“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” I love that quote. What’s your daily routine? What makes you feel cleansed and fresh each day (coffee, anyone)?. After reading this, it might be a swim in the sea (or a new 3-in-1 skin cleanser)…
It’s 630am down at Sydney’s Manly beach and the southern end of the sand is dotted with pink swimming caps. It’s the middle of winter and both myself and photographer Julie Adams are sporting puffer jackets. The chill in the air won’t stop these pink-headed swimmers – they swim year-round. As the sun rises, it’s time for the daily ‘Bold And Beautiful Swim’ squad to jump in the ocean and swim from Manly to Shelly Beach and back (it’s 750m each way and yes, you might spot a shark). It’s a swim marriage celebrant and mother of three Sophie Coombes has been doing a few times a week for six years. “I feel infinitely so happy, free and cleansed. It’s like all the dead skin and the grey feelings have just evaporated and I can embrace the day with all the good things instead of the negative ones,” she says. “When I started swimming six years ago, it was in the middle of winter and there was around 20 of us. Now on a weekend, the number of swimmers gets to over 400 and in summer can be as many as 700. It has become the latest in-thing to do. It’s such a fantastic group of salty ocean lovers from all walks of life. Ages range from four-year-olds on paddle boards to 91-year-olds.”
We caught up with the beautiful mama to find out more about her skincare regime (hello Philosophy Purity Made Simple 3-in-1 cleanser), passion for swimming, her career as a marriage celebrant and her approach to parenting.
SHOP: Philosophy Purity Made Simple 3-in-1 cleanser for face and eyes, from $18. Philosophy’s award-winning daily facial skin cleanser is formulated to gently cleanse, tone and melt away all face and eye makeup in one simple step, while lightly hydrating the skin. Gently massage a “size of a 20 pence coin” amount onto a lightly damp face, and massage for 30-60 seconds. Rinse and pat dry. Use morning and evening. Follow with appropriate treatment and moisturiser.
Can you talk us through your skincare regime?
I am a big fan of anything that works quickly! I cleanse with Philosophy Purity Made Simple 3-in-1 cleanser for face and eyes in the shower (it gently cleanses, tones and melts away all face and eye makeup in one simple step – fast and effective). It’s also super hydrating. I also love the philosophy behind the product: “Purity is natural. We come into this world with all the right instincts. We are innocent and, therefore, perceive things as they should be, rather than how they are. Our conscience is clear, our hands clean and the world at large is truly beautiful. It is at this time we feel most blessed. To begin feeling young again, we must begin with the most basic step of all, the daily ritual of cleansing.” I also love an old fashioned moisturiser which my mum and my grandmother swore by it and the smell reminds me of them so much. Sometimes I just put it on to remind me of them! My mum will often drop off a tub for me when she comes and visits as a reminder to use it! My skin gets quite dry from swimming in the ocean and I am often in a mad rush to get the kids off to school – I wish I had more time for my skin care routine. Normally it takes two minutes (which is why I love my super cleanser so much)!
When did you start doing the Bold And Beautiful Swim and what inspired you to start swimming?
I started with the Bold And Beautiful Swim Squad in July 2011. My brother Gussy lives in Manly and he told me about these hot pink caps he’d see swimming every morning from Manly Life Saving Club to Shelly Beach and back from his balcony and knowing my love for swimming, suggested I give it a try. Swimming has always been my thing. As a young girl, I would spend hours upon hours in our backyard pool. In fact, I spent so much time swimming that my hair turned green and my nickname at school was Martian! At school, I was lucky enough to be coached by Graeme Brewer who was an Olympic Bronze Medalist in Moscow in 1980. My love for ocean swimming really began with the Bold And Beautiful Swim Squad — I’m not sure I could look at another black line again. There is so much more to see in the ocean… blue gropers, cuttlefish, dusky whaler sharks, old wives, manta rays and wobbegongs to name a few.
Do you ever see sharks in the water?
Yes but the friendly dusky whaler kind. I remember once I was swimming back from Shelly and I had to leave the group to get home for work and so I was swimming by myself. Lo and behold what do I see, but approximately 30-40 dusky whalers just beneath me. My heart came out of my mouth for the first time ever. Every part of my body braced itself in fear and then that turned to adrenaline and then my stroke rate went through the roof. I ended up doing backstroke so I didn’t have to look down. When I came out at Manly, I had never felt so alive and was on the biggest high for the rest of the week!
Does swimming in the sea make you feel cleansed?
After I swim I am on the biggest natural high and have a massive extra skip in my step. It’s a natural endorphin rush that fuels you to feel great all day. Your chest puffs and I feel infinitely so happy, free and cleansed. It’s like all the dead skin and the grey feelings have just evaporated and I can embrace the day with all the good things instead of the negative ones. I have managed to convince my three kids to do it with me and they often will paddle alongside on a board as I give them a push and then swim alongside them.
“ I feel infinitely so happy, free and cleansed. It’s like all the dead skin and the grey feelings have just evaporated and I can embrace the day with all the good things instead of the negative ones ”
Do you need to be a strong swimmer to join the Bold And Beautiful Swim Squad?
Not at all! You can wear flippers and snorkels if you like. You just swim at your own risk and fun. I remember seeing this wonderful 91-year-old lady swimming back and alongside her were her sons… probably in their 60’s supporting her and egging her on and I just thought ‘wow what a woman – there is my idol and inspiration!’. Whenever I feel it’s too cold to get out of bed in winter, I just think of her and my feet are on the ground.
