Friendships formed over a daily dip
At 6.30 am every morning, septuagenarians Noelene Redmond and Carol Coady can be seen descending a set of stone stairs scuffed smooth over time as they make their way down from Cronulla Esplanade to the Oak Park sea pool.
The pair, who have been swimming in the sea pool and braving the rain, swell and chill for the past 35 years or so, say they are addicted to the thrill of the sunrise swim and have attracted a group of like-minded individuals who share their enthusiasm for the morning ritual.
“It’s magical this pool,” says Noelene. “I love how it can change so dramatically, each day, in everything from its depth and colour, from calm and glassy to huge waves crashing over the back of the pool.
“One day, we even had a shark in the pool, which Carol’s daughter Mel rescued. She made the news all around the world!”
Huff and puff along the well-trodden Cronulla Esplanade and you will see Noelene and Carol and a group of male and female swimmers sporting colourful caps and bobbing around in the sea pool at the southern end of the South Cronulla peninsula.
They are the Jellybeans.
And it’s those neon-bright swim caps that earned them the moniker “Jellybeans” after a bloke walking past saw them in the pool and yelled “You look like a bunch of jellybeans!”
Jellybean Minstrels The Jellybeans morphed into the Jellybean Minstrels when Noelene, who plays piano at the South Cronulla Bowlo, started singing in the pool about two decades or so ago.
Every morning, the dynamic 78-year-old starts making gestures in the air in tempo to Oh what a Beautiful Morning as if she’s conducting the Sydney Philharmonic Orchestra.
“We like to laugh and sing. It’s a beautiful way to start the day,” says Carol. “It’s a magic pool. It has healing powers. We even swim in winter and we come out feeling invigorated even on the coldest, most inclement days.”
While the morning swimmers, whose numbers rise and fall like the tides, cherish their daily dips, it’s the companionship and friendships they’ve gained that brings them back each day.
Oak Park Pool is one of a number of sea pools dotted along the NSW coastline which were built as part of a post-war employment scheme designed to protect swimmers from the swell and large surf.
See visitSutherlandshire.com.au to read up about all the sea pools in the Shire where you can take the plunge.
Carla Grossetti is an award-winning travel writer who lives in the Sutherland Shire. Follow Carla on Instagram @food.travel.stories