When I was young Rippleside was a very popular beach for swimming and fishing. It was close to both North and West Geelong as well as Corio and Norlane. Rippleside is a small flat beach with a small jetty extending into the bay. It slopes slowly and has always been a safe swimming destination for Geelong.
I learned to swim at Rippleside Beach. Every Saturday morning parents would drop kids off at the beach and send us into the water under the eagle eyes of the instructors. I remember learning to do a torpedo which is face down in the water with arms outstretched in front while kicking frantically for propulsion. As long as you could hold your breath you knew you could swim. I still don’t remember learning anything but that technique. I do remember always having a thong floating close by to defend yourself from the red jellyfish that appeared in great numbers. I know of no-one who ever got stung, but better be safe than sorry.
If you liked fishing the Rippleside pier was a good place to throw in a line and was good for catching whiting. My brother and I found that the best bait to use was the bait that everyone else was using. No matter which bait we used the fish always seemed to prefer something different. One day out of desperation when no-one was around I stripped off naked, dove in and grabbed some muscles. The port authority turned up saying there was a complaint about nude bathing. Seriously they would have needed a telescope to see me from above the hill. Anyway they let me off and once again I left empty handed.
Although I grew up on the other side of Geelong, Eastern Beach was the best beach destination on Corio Bay. It had the large swimming pool, diving boards, floating platform and a very good kiosk. Better still it had a shark proof enclosure, lots of park land and was close to the city. I often rode my bike for a swim here.
The truth about the shark proof enclosure was that it wasn’t. As kids we used to take it in turns to dive down and swim under the rusted out barrier into the open bay nearly every time we visited. Still it made people feel safer to think a shark couldn’t get in. In the middle of the large pool was a platform with 4 slides going down into the water in each direction. They were steel, dry and got very hot so you tried to get on them as quick as you could while still wet.
It was in the deep end of the pool I had my first encounter with a person who was drowning. She and her brother had ridden to the pool with me and we were swimming fine until she realised she couldn’t touch the bottom. She panicked and started to sink. Heroically I swam over to help her. She grabbed me, pushed me under her to stay afloat, and I was in danger of drowning. I couldn’t break her grip so I sank to the bottom and she let go. I swam to the edge of the pool and insisted an older boy rescue her. He did and he was the hero.
Eastern Beach was an exciting place for a kid to visit and still has a lot to offer. If you are visiting Geelong or the Great Ocean Road do not miss out on the opportunity to enjoy it.
When I was young Geelong had a thriving industrial pier with large cargo vessels coming and going on a regular basis. The woolsheds that now house Deaken University were actually used as woolsheds. Rather than the ships making the pier out of bounds it was a very popular fishing destination with fishermen lining the sides 7 days a week.
You always had to be mindful that the ships moved in and out from the pier so never be in a position where you could be crushed. As a kid the exciting part of Cunningham Pier was the subterranean adventures we took. Underneath the pier was a plank walkway which we gained access by climbing over the edge of the pier. Here you could walk around just above the water and drop a line to catch an elusive Leatherjacket (fish – not a discarded clothing garment).
The other thing I did as I got older was spear fishing while snorkelling. I had picked up a wetsuit from a disposals store and purchased a second-hand (not preloved) spear gun. Never caught a fish – and I mean never. All I seemed to do was upset the fishermen on the pier above – that was probably the fun part.
Today the pier is purely for entertainment with dining and entertainment venues at the end but it sits on the Cunningham Pier I remember and there are still people fishing off the sides today. Who knows but maybe kids still play under the pier today.