My love affair with the sea, and my journey into being a heroic wild swimmer

Ever since I can remember I have loved being in, or by the sea.  I can possibly thank my parents for that.. we spent several years living very close to the sea in Kuwait when I was a youngster…so many days whiled away on that beach. Then whilst growing up we used to travel from Germany to Italy in our beloved VW camper and spend two weeks by the sea each summer, and most days on the beach.  I remember being oh so disappointed when the red flags were flying and we couldn’t go in.  Ever since I have mostly lived on the Suffolk coast… regular bike trips were to be had for swims during the summer as a teenager, and quite a few drunken night time swims too (oh foolish me)…and then when I started gathering my flock of four, family days out and bike rides to the beach.

…this is Lo, she is my friend and takes me to the beach

 

…imagine my joy when the council informed my husband that he had finally (after around 14 years of being on the waiting list) got to the top of the beach hut waiting list.  We had a choice of three, but chose the one on the end for the purpose of bike leaning up againsting.  That was in 2014, and we have had nearly five lovely years there…and I have to say it’s become a massive part of my life.

 

They are a row of very unassuming dark brown huts, tucked up behind the gorse bushes.  They are not bright, pretty coloured huts that shout “look at me!!!”… they just sit there quietly.  I like that, though don’t get me wrong…I do so like the other variety too.  So when we opened the doors for the first time we were met with dark brown varnished walls and a grey painted concrete floor…oooh, and a splash of lovely blue on the inside of the doors…it wasn’t long before I made it feel like home

…the only things we bought new for her were the metal folding chairs and one of the white seating chests (which was a second hand bargain)… the rest was given, or taken from home ,and decorated  to fit in.  I also took some of my stock and left over wedding decorations were added too…so it’s now very much a home from home.

 

We spend lovely evenings down there

…and wedding anniversaries

we normally have a bottle of Champagne

 

…shoreline and petticoats…befitting for wedding anniversaries on the beach

 

,,,this was our first anniversary…and I wore my wedding dress

… and I had my pre- wedding girly gathering there

…and it’s my favourite place to spend my birthday

…. this was my 50th

 

…dear Mr Old came too. I’ve had him since the day I was born. He takes very good care of me, I wanted to go for a swim, but he wouldn’t let me …he told me I’d had way too much Gin and Prosecco…I think he was most probably right

Not only do we have lots of fun time down at that hut, I also take the crochet side of my work down there too.  I feel like the cat who got the cream when I sit down there pre and post swim hooking up orders or making new designs…perfick!!! I normally have a pot of tea on the go, and Radio 4, or 6 music for company…depending on my mood

Just me, the sea…and a pot of tea

 

…and that’s what led to my heroic wild swimming.  After several  summers of working down at the beach, watching summer draw out…and as it started to get colder I would sit there looking out at that big cold sea and how I missed being in there.  I got to thinking that if I got in that sea, surely it wouldn’t be that much colder, surely the water temperature wouldn’t have dropped that much???.  So one Octobers day in 2016 I very cautiously got into my cossie and got into that sea… yes, it was cold…but not too bad

…here I am taking a celebratory selfie to mark the occasion

…. and I figured that if I kept going in I surely wouldn’t notice the gradual temperature change..so I found myself going in in November

I took this photo after my swim and posted about how zingy, tingly and alive I felt

 

…up till now I had started my winter swimming alone, but that November was the start of many swims together with my friend Claire… and we decided we were super, heroic wild swimmers #heroicwildswimming…we had swum lots together in warmer weather…but now our winter swimming journey together had well and truly begun

…our first winter swim together at her local beach Shingle Street…this one was in the lagoon

ok..so the colder it got, the more amazing the feeling…

… and so it continued, we swam together as much as possible, but sometimes swam alone….and as the months went by, and as the sea got to it’s coldest in March we were totally hooked.  Hooked on the not wanting to get into that oh so cold water, hooked on those first tentative steps, hooked on that psychological push it takes to draw in your breath and submerge yourself, hooked on that feeling of total oneness with the sea, the feeling of peace, calm and tranquility …hooked on watching the winter’s light play upon the water, hooked on that smarting pain on your skin… hooked on the magical, sparkly twinkles that bounce off the shingle when you get out… hooked on the crazy, incredible, happy high you feel , and the urge to run all breathless…the numb stinging skin, the need to swear lots, and chatter oh so quickly in high, excitable squeaky voices (or in my case sing silly songs in an awful operatic voice littered with swear words…what must the passing dog walkers think)

…but it doesn’t end there.. then come the stripping off, and frantic drying and trying to put clothing (warmed by being wrapped round the pre made walter hottle bottles) onto still wet, numb flesh..bras getting twisted, sleeves all twisted…more swearing and quick raspy breaths, numb toes and fingers… all the time chattering excited about how that swim was just amazing!!! Then when dressed the most welcome cup of tea ever, accompanied by something sweet to eat, preferably a bit of Claire’s delicious baking

..and after trying to swim at least once a month is was suddenly March, when the sea is at it’s coldest… it would only get warmer from now on

…a celebratory March swim

…and suddenly it was May…and we had been swimming every month for a whole year

celebratory pose at Shingle Street to mark our first wild swimming anniversary

I kind of fell into year round swimming, through missing the feeling of the water, by sitting up at the beach hut and looking longingly at the sea wishing it wasn’t too cold to be in there, by being curious as to whether it really would be too cold to swim in October, then November…and then through to the following summer.  I did it because I felt amazing, nothing has ever come close…and then I started reading up about all the benefits of cold water swimming, of swimming outdoors as nature intended… but I’d started to learn that already, it was just cool to see it all written about, and to start reading about other peoples experiences, about how it is good for depression, for your immune system to name a few things

…though you can look a teensy bit mad when you have quite a few days worth of sea in your hair and a sunburnt nose

People often remark “you must be mad”.,,,possibly, maybe you have to be a little bit mad to consider it in the first place … but doing something that is so good for you, and makes you feel so tipperty top definitely isn’t mad

 

 

And then the following June I conquered a huge fear, in fact a couple…I learnt how to swim with my face in the water.  Claire and I had been taking longer swims to prepare for an organised 3km swim from Durdle Door to Lulworth Cove with Swimtrek.  Boy how my neck ached from doing breast stroke with my head held out of the water on those longer swims..so there was only one thing for it, I got me some goggles, and after many attempts (which began with me looking like a toddlers in a swimming pool, reluctantly putting my face in the water and removing it quickly all a splutter) I sort of kind of got the hang of it, and I kind of quite liked it, and my neck didn’t ache as much… and I eventually grew to love it

…yay!!!!…I can swim with my face in the water

 

I also made myself swim out of my depth in preparation for the 3km swim…something I never did before. You see as much as I love the sea, I’m always rather scared in there (especially in our bit of North Sea where you can’t see a bloody thing).  Go me!!!… I still don’t like it very much, and rarely do it.

I want to tell all about the big swim…but that would involve me rambling on for much, much longer.,,so I might leave that for another time…

Lulworth Cove, it was beautiful there

Another hurdle I had to cross was swimming after a holiday to Rhodes for my daughter’s wedding.  After swimming in that oh so warm crystal clear sea where oodles of snorkelling was to be had surrounded by stunning sea critters.  I then was faced with swimming in a very murky, zero visiblity, cold in comparison North Sea.  As the sea warms up the amount of jelly fish grows, as do the number of things you bump into, or brush against you, things that feel firm but squishy and yielding to the touch… things that can’t be seen…things that could be giant sea monsters, a Kraken perhaps, or a deadly stinging ray…you just can’t tell.  So after leaving it for a couple of weeks, I decided one sunny early October’s day that I had to face my fears and go in…the sea was very kind to me, no jelly fish, no deadly sea monsters…I thanked my sea and was very happy indeed

…thank you sea for not being too cold, and for keeping your deadly sea monsters at bay

I love the sea, I love the sea and beach in all weathers, and I love that every time I go in the sea I earn extra points and I get moved up the ‘Mermaid to be’ waiting list… and the colder the water, the more points you get, right??  I don’t think I could ever live away from the sea.

I love it when it’s sunny

I love it when it’s snowy

I love it when it’s rough..but not for swimming

 

I love it when it’s calm

I love the beauty of Sizewell power station reflected in the low tide pools

I love my new friend Desmond who tells me how cold it is …. and I love that to the passing dog walkers I must have looked like a really strange sort of a gal today, bending over, random clothing, rubber duck on string dunked in the sea, whilst holding the kettle that I was going to fill from the beach tap on the way back up to the hut

 

I love that a group of beach hut people always put up and decorate a Christmas tree

 

I love my meet ups with my crazy #heroicwildswimming friend Claire

I love warming my clothes on the stones when at Shingle Street

I love this old peely paint boat

…to name but a few…oooh, and of course our swimming with seals encounters, but I don’t have any decent photos of those

THANK YOU SEA FOR HAVING ME

 

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