RINGING IN THE YEARS: Gisela Mackay, Tracey Heers, Rae Rashford, Suzanne Baker, Isabel Hoey, Dot Collins, Bee Schlaikier and Melissa Todd at Bulcock Beach as part of a regular swimming group, The Bulcock Belles.
RINGING IN THE YEARS: Gisela Mackay, Tracey Heers, Rae Rashford, Suzanne Baker, Isabel Hoey, Dot Collins, Bee Schlaikier and Melissa Todd at Bulcock Beach as part of a regular swimming group, The Bulcock Belles. John McCutcheon

Still waters run deep for The Bulcock Belles

THE sight of a dozen older women making their way into the ocean each day, arms tightly linked for stability, is a picture of enduring friendship.

The Bulcock Belles, as they are known to locals, have been helping each other in and out of Pumicestone Passage every day for about 28 years.

You can spot them at the Caloundra beach each morning.

They wear green hats, large smiles and bare their saggy bits with pride.

Walking arm in arm makes them into a strong and stable chain: you can't tell which of the Belles are a bit wobbly on their feet.

Isabelle Riordan, 79, has been a Belle for more than 20 years.

"It's somewhere to come every morning and someone to talk to," she said.

"It keeps us young.

"We've seen each other through life's ups and downs, deaths, marriages - the lot."

Dot Bryant is 76 and wants to be a Belle for eternity.

"Lots of us want our ashes scattered out there when the time comes, so we can swim and laugh here forever," she said.

"I've been coming about 20 years. I even swim through winter.

"I love the companionship. We have our laugh for the day and get our exercise. It's our therapy.

"We discuss life, good recipes, where to buy things, even sex. No subject is off limits."

Rae Benson is 75 and loves a joke.

"I come for the companionship side of things," she said.

"Everyone talks to us. We've met people from all over the world.

"Oh, and we come for the salt. It helps preserves us.

"Plus we get to see hot young life guards."

The Belles are an enduring symbol of Bulcock Beach, and pictures of their daily march in and out of the briny have made it all over the world, thanks to enchanted tourists who ask to take their photo.

They banter, laugh loudly, and check on each other's ailments and families.

They are older women who seem young and whose daily practice has given them a sense of place and purpose.


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