people: families, teenagers, older couples. To our south the white and cream apartments of the Shire’s residents crowd the shore to snare their sea-views. Off to our north, the oil refinery of Kurnell and the aeroplanes appearing and disappearing behind the dunes lends an urban air.

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Eloura is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘pleasant place’.  It is 22.3 kilometres (16 miles) from home.

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Elouera is in the Southerland Shire LGA; the State Electoral District of Cronulla (Mark Speakman, Liberal) and the Federal Division of Cook (Scott Morrison, Liberal).

No 21: Dee Why Beach — 5 February 2012

A more-or-less perfect beach day was predicted for Sunday: mostly sunny and 28 degrees.  Although I was spending Thursday and Friday in Canberra at a bicycle tourism conference I put out a call for at least one beach-goer to join us.  We had reached 21 and would need a hand to make it work.

Things didn’t look good, we’d received a lot of regretful ‘no’s.  Then a twinkle of hope on Saturday from L1 and another from Dave M.  The day dawned perfect — sunny, warm – like Sydney’s entire summer had come at once.  L1 bailed but Dave was up for it so off we went.

We rode our bicycles to Burwood Station, caught the train to Wynard Station and got the L85 bus north to Dee Why.

Dee Why is just about 30 kilometres or 18.5 miles from our home.

From the bus stop on Pittwater Road down to the beach is about a 10 minute walk through a residential neighbourhood dominated by low-slung red brick flats from the 1970s and ‘80s.

Jim has often said, as we drive through Dee Why, that Dee Why is the Marrickville of the Northern Beaches.  I see what he means is that it is a bit more multicultural and a little less well off.  Or, as Dave would put it later in the day, ‘a bit of a ghetto and hot-spot for street crime’ – pointing out the main bus interchange as a place where a lot of robbery and fighting happens.
Can’t say it reminded me much of Marrickville but for having similar style flats which were, as some are in Marrickville, a little over lived-in: lots of stuff on balconies, furniture-sized rubbish left behind on the kerb by departing residents, etc.

Dee Why is a lovely beach.  A grassy reserve with playground hugs the beach.  The park slopes down from the headland to the south which divides Dee Why from North Curl Curl – a lush green parkland with a healthy towering row of Norfolk Island pines.  A local road divides the beach and reserve from a retail strip: good-looking cafes, fish and chips and burger joints, sit-down Italian and Japanese amongst others.  The beach is wide and long; at the southern end there is a splash pool and lap pool and surf break off the headland which was offering good waves to a dozen surfers.

As this was Sydney’s one day of summer for the 2011/12 season there were literally thousands of people on the beach, in the reserve and flushing money through the tills of the cafes.  The last beach we visited that was this chockers was No. 6: Bondi Beach (18 April 2010) and, frankly, Dee Why was even more crowded.

I had enjoyed Bondi in spite of, or perhaps because of, its busyness.  Dee Why, on the other hand, not so much – maybe it was the crowd, maybe because we’d arrived a bit late in the day and I was a bit hungry, maybe because we had other plans for later in the day.

The crowd was made somewhat worse by the rough surf conditions and rips which left the flags only about 10 metres apart corralling hundreds of swimmers into one narrow stretch of sea.  The Surf Life Savers were on high-alert and we saw them go in to pull several people out.  Not all these were ‘rescues’ but at least one was as the ambulance came to treat a girl who, I think, had been dumped on a sandbar.  Their high-alert kind of added a tension to the scene.

Having had No. 20: Currawong to ourselves last week the difference couldn’t have been more stark.  Which added to my … not dislike of Dee Why but more, just, I wasn’t as relaxed as I’d have liked.  We spent about an hour on the beach – Mitch and Dave caught a few waves (and got dumped by a few as well), I went in up to my belly or so, we took some photos and people watched for a bit.

Then I was too hungry to wait longer for food and we found a table outside of Sushi Kenzo: good warm, slightly salty edamame is a pretty perfect beach food, especially with a cold Asahi beer.  I had the California roll and Mitch the chicken teriyaki – all good.

Dee Why is in the local government area of Warringah; the state electorate of Wakehurst (Brad Hazzard, Liberal); and the federal division of Mackellar (Bronwyn Bishop, Liberal).

Next up will be beach number 22: Delwood.

No 19: Curl Curl Beach – 1 January 2012

Friends came along on New Year’s Day to beach number 19, Curl Curl.

