Bethells beach, undercurrents, and a few thoughts on false selves

Next in the folder are photographs taken at Bethells beach on the 19th of January 2014 so I must have gone there even though I can’t remember anything about it.

Bethells beach is one of my favourites. I camped there with friends for several days when I was 14 years old, a wee while ago now. It is one of the surf beaches on Auckland’s west coast. These beaches are broad and flat with fine, black sand and are known to be wild. They have claimed many lives because people find themselves dragged out to sea in the strong currents that lurk beneath the waves.

The west coast landscape is impressive. Looks like I forgot to photograph the sea and I have no idea whether the tide was in or out, whether I went for a swim, or even who I was with. But I doubt it was with my (then) recently acquired (and now no longer) male companion as he is not fond of long walks.

Bethells beach in the afternoon

A rather grim Bethells beach looking northwest, probably late afternoon

I have been reading about the construction of a false self and how that can be toxic when people become attached to it. I can’t find an elegant way to incorporate it with this Bethells beach post so here it is, jammed in. Perhaps we find ourselves dragged beneath the waves and out to sea in the current of someone else’s false self that we unwittingly believe in.

This curiosity about ‘false selves’ has come about in relation to my recent break-up. Perhaps he had constructed a false self that I attached to and then when his true self emerged – on that fateful last night – it came as quite a shock. He went from being (the usual) Mr Nice-guy to (a foreign) Mr I-don’t-give-a-shit in a matter of minutes. Then he just walked out. And I haven’t heard from him since.

Anyway, which of his selves was false? Mr Charming or Mr I-don’t-care-a-single-bit? Both? And, how was I tricked for such a long time? The construction of a false persona is a HUGE topic. It has links to childhood trauma, narcissism, ego, borderline personality disorder… things I am now finding out about in relation to my parents.

Bethells beach looking towards the southwest

Bethells beach looking southwest

We didn’t have an argument, or anything like that, on the last night. But, now, thinking back, I realise he was planning ‘the dumping’ for at least a few days, possibly even weeks. If he was having difficulties in the relationship why didn’t he just talk to me about it? There was absolutely no attempt to do so. None. He let me think that he actually cared about me. Lots. But you don’t do what he did to someone you care about. You just don’t. That doesn’t mean that you can’t break up, but there are ways of breaking up. His way was awful.

He had purchased the wine and the meal he brought along to my house on that last night while all the time he was planning to break up. It was premeditated. A murder. Just a couple of days beforehand he had even suggested a future holiday. And he made a point of kissing me when he arrived. WTF?

Although taken months earlier, the bleak darkness of these beach photographs hints at how I felt after he left, despite my slightly desperate attempt to increase their brightness and colour saturation.


Point Chevalier beach twice in a row, apparently

The photos in my beach visits collection indicate that on Sunday January 12th and Monday January 13th I attended Point Chevalier beach in the early afternoon. I can’t remember this at all. If it wasn’t for the photos I wouldn’t be giving those swims – or those days – a second thought.

It appears that the weather was unsettled on both days, but that the second day was sunnier.

It appears that I managed to get to the beach in time for High Tide on the 12th, but didn’t quite make it until just after high tide on the 13th.

I would have been by myself on both of those days because my (then) recently acquired love interest and beach companion did not ever attend Point Chevalier beach with me even though it was nearby, and one of the better beaches in central Auckland.


A grey and possibly slightly windy day at Point Chevalier beach on Sunday 12th January. Early afternoon. Full tide.

A sunny but probably windy day at Point Chevalier beach on Tuesday, ‎14 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎3:28pm

A sunny but probably windy day at Point Chevalier beach on Monday 13th ‎January ‎2014. The strip of smooth sand indicates that the tide is on its way out.

Evidence of a windy day in the unsettled water surface and white capped waves

Evidence of a windy day in the unsettled water surface and white capped waves on Monday 13th January

Stranded at Kelvin Strand, then and now

Went for a swim on Saturday 11th January after two days without. I had company, and the company suggested we explore one of Auckland’s ‘best kept secrets’, a beach in Te Atatu Peninsula called Kelvin Strand. We attended during high tide, which was at 4.41pm. But you wouldn’t have known it. After wading for far too long through squishy mud, we were only knee deep in water. ‘Swimming’ was more a case of crawling.


Lacklustre photo of a lacklustre beach

Lacklustre photo of a lacklustre beach with the Auckland CBD in the distance

Months have passed. I’ve been stranded at Kelvin Strand. The previous paragraph was written in January but saved as a draft and not published. Subsequently, many beaches were visited but the writing stopped because my circumstances changed and a couple of months later the beach visits stopped because the weather became wintry.


