Second surfing lesson (aka: falling off a lot).

Concentrating on our instructor as he explains about rips and how to balance

Sunday morning Rachel and I met for our second surfing lesson. Our fellow surfer Andrea was also on the beach and took some pictures, most of which appear to be of me falling off!

The waves were bigger than last week but at least it wasn’t foggy – in fact it was an absolutely gorgeous day, clear sky and hot sun. It was much harder though, especially walking out with the board, we just got battered by wave after wave! Some of them were strong enough to knock me right off my feet and back where I’d come from.

Off again!

After all that, I would clamber ungracefully on to my huge foam surfboard and paddle frantically to catch the wave … only to nosedive straight into the water as it flung me mercilessly over. The instructors hollered at us to stand up, I tried a few times but only managed to get to my feet once or twice for a split second before ending up in the water again.

I was worn out by the end of the lesson – at least it was good exercise! I’m not put off though, I love the water although I do wish the surfing classes were smaller – that’s what you get for learning at the weekend, in the summer! The instructors often tried to help by pushing us out into the waves, but by the end, I just wanted to be left alone to take my time and not worry about trying to stand.

My shiny new surfboard, all waxed up and ready to go

I haven’t been put off yet though, in fact the opposite – I headed out after the lesson with Andrea to find a surfboard. Armed with advice from my instructor (look for a long board, which will be more stable) and a choice of about fifty shops but not much time, we started at the shop by the beach then headed to Aloha (via a spot of bikini shopping in Surfection …)

I opted for an eight foot long board with a bright red-and-yellow underside and learned how to wax it and attach the fins, and how not to whack people with it when I was walking along. It is pretty heavy though, I was glad to put it down when I got it home!

Andrea convinced me to take it out for a quick ride, it was about seven in the evening but still just warm and light enough. I was so glad I did, the waves were far smaller and just perfect for my very low standard – no more nosedives! I even managed to get on one knee, briefly. I was too tired to last long though, but can’t wait to go back out after work!

A beautiful day.

Last week it rained, not just cats and dogs but “elephants and giraffes”, as Inês put it.

On Saturday the sun finally ventured back out, and this morning was absolutely beautiful so I snapped a few pictures on my way to work – the road where I’m living, and some of the views from the ferry. Click to see bigger versions.

This is the street where I live. It's very quiet and five minutes' from the beach.

The city skyline - view from the Manly ferry as it gets close to Circular Quay.

Famous Sydney Opera House, view from the front as the ferry gets closer.

Sydney Harbour Bridge (unfortunately we don't get to go under it!)

Surfer Girls (and dudes).

Rachel and I getting ready to go (just at the moment I screamed "no, don't photograph me in my wetsuit")

Saturday was my first surfing lesson! One thing I’ve found about Manly is that it seems like everybody surfs. If I get up early to go for a run (hahaha) then there are people surfing in the ocean, when I walk home from work they’re out there, and I’ve even seen a guy running home in the rain wearing a wetsuit and carrying a surf board. There are shops on every corner selling surfboards and gear.

North or South Steyne beaches are great for surfing because they tend to get decent waves (unlike Shelly Beach and Little Manly, which are much calmer and better for snorkeling and swimming). Lucky for me, since North Steyne is very close to home!

North Steyne Beach (view from Andrea's apartment)

Rachel and I arranged to meet up for an early, healthy breakfast then relax on the beach for a while before our lesson, but when we arrived on the beach it was cloaked in a weird, thick fog. There were “Beach Closed” signs up, but I was hopeful that the sun would soon burn it off – the weather forecast had been showing 30 degrees for Saturday all week!

At one point it cleared a bit, but not enough, and when we made our way to the surf club they weren’t too sure either if it would go ahead. After a while though, they decided that we’d just have to walk a little way up the beach towards Queenscliff, where it was clearer.

Queenscliff beach

The lesson started with some exercises, by the end of which I was boiling hot in my wetsuit! The instructor then explained the dangers of rips, how to recognize them by looking for calmer areas of water with no waves and what to do if we got caught in one (swim horizontal to the beach).

Then we were given massive, foam surfboards and had to drag them up the beach before learning how to look for the wave, get on, and paddle – we all looked a bit daft trying to do that on the sand! It was a lot to remember, but finally time to get in the water.

I caught my first wave almost perfectly – and so did Rachel! I think it was a bit of a fluke though :) We only got to have a few goes until they made us come back out of the water and learn how to try and stand up. No kneeling, this doesn’t help, we were warned, we had to try and get our feet into the middle of the board and edge them up before standing up straight.