How has this morning ritual changed your life?
It has changed my life in so many ways. It has given me a sense of belonging to an amazing community of like-minded ocean loving souls; it has kept me active; it makes me appreciate nature and the beauty of it; how good it is to see the start of a new day and it has given me a reason to get up in the morning when life has gotten me down. It’s made me appreciate what an amazing place we live in and the horizon just gives you an open-hearted feeling that makes you feel like everything is going to be okay. Ultimately, it cleanses me. Just keep on swimming!
What’s a typical breakfast for you?
A couple of Weetabix, yoghurt with honey and some strawberries/blueberries or sometimes it’s tuna on toast.
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I grew up in Killara and am one of four kids. I have two brothers and a sister. I was lucky to have such a wonderful and loving childhood with many outdoor camping trips in the holidays all around Australia. Every Christmas in the early years we would spend most of it at Avoca and then later at Hawks Nest. I remember all four of us swimming in the ocean at Avoca from dawn to dusk. We couldn’t get enough of it and there was always a very competitive family bodysurf comp that we all still love to do today. First is the one who eats the most sand! I remember dad coming in to give me a backrub every night and the beautiful feeling of just slipping into sleep afterwards and then him opening my curtains for swimming training at 5am and saying “RISE AND SHINE SOPHIA!” to my sister.
I remember my younger brother Forbes never ever being angry. He had this calm, steady nature and a magical mathematical mind, which he was so humble about. I remember my older brother Gussy writing poetry that was so incredibly moving that I was in awe of his way with words. I just wanted to write like he did.
I remember mum being the most incredible Christmas tree decorator and loving the smell of real Christmas tree pine. She was also so good at celebrating moments in life and making things magical, especially birthday parties where we would dive in the pool for magic coins which were bronze $2 marked with a green cross. I also remember her wiping away a tear from my eye when I was around four and giving me a beautiful warm hug.
But the most incredible part of my childhood is my beautiful sister Olivia who was born profoundly deaf. Upon finding out when Liv was almost one-year-old, the specialist said to mum and dad to get prepared for the fact that she would never speak or go to a normal school. Well, there was no way they were going to let that happen I remember seeing my beautiful mum spending hours upon hours in the kitchen just teaching Livvy the sound of one letter until she could pronounce it correctly. In time, due to mum and dad’s incredible perseverance and some amazing speech therapists, my sister learnt to lip read and went to Loreto Kirribilli in high school where she got an amazing TER in the 80s… incredible given she didn’t follow half of what the teacher was saying. I’ll never forget seeing her being bullied at primary school and seeing children all tapping their ears around her making fun of her hearing aids. I remember her curled up in a corner crying and I just bundled her up and wanted to take her as far away as possible. I remember thinking, ‘why can life be so cruel’. Now I know it’s how you rise from these situations and how you fight back that is the leveller. My parents and my sister have taught me that no matter what, you must keep going and keep trying. Do not stay lying down, open the curtains and get out. As a result, she is one of the most inspiring people in the world today. She has set up her own foundation called Hear For You, which connects deaf teenagers with deaf adult mentors who help them to build resilience and get through tough times from their own experiences. She is an amazing loving mum to her three beautiful children and here is the moment after she had a cochlear implant (a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing in both ears).
How long have you been a celebrant and what lead you down this career path?
I have been a marriage celebrant for five years now. I am a hard-core romantic and lover of love stories! I have always loved asking how two people’s lives just happen to come across each other and why is it this person over the millions of others that they’ve chosen to be by their side? I love hearing what it is about them that draws them in and how they travel life together. My love of love and romance really began with a movie and a book. As a young girl, I was obsessed with Anne of Green Gables and would re-wind the pivotal moment when Gilbert Blyth proposed to Anne Shirley on the bridge and play it over and over again. I just couldn’t get enough of their love for each other and I yearned to experience the love and chemistry they had in my life! I then started reading Tess of the D’Urbilles in Year 11 and had this wonderful English teacher who taught me the magic and power of the written word that in turn can stir and move your heart in ways you never imagined possible. As a result, I underlined and re-wrote out all the love scenes in the book and every other book since then! I think that’s why I also ended up working in book publishing for eight years at Random House and Allen & Unwin. I now have my perfect job. I get to hear about the magic of true life love stories and then put it to pen and paper and deliver it to all those who are the closest to their hearts on their wedding day!
What has motherhood taught you?
God so much! Mostly that I really struggle with conflict. I cannot bear it when the kids fight with each other. I know it’s only natural, but it goes straight to my heart and my stress levels rise very fast and I can’t stand it! I am forever trying new strategies on how to cope with this, but nothing much seems to be working so if you know of any secret recipe please share! But when the moment turns around and they laugh and play together my heart swells with love and joy and I just hope that they come out of this family being allies for life as I am with my brothers and sisters. We have each other’s back no matter what.
Sophie’s little list of loves:
Catching sight of my kid’s faces and toothless smiles when I pick them up after school and kindy.
A warm beautiful coffee after a swim at B&B.
Seeing the sun rise above the horizon and then hurling myself into the ocean.
Dancing with Jack and Indie in the kitchen to Lady Ga Ga’s Baby I was Born This Way.
Singing a lullaby my mum sang to us all when we were babies to my youngest Lily every night and hearing her sing along with me with her cute as cute can be voice.