What I Talk About, When I Talk About Swimming

If someone were to ask me what the single activity I did in Melbourne that defined this trip was, I might be inclined to say Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, considering that was the locus that this entire trip revolved around. I might talk about us ambling towards St Kilda beach to chase the sunset, half-impaired due to our food comas from aforementioned meal. Or I might mention Fitzroy, a suburb I have been to almost every Melbourne trip and it still continues to surprise and delight. But you need only to be seated next to me on this flight back to Sydney, to break into a conversation with me and watch as I respond gaily, hiding my nervousness with my go-to motion of ruffling my own hair. That action alone would reveal how much I smell oh so distinctively of chlorine.

I swam for at least four hours in the last 72, clocking in well over a hundred laps at our hotel’s small but formidable pool. Friday night was the first time that trip . Any time anyone mentions that our destination has swimming capabilities, my face automatically breaks out into the dorkiest grin and eight year old Sam emerges, totally excited at the prospect of diving right in.

Perhaps it’s ironic then that swimming is far down the list of things I am good at, but I’d like to believe that I’m at least consistent at it. Getting in can often be the hardest part and I oscillate between jumping right in and poking a paw in the water gingerly depending on how game I feel. Either way, I love how the water bites back at my skin initially, with the shock of two different temperatures and the magic that is our bodies acclimatising. Once I start, it doesn’t take me long to get into a rhythm for it.

Some people fear the water, and rightfully so. It’s a beast, it’s alive and like a Siberian Husky or an otherwise inclined wolf dog, you need to assert your dominance onto it. I suggest making the first few strokes powerful breast strokes, spreading water far and wide, thus making your own red carpet in which you stride down in confidence. You might later switch to a front crawl, now ubiquitously known as freestyle, because like its second name, it’s liberation. There’s the slightly more unorthodox butterfly that makes one look like she’s moving mountains with every kick, kick and pull. Soon the water welcomes you, befriends you, and lap after lap melts into one never-ending journey and that’s when I begin to feel like I could really go on forever. I like to end a session with a lazy backstroke, sometimes with no arm movement at all because no matter where you are, ocean, indoor pool or bathtub, you should always lean back and think about how incredible it is to be alive.

Truth be told, I am not entirely sure why I love swimming so much. Perhaps because it invokes throwback memories to warm interstate family trips in Malaysia. It reminds me of our beaches, beaches that can’t hold a candle to Sydney’s magnificence but our waters are tepid and a post-swim plate of Penang char kuay teow cannot be beat.

When I swim, the person I think the most about is my brother Kieran, who swims competitively back in Malaysia. I know he’s an incredible swimmer because the dad we share, whom is apologetically humble in the best of circumstances, is unable to mask the pride on his face when he talks about K’s achievements in the pool. The act of swimming brings me closer to family and to memories. In some bizarre universe in my head, I imagine that everyone in the world who has ever swum in water can find each other again through colliding water particles.



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  1. Gorgeously written Sam! Sadly I can’t relate so much, I’m definitely not a water person at all. I was that girl that was constantly missing swimming lessons due to that ‘time of the month’…….every week 🙂

    1. You have all my admiration and more for being a cross fitter! Also I can somewhat relate, I nearly drowned on my first day at boarding school because all the new girls were forced into swimming carnival try-outs. I guess what I needed was to just keep swimming, swimming at my own pace. Thanks as always for reading. It means the world!

  2. Ahhh, I absolutely love the way you wrote this <3

  3. […] Melbourne by Heston I didn’t think I’d be back to Melbourne so soon after having been there so often last year. But I had flight credit that I wanted to use, a good rate at the InterContinental The Rialto, and a great friend who was willing to make the trip purely for a Dinner by Heston reservation. This was also the trip I renewed my passion for swimming. […]

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