Then we were off back into the water. Instructor Dave gave us plenty of help, pushing us into the waves to get us going and shouting to stand up, stand up! He looked like a proper surfer dude, long blond hair and everything :)

Andrea enjoying the surf

We were soon standing straight on our boards, riding those waves in … well, almost. By that, what I mean is, we both had a few moments of standing up on our boards with some help from Dave, before crashing into the water (which, by the way, is what you’re supposed to do rather than riding the wave all the way to the shore! I admit, I could have done it more gracefully though). Definitely much more practice needed. Everybody has told me that the school boards are far easier to stand up on as well … oh dear, I have a long way to go.

I booked my next lesson for Sunday, then returned to the beach later in the evening with Andrea and my camera, to take some pictures of somebody who is a bit more comfortable in the water than me!

Goals and Ambitions.

A long time ago, one of my close friends was telling me about a book he was reading, which said something like: “If you write down ten goals for the next year, at the end of it you’ll have done eight and two won’t matter any more.”

I like this idea, I’ve used it a few times and often just writing things down helps me realise what’s important to me. I don’t always get everything done in a year, but if I look back on the things I’ve written down in the past, they are mostly either done or not important. The one exception to this is losing weight – having a good time, which usually involves chocolate or alcohol or both, always seems to take precedence! Oh well.

Anyway, when I was planning my trip to Australia, I spent a month or so thinking about what I’d like to do over the year I’m here. Some things are work-related, since that’s an important part of my life, and a lot are about making the most of the environment and the new people I’m meeting here.

I’ve created a page listing my goals here, and am trying to keep my progress updated!

My new home, and furry housemates.

My temporary office last Friday

Just over a week ago I moved to a new house in Manly, sharing with Chelsea and three furry housemates – Marble and Mau (sp?) the cats, and the boss of the house: Harry the dog. I love the back garden, and have already been known to use it as a temporary “office” when working from home!

The cats live outside, and Mau is the most vocal kitty I’ve ever known, I think we call her that because that’s the noise she is always making, unless she’s sleeping or eating. She only has three legs, but that doesn’t stop her moving pretty quickly when there’s a bowl of food! She’s also very affectionate, and will rub against my legs and miaow as if to say thank you when I feed her.

Harry da Boss enjoying the sunshine

Harry is adorable, he has so many expressions for a small dog, and for one who supposedly doesn’t like being photographed he has been a bit of a poser so far. Perhaps he likes to show off his new haircut?

I haven’t lived with any animals for a while now, so lucky for me Chelsea has everything well under control with regard to feeding and walkies! I’m enjoying having them as company when I’m alone in the house, Harry even jumped up for a cuddle last night … lovely, until I had to move him off so I could eat my dinner!

New bedding and wardrobe

Finally, last week with the delivery of my new wardrobe and purchase of new bedding, my own room was complete! I wanted some bedding with light green to make the room look fresh and calming, in contrast to the lovely warm yellow walls. The wardrobe is white with a massive mirror, luckily with the high ceiling the room still looks great.

I’ve finished unpacking my mountain of suitcases and amazingly everything fits! I still have one corner of the room that looks a mess (not in the photos :)) – haven’t decided yet quite what to add in to make it look nice, although in some ways it’s good just to have a space.

Diving and Party Pies.

Party Pies! Yum yum

I was delighted last weekend to find a dive centre just around the corner from my new home in Manly, and even happier when they suggested sending in my CV with the prospect of helping out. I put together a diving CV, sent it off and they called back the same day to offer me a spot on their boat this Sunday – for free :) – how could I possibly refuse?

So Sunday afternoon I turned up at the shop to get a ride down to the sailing club nearly Little Manly, where the boat leaves from. It’s a lovely hard boat with room for twenty five people to dive from it comfortably, but they had a strangely quiet afternoon, with just five of us diving.

I was worried about getting cold, the water was around 16 degrees – not what I was expecting, but then again it’s only late spring – hopefully by January it won’t be quite as cold.

The first dive was at a site that the others hadn’t dived before – we called it West Blocks. The water was fairly clear, visibility was probably around 7m. I wore two wetsuits (5mm + 3mm shortie), with hood and gloves – I was pretty cold but we dived for around half an hour and reached 19m. As we ascended towards the end, the water warmed up, until our safety stop where I wasn’t cold at all.

