Sydney (dpa) - The rest of the breakfast crowd at the Bluewater café this chilly Sunday morning in Sydney are puzzling over the boisterousness of those at the trestle tables at the back.
A clue to the wide grins is the wet hair, the salty tang and the shivering: these are members of the Bold and the Beautiful and have just completed a 1.5-kilometre dawn swim in numbingly cold water from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach and back.
The club has been going since 2008 when a few friends anxious at the prospect of being alone in the Pacific Ocean prevailed on experienced swimming instructor Julie Isbill to shepherd them on an early morning dip.
Over 3,000 people have since filled out the B&B pack. Three have been on enough swims to clock up 1,000 kilometres.
There are newbies almost every day for the 7.00 am start outside Manly surf lifesaving club.
"It's just stayed exactly as it was the day it started," said Jenny Menzies.
Beyond registering and having your photo taken for the B&B album, there are no other formalities. There is no cost, no timing, no results, no starting gun. There are no rules about wetsuits, snorkels, flippers or whether you take a direct line or wander.
The tradition has grown up of breakfasting together afterwards.
Some, like Ian Forster, turn up most days. Indeed, Forster has swum every single day this southern hemisphere winter, 92 consecutive days, and without a wetsuit too.
"Every day is different," said Menzies. "You see a different fish or a different weed. Or the sand will be shaped slightly differently. I've never tired of doing it. I'll swim until the day I die."
Kari Baynes, a first-timer in August, swam with pool-swimming chum Lindy Woodrow, a veteran of lots of competitive ocean swims.
"I've a fear of sharks and surf," Baynes admitted. "I thought that if I do it with an experienced group, with a large number of people, I'd feel much safer. I like the fact that I felt people around me all the time."
Sharks are spotted off all Sydney beaches. Some have shark nets to deter attacks and some do not. The crossing to Shelley Beach is unprotected but while there are frequent sightings of really big fish, there have been no incidents.
In winter the ocean is calmer than in summer. Manly is a surfing beach and there can be big surf, big waves, currents and rips.
"You don't want to be swimming off the coast of Sydney on your own," Woodrow said. "Kari enjoyed it. I swam with her. She swam with other people. She's desensitizing herself to the fear of large ocean life like sharks and big surf."
Baynes, who plans to go on to competitive ocean swimming, was delighted to be in what some have said is Sydney's premiere nursery for ocean swimmers.
"That's how it felt: in a nursery," she said. "I don't mind looking at a bit of sea life, but not the sea life with the big teeth. I swam close to people. My theory is to be in the middle.
"Navigating the surf, the waves, that's going to be my next challenge."
Menzies was brought up on Sydney's northern beaches. The ocean does not scare her. What gets her out of bed for the B&B swims is the camaraderie.
"You get up, you get down there and you know you're going to see a friendly face," she said. "Doesn't it make you feel good to be alive! There's something about it that gets into every cell of your body. You can be exhausted but when you come out you feel fantastic."
Every day of the year there is a swim. Some can be really memorable. One Tuesday in July last year the group of 48 who braved the cold and the rain got to swim with a 15-metre southern right whale.
The gentle giant was so inquisitive it came close enough to some swimmers they could hear it breathe, even touch it.
Back in the Bluewater café that day the group on the trestles at the back were likely noisier, more euphoric, more boisterous and less shivery than usual.
## Internet - [Bold and the Beautiful](http://dpaq.de/H1yL1) - [Video of playful whale](http://dpaq.de/78rrQ) - [Images of playful whale](http://dpaq.de/ANEQn) - [Shelly Beach](http://dpaq.de/qCBMN)
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dpa ●●● English Services GmbH