Lacklustre beach on a lacklustre day. A tiny Auckland Harbour bridge is on the horizon towards the right

Take, for example, the visit to Kelvin Strand. I really do try to like all beaches but this one really is a hopeless little scrap of accumulated sand. We had to walk such a very long way out across barely submerged, slimy estuarine muds in a vain search for anything that even slightly resembled a swim. We. We are no longer. Our attempts to find a swim at Kelvin Strand were in vain, and (it turns out) so was our attempt to develop a relationship. My previously fond memories of our summer beach adventures now inevitably take on a darker hue and wintry chill.

Harbours and harbouring

Didn’t manage a swim last Thursday the 9th of January. I was super tired and also the weather was unexpectedly chilly. This could have provided the ingredients for a surprisingly warm swimming experience as the temperature of the water would not have dropped as much as the temperature of the air, but I did not venture to find out.

But there is still something I have been meaning to write about for a while. Auckland is the home of three harbours. The Waitemata harbour is the most popular, and on a sunny day the water reflects the light in such a way that it appears to sparkle. Next is the less popular Manukau harbour. This harbour gets a bit of a hard time due to being the home of an extensive sewerage plant, and also, the Auckland International Airport is located on its shores.

The main point of the post today is to skite a bit about the Kaipara harbour. Due to council defined boundaries, only half of this harbour is actually located in region of Auckland. But taken as a whole, apparently the Kaipara harbour is the largest natural harbour in the world. Due to my close proximity to the Waitemata and Manukau harbours, I hardly ever visit the Kaipara harbour but I would like to do so more in the future. The last time I was in its vicinity was over ten years ago when I visited friends who had a holiday home on its shores.

The word ‘harbour’ has just gone strange. You know, I’ve repeated it so many times here that it seems like a foreign word. Harbour harbour harbour. You can harbour a grudge. Perhaps it is derived from a word that means ‘holding place’ or similar. It can also be spelled ‘harbor‘. I did not know that until Wikipedia told me just now. Yes, it is derived from and old english word ‘herebeorg‘ which means troop (or army) shelter. It is a place of refuge, or safety. We can harbour a criminal, or a grudge. Keeping them both safe. Apparently. I think that harbouring a grudge does not keep me safe. Interesting. Harbouring the criminal and the grudge keeps THEM safe, but not the person doing the harbouring.

So, do our harbours keep us safe while compromising themselves? In the case of the Manukau I would have to agree. And even the Waitemata. I’m a bit of a purist. I’ll come out of the closet. I just LOVE unmodified beaches. Beaches with their own dunes, without pavements, seawalls and the like. The Waitemata has been messed about with a lot. Some people would not agree with my perspective. They would think that this messing about is a good thing as it enables progress. It enables transport through the construction of motorways, bridges and so on. But I love the unexpected symmetries and asymmetries that are found on an unmodified shoreline. The way the estuarine waters curl and carve there way across estuarine muds. And the way that dunes rise and fall in response to changing winds, storms and tides.

Another rough day

It was incredibly windy at Pt Chevalier beach during a 3.2m high tide at 1.56pm on Wednesday 8th of January. So, the activity of sitting on the beach was somewhat chilly, but, this was contrasted with the relatively warm water temperature. The ‘swim’ consisted of jumping up and down in the waves and was heading towards being an experience similar to that found on a west coast surf beach such as Piha.


High tide at Pt Chevalier beach looking towards the north

One result of the high tide waves managing to meet the seawall is that it gives the impression of a giant swimming pool. Pt Chevalier beach is located in a harbour estuary, which also gives the impression of a swimming pool. These seemingly contained spaces enable us to forget that the sea is connected up everywhere and that there is only one sea, really.


High tide at Pt Chevalier beach looking towards the south

The flattened beach profile and lack of sand on the upper beach is still evident. Several years ago this beach was nourished or ‘resanded‘ in order to mitigate beach erosion. Mission Bay and Kohimarama have also been nourished, and it has been argued that the order in which these beaches received this expensive practice was related to property values.

A flattened Pt Chevalier beach

A 3.4m high tide was scheduled for 1.03pm on Tuesday the 7th of January. Many people were taking advantage of the settled weather. The beach profile was noticeably flat, a response to the recent ‘storm’. During calm weather, sand collects on the beach and forms dunes, then in rough weather these dunes protect the land beyond as they provide a buffer that absorbs wave energy. Some of the sand will be transported from the dune on the shore to an offshore bar under the water, which then provides a mechanism for waves to break further out to see, which in turn, reduces the amount of wave energy that lands on the shore.