Visibility was like a good day in the UK!

My buddy was Janine, a seasoned instructor from Cairns, who had a keen eye for small things – she pointed out loads of nudibranchs, and then we saw a bull ray who was missing his tail!

As we got out, Tony the skipper offered us hot soup – that was just what I needed! He then brought out hot Party Pies, and the group teased me for not knowing what they were (mini meaty pies with ketchup, apparently!) They were so good.

Pretty nudibranch

I took my camera for the second dive, but for some reason it was much colder, seemed like the water was dribbling down my back all through and I was shivering twenty minutes in. The water wasn’t as clear, but it was similar to dives I have done along the south coast of the UK on a really good day, with far more life.

This time, we saw four cuttlefish – three tiny baby ones, and one hovering in a cave. To my delight, we also saw a wobbegong shark! These are common sights around Sydney, but for me, seeing sharks is still really special and I was buzzing. We saw more nudibranchs and several different types of starfish, as well as some huge blue groper.

I struggled a bit on my safety stop – my legs felt sore and crampy, it’s been a while since I dived and I was wearing an unfamiliar combination of my kit. I don’t think I quite got my weighting right – I wore 18lb (around 9kg) and I think that was a bit heavy – I wanted to make sure I offset the aluminum tanks at the end of the dive.

I was also trying out my new Suunto D6i and comparing to my old Oceanic Geo. It made me realize how much I appreciate the familiarity of knowing where to look for the information on my trusty old computer, although the new one does far more interesting stuff like monitoring my air. It’ll just take some getting used to.

Two baby cuttlefish

Dives over, the weather was getting cold – there was a Southerly and it was making itself known. Eric kindly loaned me a towel – being so used to diving in a drysuit, I hadn’t even thought to bring one, doh!

I love being out on boats though, especially when they are covered in bad weather! So it was fun motoring back via Rose Bay to Manly, where we unloaded the boat on to the truck, then unloaded the tanks back at the dive centre (just like being back at home!)

At the centre I met Dan, the owner, for a quick interview. With the summer season coming up, there’s plenty of work at Pro Divers and I’m excited about the possibilities. There’s still some hard work ahead though: I’ll need to spend time learning more about how things work and spend time helping other instructors. That’s good though, I wouldn’t have wanted them to throw me in at the deep end!

So far they seem to be a great bunch of people, and I’m hopeful that I’ll find some good friends (as I did at Divecrew), who are nothing to do with work!

It’s been a busy few days since I last blogged.


Marie-Claire getting married to Richard on the beach

I moved into my new home in Manly … then went to a wedding party for the afternoon! The move was the quickest I’ve ever done – then again I only had a couple of suitcases to take.

Marie-Claire was-Jenkins-now-Dean got married in the morning on the beach, after skateboarding to the wedding. She had been the most chilled out bride-to-be I’ve ever seen all week at work, the biggest stress had been figuring out how to transport home the mountains of flowers that arrived at the office on Friday afternoon.

Mmmm, cake ... with coconut icing

The wedding party took place at their apartment complex, outside on the roof terrace with a pool. The weather was perfect, really hot and sunny (many people misjudged the sun and got sunburnt, I ended up with a small patch on one arm).

In the evening I hung out with Rachel at Manly Wine for a couple of glasses of bubbly, in a dress borrowed from my new housemate Chelsea while I waited for my luggage to arrive on Monday. It was amazing to just be able to walk from home to the bar, no need for a coat, no messing about tube trains, and on top of that a lovely walk by the sea to get there.


Furniture shopping day! I had planned to go to Ikea to hunt for a wardrobe, but after measuring up, Chelsea took me to Furniture Land and Harvey Norman. I found a huge wardrobe and she negotiated a discount and fast delivery!

No Ikea trip needed, it must be time to head to the beach – I met up with Rachel and a couple of her friends to go to Shelly beach, a sheltered bay just a ten minute walk around from South Steyne. It’s got more sand but less ocean, although I managed to take my first dip! The water is still pretty cold and it took me a good ten minutes to immerse myself in it. There were a group of divers floating around as well – I guessed they were doing an open water course, I’ve heard they use Shelly Beach a lot for the confined water skills, as it’s so calm. It made me impatient to get back into my scuba kit!

In the evening, on the way home from the offy with a couple of bottles of wine, I discovered Pro Divers on Pitt Street and decided to drop in and say hi. Turns out they might be grateful of an extra pair of hands sometimes, so I might even be able to get some free diving – yay!

