Just over a week since I did my first land to land sea swim, a change in COVID restrictions up in the North East precipitated my first ever solo sea swim. That’s right. Me, in the sea, on my own. Yet another one of those “I am never ever EVER going to do that” things, that I somehow, madly, end up doing.
The new restrictions mean that you cannot socialise or exercise with people who you don’t live with, or are in your support bubble, which includes sea swimming. We always swim with a buddy for safety reasons – and also because if you pick the right buddy they will bring cake for after the swim. A buddy can help you out if you get cramp, get overcome by the cold unexpectedly (either during or after the swim), or something else happens during the dip. And of course, a buddy is someone who will walk in next to you in the winter months, adding their own versions of “oh my god this is so bloody cold, we must be bloody mad” as you enter the freezing water. Much needed moral support!
However, with my Birth Trauma Blasting Bikini Winter Dipping fundraiser due to start on 1st October, I need to be able to get in the sea on my own, on the occasions when the sea is flat and calm. I decided to turn the restrictions into a positive, and swim in the sea on my own, beating my final sea fear, and the one I thought I’d never overcome.
I checked the tide times and wave forecast, and opted for a mid afternoon swim at a local bay where I did my first ever sea swim, and where I have swum probably 200 times. The bay is protected by the reef, and it is the place I feel most comfortable swimming in. It has the added bonus of having a small car park directly adjacent to the beach, so that if I were to get into difficulty someone would spot me. That said, you should never rely on the kindness, or eyesight of the (usually pension age) strangers for support when sea swimming, but it does bring reassurance.
I spent all afternoon feeling increasingly anxious, my stomach doing the familiar somersaults, while my mind raced through all of the possible (and impossible) situations that might occur. These ranged from the sensible “what if I am swept away?” to the ridiculous “what if there is an aggressive bull seal?”. Nevertheless, 4pm saw me parked up in the little carpark, where I threw off my clothes (as I had my swimming costume on underneath…it isn’t that sort of beach…) and sauntered to the sea.
I say sauntered…that’s what it may have looked like to the aghast onlookers, who were looking in disbelief as I made my lonely way to the shore edge. Little did they know the unspeakable expletives that were actually coursing through my head at the time. If only I had my usual gang with me and we would all have gloriously sworn and shrieked in unison. As it was, I thought I better not draw any more attention to myself than I had already. I concentrated on the little waves lapping at my feet, feeling the familiar sensation of slippery seaweed thwacking against my calves, the water murky but not too cold. I kept a constant eye on the waves coming towards me, which were gentle and rolled easily over the top of my shoulders. Another few anxious looks behind me to check that I wasn’t far from the shore, a deep breath and then I jumped onto my back, kicking gently to keep myself afloat. Two seconds later I put my feet down, to check I was in my depth, before repeating the kicking/standing/kicking routine until I got my confidence up. I knew this sea! I knew this water! I had swum here so many times. I felt safe. It felt so…normal. I was incredulous. All this time saying I would never be able to get in the sea on my own, and here I was, loving it and feeling fricking AWESOME. Admittedly, a few times I did wonder why I had so many waves ontop of me, realising that I was only about 1 inch from the shore in ankle deep water. But hey, I was in.
I began to smile, then laugh perhaps a little hysterically, feeling so excited that I felt so good in the water. On my own! I felt so wild and free, a bit giddy almost. The onlookers on the beach probably craned their necks a little, just to check if the crazy woman bobbing about in the waves was indeed laughing to herself.
I stayed in the water playing with the waves for about 20 minutes, before making my way to the beach. I smiled broadly as I walked up the beach, looking even nuttier than normal as I took off my swimming hat and laughed out loud as I made my way into the car park. The couples in the cars either side of mine quickly looked away, no doubt anxious not to catch my eye in case I threw off my swimming costume and started dancing a tango with a piece of seaweed. Perhaps disappointingly for them, I just put on my dry robe, took my costume off and drove home butt naked. I smiled all the way home, feeling exhilarated and euphoric. I was so chuffed I had done it. And more importantly, I had enjoyed it! And luckily I didn’t have a car accident, as heaven knows what the emergency services would have thought of a naked sand covered woman under an oversize purple fleecy waterproof coat driving along the country roads laughing to herself as she careers into a bush.
Watch the videos. And just look, LOOK at how happy and excited I was afterwards, compared to my anxious face beforehand.