If you’ve never been to Sydney’s north shore in summer, let me offer you some advice: never try to park at Balmoral Beach.
I’d planned to duck down for 20 minutes. All I wanted was a peaceful morning dip. Just a little cool off before the heat of the day arrived and family holiday madness ensued. Instead, I was met with 100 other drivers doing painfully slow laps of the esplanade, frustration rising rapidly at the sight of clear, warm water so close yet so far away. A merry-go-round of beach-going chumps.
Finally, after half an hour, I got lucky. A family was piling into a car parked parallel right in front of me. Congratulating myself on my patience, I clicked my indicator on and waited for them to leave. And they did. But just before I manoeuvred into the park, the car behind me pulled out, swerved onto the other side of the road and stuck its nose straight into it. My park. My hard-won golden ticket to the waves gently lapping just beyond reach.
I was so shocked it took me a moment to react. Then I found my horn. After a solid few seconds of beeping, the driver of the other car jumped out and walked up to my open window. He would have been 70 and he wore the expression of someone who thought of his age as a badge of honour.
“I have been a member of the Balmoral Beach Club for longer than you have been alive,” he said, dripping sweat and self-importance, “and I’ve been looking for a park for over an hour.”
“So?” I replied, managing to bite back any additions to what I thought was a very valid question.
He pointed a gnarled finger at me. “You look like a young lady who usually has nice manners. I suggest you try to find them again.”
He didn’t let me respond. He simply got back in his car and waited for me to drive off so he could straighten up.
And you know what? I did drive off. I let him have it without a fight. Because not only was I still sans-swim, I was now boiling with rage – the exact opposite feeling I’d intended to fill myself with that morning – and I had the sense that arguing with this guy was only going to make things worse. So I let it go.
I didn’t have the patience to search for another park but I wasn’t giving up on my morning swim. Oh no. I decided I was going to somehow turn his jerk move into a win for me. So I whipped out my phone and searched the abundant coastline around me for another beach. A tiny stretch of sand that had been overlooked by the masses.
Just a couple of kilometres away, down a meandering road, was a strip of gold at the end of the GPS rainbow.
I arrived to find plenty of spots in a make-shift carpark by the bush. I followed a path through the trees, glimpsing snatches of glorious white sand, warm turquoise water and sparkling rock pools.
And when I finally reached this piece of paradise I thought two things:
1. This is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen
2. Wow. That’s a lot of male genitals
So, okay. I hadn’t known it was a nude beach. A nude beach frequented by gay men, at that. But no one seemed bothered by my presence and I wasn’t by theirs. I had my peaceful morning swim at a stunning Sydney beach without getting into an argument and even learnt a good lesson along the way: sometimes, you just gotta let it go.