Socially Distanced Sea Swimming

Several weeks later…..after quite a few non-swimming swimming group zooms (when I remembered!) I decided to quietly slip back into the water now that we are able to do so. We’ve been going quite early and / or away from other people and have encountered only quizzical ‘rather you than me’ looks. The water is about 12.5 degrees, about 4 degrees warmer than when we last swam. My back is feeling better after a very dodgy few weeks and if you follow the link below….. what more needs to be said!

Better not to go alone, better to swim on an incoming tide when it’s flat and calm. Don’t forget the suntan lotion – environmentally friendly of course! Have a look at the patterns and different colours of the sands, the size of the ripples, the way the light is reflected in a myriad of ways. Enjoy the feeling of being in the water, change quickly once you are out, warm up and stay safe!

Accuweather temp 18 degrees, real feel 21, wind WSW, 9km/h, gusting 13, pressure 1022.5. Met Office 14 degrees, real feel also 14, wind ESE, 7km/h, gusting 9, pressure 1022. Channel Coastal Observatory wave height, 11cm, max 17cm, sea temp 12.8 degrees. Bliss!

Covid 19 Swimming Advice

Outdoor Swimming Magazine – latest advice 😊 As from Wednesday the 13th of May I’m back in the water! BUT if you haven’t swum for a while, please be very careful! Take a look at the tips and hints for newbies, just in case there is something you might not have considered. Try and swim on an incoming tide and lower incoming tide if it is rough as there will be fewer ‘plunging’ waves (remember, a cubic meter of water weighs about a tonne – the same as a small car! AND it is moving…remember physics? f=ma? force equals mass x acceleration, answer = a ‘hefty clout’)

Be careful, the beach profile / debris underfoot may have changed. