Sunday, 21 December 2014

New to Lord Howe: Ocean swimming with Trevor Hendy

Just when I think nothing can top my last trip to Lord Howe Island (click here to read my story on its inaugural Adventure Week last year, run by Pinetrees Lodge), it pulls a shiny new ace from its green sleeve, and I get to fall in love all over again.

My favourite little
island in the world
(For a little background, see 10 reasons to love Lord Howe - my most popular No Impact Girl post, ever.)

This time, I dived into Lord Howe's sea-side on Pinetrees' first Ocean Swim Week, led by Gold Coast-based former Ironman Trevor Hendy - who is now an wholistic life coach (check out his online Bootcamp for the Soul course) and something of an aquatic centaur (half man, half fish), so at home is he in the water.

Trevor Hendy: half man, half fish
On paper, it looked relatively simple: five days of morning ocean swims at various spots around the island, with afternoons free to do as we liked - which meant riding our rental bikes around, bodysurfing champagne-clear waves at Blinky Beach, going on impromptu hikes, and taking (ahem) "accidental" afternoon naps back at Pinetrees.

Taking a break, off Ned's Beach
Pic by Luke Hanson
It was a dream assignment: I love the water even more than I love Lord Howe.

Any water will do, but the sea is my true home. It's where I go to reconnect with the natural world and with myself. I have cried into it, laughed in it, shared surfs and swims with friends in it. When I'm in the water, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

Which is not to say I didn't find this week challenging. I did.

I haven't done much ocean swimming and I'd been travelling right up to the start of Ocean Swim Week (my life is one long trip these days), so a few sessions in the pool before I flew to Lord Howe was all the training I could manage.

Gliding through the blue
Pic by Luke Hanson
Being Lord Howe, of course, it was always going to be an adventure. Most of our swims were about 2km (more if you counted our zig-zags) in deep water far from shore.

Some days we'd leap like lemmings from a glass-bottomed boat into the blue. One day we bushwalked 2km up and over a hill to our launch spot. We'd glide (or thrash) over coral in midday sunshine and morning rain, seeing turtles or curious Galapagos sharks that would cruise by below us.

Twin peaks in this season's colours
Wherever we were, we'd only have to stop and lift our eyes above sea level to see Lord Howe's two 800-metre-plus peaks, Gower and Lidgbird, rising volcanically out of the water at the island's southern end.

Did I mention that all but one of my eight Ocean Week comrades were salt-seasoned ocean swimmers? Six of them were lifesavers too, from up and down the east coast (come on down, Marcoola!).

But here's the thing: I didn't have to keep up with them.

Happy swimmers: Ross, Lou & Jude
Beautiful, and testing, as the swims were, a highlight of the week for me was exploring meta-physical, as well as physical, places - with Trevor as our guide.

"I wanted Ocean Swim Week to be not only a chance to swim and explore these incredible grounds of Lord Howe," he told us, "but to let go of something while we’re here. To let go of the need to be someone and do something and get to the next place. And experience each moment as it goes, and take that back into life."

Lord Howe's underwater world
To this end, before breakfast every day Trevor would lead us in a series of qigong moves called Ba Duan Jin (also called "yum cha" by the very amusing Ross Pike, pictured above). He'd also give us elite swimming tips before every swim.

Most importantly, he was just very present, honest and down-to-earth all week, which inspired us all to experience whatever we were experiencing, on land and sea.

Lord Howe always seems to find me where I am, and know what I need - and what I needed this week was to be in the sea, to move, to rest and to live simply for a week. Mission accomplished.

Gratuitous fan-shot: thanks, Trev!
I've written about treks and sea kayaking trips all over the world as ways to tread lightly when we travel, but ocean swimming just might be the lowest-impact kind of travel there is. You might take only photographs (if you can be bothered swimming with an underwater camera), but you sure don't leave any footprints.

And all you need is deep water, a pair of goggles, something to wear (and even that's not entirely necessary, though we did all keep our togs on this week). Oh, and a sense of adventure - to step off the beach and into another world, one where gravity doesn't apply to you and you're suddenly, utterly free.


Newsflash: Pinetrees' resident videographer Andy Lloyd has just finished his amazing video of our Ocean Swim Week, narrated by Trevor Hendy. Check it out: 

Want to go? Pinetrees Lodge is running two Ocean Swim Weeks in 2015, in March and November. Click here for more details. For more about Lord Howe Island, see

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