Per Wikipedia:

The name Curl Curl appears to be the original Aboriginal name for the larger area of Manly Vale, Freshwater, Queenscliff. The name Curl Curl may have been derived from the Aboriginal phrase curial curial, meaning river of life.

We took the train to the city, collected Erin and her car and headed for the beach.  As with Cronulla we again hadn’t properly consulted the map before setting out and so managed to fly well past Curl Curl before realising our mistake.  The traffic, by the way, was utterly shitful.

Curl Curl is 28.5km/17.7mi from our home.

Arriving we found the beach crowded with New Year’s Day revellers, including our other mates Laura and Gavin.  But, disappointingly, the beach was closed – well not the beach but the water.  Due to big messy surf and ‘dangerous tides’ the Surf Lifesavers were busy waving people out of the water and occasionally going in to get them out.

There is a sea pool at the southern end of the beach and it was full of kids and parents, teenagers and a few locals belligerently doing their laps through the crowd.

The day was blowy but clear and warm.  I erected the beach umbrella and relaxed in the shade – not really napping but listening to the surf pounding in and the not-quite-distinct conversation of neighbouring groups.

Erin went to check out the beach kiosk and came back with disappointment – no hot chips, NO BLOODY HOT CHIPS, on New Year’s Day, on the beach.  It was all healthy overpriced café food: burger $16.50, kids $10.  Please.

We stayed a couple of hours.  Wandered over to the pool – which was warm and crowded.  Took some pictures and called it a day.  Then we sat in hideous traffic on Military Road all the way back to the city.

Curl Curl is in the local government area of Warringah; State district of Manly (Mike Baird, Lib) and Federal seat of Warringah (Tony Abbott, Lib).

No 18: Cronulla Beach – 18 December 2011

We began our visit to Cronulla at Ham Harry & Mario where we had their breakfast plate: kind of a European deli take on the Australian big breakfast: prosciutto, avocado, sliced tomato, ricotta, boiled egg and good sourdough toast with a drizzle of olive oil over the lot. Tasty, filling and just a little bit different.  Coffees were good; service was fine given the busyness of the hour.

We’ve visited Cronulla once before in this project for beach number five, Blackwoods, back in March 2010.  Today we were visiting the main Cronulla beach and, as with Coogee a few weeks ago, we found it crawling with nippers.

For a fuller discussion of nippers and surf life saving see my last post.

Cronulla Beach is 22km/13.6m from home (our new home, so new measurements).

Like Coogee before it Cronulla is a familiar beach to us as we have been many times over the years.  The name is derived from kurranulla meaning ‘place of the pink seashells’ in the dialect of the Gweagal people (Wikipedia).

The coast line was explored and mapped by Matthew Flinders and George Bass in 1796 and European habitation began in 1835.

The train line to Cronulla was first built in 1885 and it is still the only of Sydney’s surf beaches serviced directly by the train which makes it accessible to a broader swathe of Sydneysiders than say Bondi or Manly.

The area is on a peninsula and is part of the Sutherland Shire. The Shire, as it’s known, has a reputation as a bastion of old mono-cultural (Anglo-Irish) Australia — the reputation seems to mostly be upheld by the people you see on the streets away from the beach: nearly all white, primarily northern European, but some Mediterranean people as well.

I’m trying to sidle up to the touchy and a bit complex issue of the 2005 Cronulla Riots.  I like this rather straightforward one-sentence definition offered by the Dictionary of Sydney:

Series of clashes and mob violence which escalated from a verbal confrontation between life savers and a group of young men of Middle Eastern appearance.

Frankly I don’t want to dwell on it and Wikipedia does a fine job summarising the events.  My two-cents: little in life is as black and white as mainstream media portrays it.  This event was fuelled, I think, by young men, pumping with testosterone, in a space of cultural conflict; add summer heat, lots of alcohol and the intentional fanning of the fires by race-baiters, shock jocks and tabloid journalists.  Oh and police caught off guard and unprepared for the chaos.  Ta da: Race Riots.

I’ll admit to feeling a bit bad for the mainstream majority of Cronulla who were tarred as a bunch of red necks because of what happened.  Frankly I think train access means all of Sydney arrives on their doorsteps on hot summer days; our city is amazingly multicultural, which is wonderful, but that means within our population we sometimes have widely divergent standards of behaviour.  I have on good, trustworthy authority that there had long been conflict on Cronulla’s beaches around the way some groups of young Muslim men behaved toward non-Muslim women and girls.  It’s not a condemnation just a realisation that some conflict is natural in a multicultural society; the challenge is how we address and diffuse that conflict.

