Wonderful Wild Swimming

Its early. Too early. The alarm buzzes into life.

I roll over to silence it, jolted sharply awake.

The world outside is still wrapped in darkness. The pull to remain under the protection of the duvet is strong.

Drifting in and out of ‘snooze’ mode my mind wanders between the “what if’s”.

What if I just stay here? What if I sleep just a little longer? What if I miss it today?

And then FOMO sets in. The memory of that feeling… The water on your skin. The laughter in your belly. The cold ground under your feet. The sun on your face as it rises over the trees beyond, or the wind or rain the other 90% of the time.

My bag is already packed. An attempt to grasp onto those last few minutes of sleep.

Best get dressed. The swimming costume goes on first, then I start to layer up. Attention to complimenting colours or any form of ‘style’ are not applicable. Not necessary. The important thing is comfort. Warmth. I remember the times of friends arriving in dressing gowns and pyjamas. The early hours stripping away the judgmental eyes of others.

Quiet footsteps down the stairs trying not to wake the house. Leaving them to their slumber.

I click the kettle on. Double check I’ve packed the biscuits. A quick scroll through social media – not much has moved on since the night before. The odd message of those succumbed to the cosiness of bed ping through. “I’m not going to make it!”.

Click. The kettles boiled. Flasks are filled. It’s time to go.

Arrival at the waters edge is met with familiar smiles. Half glazed over eyes. The odd apprehensive sigh.

But… “We’re here now! Might as well get in!”

The changing seasons see changing methods of immersion.

In Spring and Summer, the excitement and anticipation of the welcoming water is hard to resist. Energy is high. Swimmers disperse in all directions. Some faces submerge & identities fall away, as they make the most of the time to get a ‘proper’ swim in; cover some distance. Others revel in the opportunity to just be. To chat, unrushed and present. The early sunrise brings longer mornings to remain in our sanctuary before we must scatter towards our daily routines.

Autumn and Winter finds us with a shorter window. The sunrise comes later. The cold weather reduces our tolerance to hang around. The apprehension a little more elevated. Numbers start to dwindle, and the focus turns to the cold-water immersion. Distance and time diminish.

And yet, at the core, the reactions afterwards remain the same. Stress and anxiety, however temporarily, are stripped away. Chatter & laughter come easy. Moods are noticeably lifted & the swimmers move on into the day ready for what is ahead.

The early morning dawn swim: a positive experience to start the day.

This past year has not been as the ones before. Many swimmers have been cut off from the water, from their refuge in some way. Cut off from their swimming communities and unable to access the full experience they normally seek. Some have returned to find their safe spaces in chaos… Litter picks becoming part of the new routine. We become so connected and protective of our natural landscape our instinct is to protect it.

Certainly, in our case bubbles have formed and swimmers have chosen to minimise their interactions and the numbers they swim with. Sticking with the same faces. A small compromise to be able to keep swimming through this winter… but how we long now for those more sociable times. A chance to hug and exchange cake recipes whilst taste testing the latest creations, admiring swimsuits & laughing about failed dive attempts off the jetty.

It has been a long Winter, perhaps more mentally than anything else.

The anticipation of Spring brings promise of change. Here’s hoping that’s in more ways than one.