17. October 2021

Like a comb-over in the wind, I have learnt to fear the chop

By Anson Cameron

My father hated the wind. Some mammalian fear of getting his listening to diminished by it? Or of his scent being carried to some distant predator? A fanner of flames and a chiller of bones, the wind was at all times disconcerting, if not downright harmful. Or perhaps it was simply that it made a comedy of his comb-over.

Anemophobia isn’t uncommon. Voltaire (powdered wig precluding comb-over anxieties) claimed the east wind chargeable for many suicides; “Black melancholy spreads over the whole nation”. Hippocrates accused the west wind of creating individuals pale and sickly, with digestive organs that had been “frequently deranged from the phlegm that runs down into them from the head”. Theophrastus noticed that in southerly winds, “men find themselves more weary and incapable”. Shakespeare described the north wind as “wrathful and tyrannous”. Hell from all factors of the compass.

Until now, I by no means bothered distinguishing one wind from one other. But since swimming at Lorne I’ve begun to interpret the sea by means of the wind and develop into a relentless checker of wind on my cellphone. I have a climate app that predicts its pace and course days forward, and I’m getting to know what the completely different winds right here do to the water.


The west wind is held off the seashore by the hills and swoops down and turns into stronger out to sea. This can idiot you. You swim out into Bass Strait marvelling at how straightforward it’s immediately, regardless of the water wanting tough. But on the market, whenever you cease to relaxation earlier than swimming again to land, you realise you’ve been duped. Until now, you’ve been swimming with the chop, however now you’re pushing into it, wind-slapped, breathless and blinded.

The easterly is a deal-breaker right here. The roar of surf rolls up the hill and persons are drawn to their home windows at daybreak to stare upon the water, scratching their bellies, however not the sleep from their eyes as a result of they’re heading again to mattress. They’re not going out in that. Fishing boats keep ashore, and swimmers on Snapchat teams name it off, one after the other. The easterly organises the sea into a full-frontal assault on the city, with waves snowballing in from so far as Flinders Island, choosing up perspective all the method.

Open water swimming is giving me some small notion of the wind and its choreography of the oceans.

If you’ve lived in the bush you may’t assist however scent fireplace on a north wind. The northerly brings a temper up out of your reminiscence. Old fires your mother and father fought whereas leaves and dirt churned in the scorching air. Get the canines inside the home. The deserts have come calling and by noon the hydrangeas are as limp as the persons are tense. If you breathe to the left whereas swimming at Lorne you get the chop in the face on the method out from the seashore in a north wind. But not less than you understand you’ll be respiration simply on the method in, along with your mouth in the lee of your cranium.


The huge southerlies that preserve the boats at dwelling can’t get the full majesty of their swell into our bay. On the horizon nice pyramids of water run north to Aireys Inlet. But the southerly swell has to wrap round Point Grey to pivot into our bay, and in doing so, it loses heft and morale, a lot as a plumber does when getting into a pub that has a “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” signal on the door.

Swell travels from storms that is perhaps many latitudes away. They are the residual power of a climate cell that has blown itself out, the youngsters of distant, lifeless winds. Some of our swell comes from past Tasmania. Out past the wave zone the swell is often enjoyable for swimmers, a rollercoaster in slow-mo.

The chop, or what the climate bureau calls “seas”, isn’t any enjoyable. It’s sharp water whipped up by native winds. Though typically the water is uneven in the stillest air, and I can’t discover anybody who can inform me why.

Open water swimming is giving me some small notion of the wind and its choreography of the oceans. The solar shifting the air, and the air, each shut and distant, shaping the water in myriad variations, by no means a day the similar. Think how a lot a sailor should see that’s invisible to us when he appears at the water. Think how a lot a farmer sees taking a look at the sky. Or a hunter-gatherer gazing throughout the land. You don’t know what you don’t know. And the older I get, the extra I don’t know. That’s knowledge of a type.

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Joanna Taylor

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