Let’s get back to nice pictures from the beach.

Cronulla Beach is in the Sutherland Shire, the state district of Cronulla (Mark Speakman, Liberal) and the federal division of Cook (Scott Morrison, Liberal).

I found this cool image on the Dictionary of Sydney website Saturday arvo, Cronulla, 1961 by Jeff Carter:

There I also found this fascinating story of the Shark Arm Murder … which I’ll leave for you to explore on your own.

 

No 17: Coogee Beach – 20 November 2011

We have visited the 17th beach, Coogee, to officially get the 2011/12 beach going season under way.

We’re in the midst of the chaos of moving houses but I thought it important and worthwhile to breathe salty air, feel the sand in our toes, watch waves rolling in from the South Pacific and, as it turned out, bear witness to thousands of nippers participating in a surf carnival.

For the non-Australians amongst you, or those not fully literate in Australian culture – nippers are children, specifically children participating in Surf Life Saving.  Surf Life Saving Clubs have been responsible for much of the life saving patrols done on Australian beaches since the early 20th century.  They also do an amazing job teaching kids surf safety while they participate in the sport of Surf Life Saving — which incorporates swimming, paddle-boarding, running on the sand, etc.  The Coogee Beach Surf Lifesaving Club was founded in 1907.

We began our visit with breakfast at Morning Glory Café.  I had grilled haloumi cheese served with a poached egg on toasted sourdough with wilted spinach and a roasted tomato; Mitch had the big breakfast – scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, grilled mushrooms and a tomato, baked beans and Turkish toast.  All was good including the coffees.

After breakfast we got the toes in the sand and wandered amongst the masses to watch the nippers in combat.  What good fun!  Frankly it just doesn’t get much more Australian … well, in the sense that we could have been nowhere else.  Surf Life Saving is essentially peculiar to Australia.   If you are surrounded by little kids wearing swimming costumes with beach names across their bums and colourful cloth caps tied beneath their chins – well, you are in Australia.

Coogee Beach is 13.8 kilometres (8.6 miles) from home.  It’s a place I’ve been many times in the 11 years I’ve lived in Sydney – including celebrating Thanksgiving with a barbeque there in 2001 (perhaps).  Thanks to Midnight Oil I’d been familiar with a key geographic feature of Coogee Beach, Wedding Cake Island, since, oh, the mid 1980s.  But until I moved to Sydney I had no idea it was here … giving Coogee crappy surf.

Wikipedia has a lot to say about Coogee but here are a few key items.  The name may come from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘smelly place’ in reference, perhaps, to the kelp which washes up here and, if left uncollected, rots.  European life in the area began in 1838; the first school was built in 1863 but became the Coogee Bay Hotel in 1873 – a place where beach-goers have drunk themselves silly for 138 years now.  Coogee was the end of a tram line back when Sydney had trams (1883-1960).

On the headland on the northern end of the beach stands a memorial to the victims of the terrorist bombings in Bali, Indonesia on 12 October 2002.  The memorial is specifically dedicated to the 20 local residents, including six members of the Coogee Dolphins Rugby League Team, who were killed; all together 202 people died, 88 of them Australians.

Inland, also at the northern end, is Coogee Oval home to the Randwick Rugby Union Club (go the Galloping Greens) and the Randwick-Petersham Cricket Club.

Coogee Beach is in the City of Randwick, the state district of Coogee (Brice Notley-Smith, Liberal) and the federal division of Kingsford-Smith (Peter Garrett, Labor).

No 14: Collaroy Beach – 27 February 2011

Frankly I can’t wait for a southern beach! The last one was Bronte (No 8) which we visited in May 2010. But it was good to get back to a surf beach with Collaroy.

As you can see, it was an overcast day, but warm; a little drizzle which kept the beach quiet but the water was lovely. There is an ocean pool at the southern end of the beach which I enjoyed a few laps in.

Despite somewhat discouraging conditions Mitch managed to catch a wave or two and was happy.

Collaroy Beach is in Warringah Council LGA, the state district of Wakehurst (Brad Hazzard, Liberal) and federal division of Mackeller (Bronwyn Bishop, Liberal)