On the way home, I bumped into Andrea, a friend from work who lives just around the corner, and she came back to see my new place and share a glass of wine.


My cases have arrived, all wrapped up!

My luggage arrived on Saturday, but I had to wait until Monday morning for customs to open and clear it. I headed out to the airport, easy enough to get there on the train but then I had to walk back and forth in the scorching sun, from Qantas Freight to customs, quarantine and back.

I tried to smile and be as polite as possible to customs, and luckily all my bags were cleared! They arrived on a forklift truck in the unloading bay, wrapped in layers upon layers of packing film – Dad had certainly made sure they were well protected!

After unpacking as much as I could, I had to work for the afternoon, then it was time for the beach! It was still steaming hot and such a relief to get into the cold water … still took me a while to get all the way in though. The waves are much bigger on North Steyne beach (the closest one to my pad), it was great fun playing around in them although a bit worrying as they have been known to tear away bikini parts … luckily I kept hold of mine :)


Andrea and I met for a morning run, I made it from Manly Surf club on North Steyne beach to Shelly beach and part of the way back (~2.5k) before getting too hot and puffed! I haven’t done much exercise in the last few weeks and it shows :( The best bit was jumping in the waves again once we finished!

I caught the ferry to work for the first time – it’s a lovely way to travel, especially compared to the tube – fresh air and lots of space, for a start.

During another quiet day on “the beach” at work (in other words, I’m not yet working on a client project) I searched ebay for a good deal on a bike. The walk from home to the ferry is just over 15 minutes, but so much quicker on a bike, and loads of people here have bikes with baskets to use for shopping as well. I found one for a really good price, located around the corner, and stopped by on the way home to collect it.

I cycled home in my flip flops, trying unsuccessfully to keep my dress from blowing up. I even got asked by a surfer dude, “Can I have a go?” – I’m not sure if he was referring to the bike or my dress!


Sunset from my back yard by iPhone ... better pics coming soon hopefully!

The highlight so far today is finding a new (and cheap!) battery for my DSLR camera – I seem to have lost the last one somewhere in my packing :( I miss Amazon here, but ebay is so far proving a good source for pretty much everything.

I’m hoping that I can now start taking some decent photos to include on the blog to make it a bit more interesting!

Note: Thanks to Marie Claire and Lizi Hamer for posting the photos on Facebook and letting me use them!

I found the beach.

Quackers enjoying a bit of North Steyne beach

Last weekend, I went out to Manly to meet up with some friends, and also managed to fit in seeing a couple of flats. Everybody had warned me that it’d be hard to find a place on the beach at this time of year, so I figured I needed to get going with looking for one as soon as I could!

It paid off, because I ended up going to see two places on Sunday! Both were really nice, the first one was a flat had a glorious view of Little Manly beach and a shared outdoor space, the room was a decent size and it had wooden floors. My only reservation was that the current tenant would want me to join her lease and sign up for 12 months … well, I’d only been there a few days and it felt like too big of a commitment, although I did like the place.

As I walked into the second place, a semi-detached bungalow, a small ball of fluff hurled itself at me enthusiastically, while Chelsea poured ice cold white wine into two glasses. I knew instantly that I wanted to move in! It’s just a couple of minutes’ walk from North Steyne beach, with a beautiful outdoor space and a huge barbecue, and three fluffy housemates – Harry the dog and two cats.

With the deal finalised on Wednesday of this week and moving-in-day tomorrow, I’m so excited to be moving to the beach. The photos demonstrate what is going to be part of my commute and where I hope to spend a lot of my time, sunbathing, learning to surf and chilling out … life’s good!

Tea and Quackers.

Poor Quackers hasn’t really featured that much in the blog since the plane ride over … so just to prove that he is still getting out and about in Sydney, here he is enjoying the delights of the ThoughtWorks office. As for me, I’m loving the enormous ThoughtWorks mugs for my morning cuppa, it’s keeping me going through the endless laptop set up …

I Love Fridays.

Yummy team lunch provided by ThoughtWorks!

Every week, ThoughtWorkers in Sydney gather at the office to catch up and share lunch. This week it was from Alpha Gourmet … after the vultures swooped in, there was still plenty of salad left, although most of the naughty fried things were gone.

Topped off with a Paddle Pop out of the ThoughtWorks freezer – “The best ice cream in Australia”, declared Miss Howe, I think that’s slightly overrating it though!