|Helen Tran took classes with us starting in 2018, where she learned to tread water and continued to build on her swimming skills. Now, we’ve just heard that Helen took part in the long distance swim from Bondi Beach to Watson’s Bay this year, and we couldn’t be more excited to hear how her swimming has just kept progressing over the years. Keep reading to hear about Helen’s journey with swimming and hear her advice for people at the start of their own swimming journey.
When did your journey with swimming begin?
I started swimming around 2016-2017 in a shallow 25m pool (as I couldn’t tread water), would swim 25m, stop, take a breath and start again. In January 2018, I started lessons with Different Strokes Swimming, taking group classes, treading water and dives and turns masterclasses, a few amazing private lessons with Kari and a few of the easier squads.
What made you decide to take up swimming lessons, and why with us?
I got in a pool for aqua classes when I was pregnant as I had to stop soccer and have loved the water ever since. I started with Different Strokes Swimming as I was swimming in one of the City of Sydney pools, noticed Kari was teaching and enquired about lessons. Kari and the Different Strokes Swimming teachers were all so lovely, kind, encouraging and I looked forward to all of my classes or squads. Aside from learning so much, Different Strokes Swimming also brings people together and I enjoyed meeting new people at my swim level.
Can you remember the hardest part of learning to be comfortable in the water?
I was always nervous in the deep end as I didn’t know how to tread water until I did the Different Strokes Swimming Treading Water intensive. Once I got comfortable in the deep end, I was nervous in the open ocean as I hadn’t learnt how to sight or how to navigate waves and swell but my swim friends helped me learn. I kept practicing and got more confident each time I was out there.
We heard you recently took part in the 10km+ swim from Bondi Beach to Watson’s Bay- congratulations! What went into training and getting ready for that event, and how long were you preparing for this swim?
Thank you! I watched my friends do the 10km swim in 2021, met them afterwards and I set a goal to do the swim in 2022. I wasn’t able to finish the full 10kms this year as I didn’t make the check point at a certain time and my apple watch died so at a guess, I think I swam 7-8kms in total. I also wore fins for the swim and would like to do it next year without fins. The training guidance was to swim 20-25 kms a week for the training, do long swim sets (4-6kms) and to journal my daily swims. I did this as best as I could. Covid hit in June 2021, I trained in the ocean for those months and got back to squad and longer sets when we got out of lockdown.
Do you have any advice for people who are at the start of their swimming journey?
No matter what level you’re at, there is a lot of joy to be found in swimming and to keep at it for the first few weeks even if you don’t feel like it and improvements will come with each swim. You can have a relaxing swim or you can swim hard for training and whichever one you’re doing, the post swim feeling is magical. I have found that even though swimming is an individual sport, I have connected with an incredibly inclusive swim community and I’m grateful many of them are now my good friends. My swim friends have helped me on rough days out in the ocean, taught me swim techniques, encouraged me to keep practicing when I haven’t been confident or to do a beautiful ocean swim together where we all wait for each other throughout the swim. We also enjoy a coffee or hot chocolate together afterwards and this connection is special.
Where’s your favourite place to swim at the moment?
Icebergs on Thursday or Friday morning when the pool is clean and there is fresh water or across the bay in Bondi or Coogee where sometimes you see dolphins, turtles or in Bondi there is a local seal who pops up every now and then! When the ocean conditions are not safe, I swim in PAP, VP or Gunyama and the warm water can be a treat!
The ultimate ocean swimmer’s question: wetsuit or no wetsuit?
No wetsuit! It’s nicer to feel the water during the swim. While it’s a little colder now, I’m lucky my body can warm up after 50-100 metres and if it doesn’t I swim faster!
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
A huge thanks to Helen for sharing some of your story with us, it’s so wonderful to see where swimming takes people who fall in love with the water. Congratulations again on your awesome swim this year, we can’t wait to hear all about your future swims!
Note: Some of the above interview has been edited for brevity.
Photo: L: Helen is about to jump in for the Bondi-Watsons Bay swim. R: Finish photo taken with Helen and her friends at the end of the swim. PC: Helen Tran