group of swimmers in wetsuits at the beach

Jan 6, 2024

“I must go down to the seas again, 

for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call 

that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day 

with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, 

and the sea-gulls crying.”

-    John Masefield

It was my birthday on Saturday 6 January and I celebrated it with my first open water swim of the New Year.

Specifically, by swimming from King’s Beach to the six pillars that mark the old slipway on Humewood Beach here in Nelson Mandela Bay. We call it the Six-Pack.

There were not many of us, as our coast had been whipped by a vicious easterly wind over the first few days of January.

The “beasterly easterly” leaves the water murky and churned up, not ideal to swim in.

A westerly wind, on the other hand, smooths the sea down but also brings an upwelling of cold water. 

The morning swimmers generally turn at Six-Pack and there was a surprise when we reached it on January 6.

Now, I’m not one to want folk to sing for me – actually, I would want to hide under the table if you tried to do this. I even cringe when buskers, particularly those who go from restaurant to restaurant, try to make your day with a song.

However, as I learnt this year, it is an Ocean Tribe tradition to serenade swimmers on their birthday.

As you can see in the video, they do so with gusto.

And, somehow, it was much less embarrassing to have Happy Birthday sung in the sea than in a restaurant!

Ocean Tribe swimmers at the Six-Pack
Billie in the water
Ilse with the Six-Pack behind her
Gillian, left, and Ilse
Ilse, left, and Gillian
Birthday coffee and cake
ocean wave graphic