“We have only one simple rule at our club,” says Alby Bardoel, in a tone reminiscent of Tyler Durden from Fight Club. And no, it’s not that you don’t talk about Black Ice Club. The only rule is “no wetsuits” which, as anyone who’s braved a wintry dip in the bay will tell you, has got to be just as cray-cray.
“We follow English Channel rules,” explains Alby, the president of the club. “It’s just a pair of bathers and your goggles and that’s it.” Alby should know: he’s swum the channel three times. Training for those big swims and wanting to help others do the same is what motivated him and other swimmers around the Black Rock area to form the club.
Although ten swimmers in the current team have swum the English Channel, the Black Ice trainers set different programmes to cater for different levels of ability and experience. “We don’t care how bad you are, we’ve got world champions in our group and we’ve got beginners.”
Melbourne’s icy winter waters make it one of the best places in Australia to train for marathon open-water swims, says Alby. “The bay is short and it throws everything at you, the water temperature really varies.” Sponsorship offers have come their way, but Alby insists the Black Icebergers run their training sessions (three times a week in the warmer months and Saturdays only May to October) for the pure love of the sport. “You get out there and it’s just you and nature. Like yesterday, I just lay on my back and looked back towards Melbourne, you can’t get any better feeling than that.”
Training sessions May-Oct are at Brighton Sea Baths, Sat 8am.