A bubbly birthday soak in the Ivo Rowe Rock Pool

Last Sunday, when we arrived at South Coogee for my traditional birthday, salt water swim, the sea looked like it was pumping a big swell. As we walked towards the pathway above the coast, I expected to look down on a submerged Ivo Rowe Rock Pool.

The rock platform at South Coogee near Ivo Rowe Pool, photo Therese Spruhan, October 8, 2017

But happily we found an almost tranquil scene, despite the movement of the open sea.

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

“When’s high tide,” called Bruce, heading down the stairs. “10.46. About an hour ago,” I said, “so our timing should be good.”

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

I stopped to read a sign titled, ‘A Platform of Potholes and Pools’, which acknowledges Ivo Rowe, the South Coogee identity, who from the 1930s worked to improve the pool.

Rock pool near Ivo Rowe Pool South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

I glanced down at the pool and wondered if Ivo erected the timber posts now weathering on the sea edge, and perhaps connected a chain?

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

And then I returned to the sign explaining how his pool and smaller ones on the rock platform were usually formed by potholing. It said potholing happens as waves and their backwash grind the platform with rock pieces. Stones are caught in a depression, then swirled around to deepen into a pothole. As the hole grows it traps larger rocks which form a larger hole.

Rock pools by Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

I liked the idea that the Ivo Rowe Pool was naturally formed. Well, except for some minor alterations in 1965 when the Randwick Apex Club enlarged it by filling a channel through the edge. I also like its tear-drop shape, although from the side it also resembles a large fish.

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017.

When I finished reading about the sea stars, anemones, small fish, molluscs and colourful waving seaweed, that live in the Ivo Rowe and smaller pools, I stepped carefully down the slippery, water-covered stairs. Halfway down, a sign in several languages warned that two people had died fishing off this well-known blackfish spot, and advised “to check conditions and if in doubt do not fish”.

Ivo Rowe Rock Pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

When I reached the bottom, Bruce was already plunging in. He came up with gasp but after his second duck under he declared it was actually quite pleasant in.

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

“I think it’s about 17 or 18,” I said, pleased it was going to be warmer than my recent South Australian swims. As I lowered myself in, it felt a bit cold but nothing like the chill of the Southern Ocean and once I was under I knew I was going to enjoy being in.

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017.

Less than four strokes of freestyle and we reached the shallow end where the pool narrows into the tear-drop shape and oyster shells, limpets and blue and zebra periwinkles cling to the sandstone rock.

Ivo Rowe Rock Pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

We swam back to the deeper part and were surprised by a set of bigger waves tumbling into the pool.

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017.

The white water spilled over me like bubbles of champagne and I whooped in delight.

Bubbles of champagne in the Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Bruce Hansard, 8 October 2017

And then the water went still again and we looked through our goggles to the bottom where sea urchins clung to the multi-coloured rocks and silver shells glittered in shafts of underwater light. There were no small fish but I spotted a crab and pink coralline algae hiding under a rock.

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

And then another set of waves crashed onto the edge and spilled more bubbles into the pool.

Ivo Rowe rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

“Doesn’t it feel lovely when it trickles over you,” I said to Bruce.

“Yes,” he said and we both agreed we were in no hurry to get out of our perfect plunge pool.

Ivo Rock rock pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

When we finally extricated ourselves and were replaced by a floating man, I thought I couldn’t think of a nicer way to spend my birthday than among the champagne bubbles and tranquility of the Ivo Rowe Pool.

Ivo Rowe Rock Pool, South Coogee, photo Therese Spruhan, 8 October 2017

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PS: Just like Simon of oceanpoolsnsw.net.au we enjoyed a delicious post-swim lunch with a Coonawarra white wine at the Lion & Buffalo cafe up the road from the pool at 203 Malabar Road South Coogee. Highly recommend!

Ivor Rowe Rock Pool is below the Eastern Beaches Coastal Walk, Bunya Parade, South Coogee.

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  • I’m smiling as I type after reading about your refreshing, almost warm, birthday swim. Thanks for sharing the stunning photos. And again, Happy Birthday.

    • Thanks Jen! I was almost acclimatised to the cold waters of the Southern Ocean so it was a pleasant surprise to swim in the warmer Pacific water! Can only get warmer from here so maybe I can entice you in perhaps in mid-January?

  • More particularly, we can also recommend the restaurant, ‘Fodder’, attached to the Ottelia winery where we tasted the ‘Coonawarra white wine’ Therese talks about!!

    • Thanks Seana. The kids would love it but you wouldn’t want to be there with too many people. We had it all to ourselves as I think most people thought it was too cold to swim. Take yourself there mid-week before the summer crowds! All the best, Therese.

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