High tide at a somewhat flattened Pt Chevalier beach

The flatter profile is evident by the proximity of the high tide to the pavement area, and by observing swimmers standing waist deep in water a fair way from the shore.


Pt Chevalier beachgoers on a calm sunny day

Evidence of a higher than usual high tide at Pt Chevalier beach

A lunchtime high tide on a relatively calm day brought quite a few people to Pt Chevalier beach on Monday the 6th of January. A line of  debris along the pavement is evidence that a recent higher than usual tide reached beyond the small sea wall. This could have occurred yesterday when we were faced with the relatively strong westerly at Kohimarama as this would have been heading straight into the west-facing Pt Chevalier beach. The combined effects of a spring tide (3.6m), strong onshore wind and low air pressure (usually accompanied by unsettled weather conditions) usually generates a higher than usual tide, and it is likely to be what occurred at Pt Chevalier yesterday.


Evidence of a recent very high tide at Pt Chevalier beach

The relationship between air / ambient / atmospheric pressure and water level is something that completely astounds me. I had thought that water always took up the same amount of space but when atmospheric pressure is high it pushes down onto water making the level lower. In New Zealand this is what happens on a calm, sunny day. Low barometric pressure exerts less force upon the surface of the water, so it is, in effect, higher and can add a few cm to a high tide. The recent high tide has formed a small dune scarp or ridge of sand in front of the stone wall as waves have shifted sand from here to elsewhere.


A small dune ‘scarp’ has formed in front of the pavement at Pt Chevalier beach

The day after the day before

A small group of us ventured to swim at Kohimarama on the 5th of January. There was a 3.6m high tide at 11.18am. At first, we were accompanied by a fairly strong breeze but by the time we left, this had transformed into a public sandblasting experience.

Kohimarama is surrounded by another affluent suburb and it is the next beach eastwards from Mission Bay. I was somewhat distracted by the fact that I had friends with me so did not take many photographs.


The view of Rangitoto Island from Kohimarama beach on yet another grey and windy Auckland day

A swim in these vigorous conditions is an excellent antidote if you are feeling under the weather due to overindulgence of the partying kind. It was my birthday the day before this swim and festivities had extended into the early morning hours, so the late morning swim was incredibly restorative.


View from Kohimarama beach looking east towards St Heliers

Point Chevalier beach on January 3rd and 4th

On January 3rd the 3.5m high tide at 9.35am was further amplified by a brisk onshore northerly. This is a change from the prevailing westerly, so the waves were breaking onshore at quite a different angle to usual.


Waves approaching the shore from the north, rather than the west at Pt Chevalier beach

On January the 4th, the tide was even higher (3.6m) and the northerly was even stronger during high tide at 10.27am. Waves are hitting the small sea wall and pavement that are situated where a row of sand dunes would have been before the beach was modified. Sand dunes absorb the energy of dissipating waves, whereas hard structures reflect it back.


Strong onshore winds at high tide on January 4th 2014 at Pt Chevalier beach

Wave energy is being reflected back into oncoming waves. This is how sand is eroded from the area in front of a hard structure.


Waves bouncing off a hard structure – if there is enough energy, sand is entrained and moved away

First swim of the new year

Despite good intentions, I did not have a swim yesterday as the New Year’s Eve celebrations took their toll. This morning, the tide was in on the Waitemata at 8.43am, so I figured Pt Chevalier would be supremely swimmable at 9am as it takes about 15 minutes for the tidal peak to reach there from the Auckland tide datum at Westhaven.

Sure enough, at 9am the water was seemingly flooding the beach due to a high high today (3.5m), which did not leave much accessible sand on the shore.


The sun making inroads by 9am at Pt Chevalier. Sand is immersed along much of the shore due to 3.5m high tide

The water was relatively hard to get into but the swim made worthwhile. I’m getting better at my various ‘strokes’ (back and breast lol) plus I’ve been doing a bit of freestyle. Until recently, this has been tricky due to running out of breath (and not breathing properly) but these problems are ironing themselves out.

And I saved a bee. I had waded out up to waist depth, to find a bee wriggling around on a (partially) floating pohutukawa leaf. These leaves are not big, and it looked like a sad little struggle that was about to end in a drowning. But I picked up the leaf and its resident bumble bee then waded back to shore and deposited them among the grass on dry land.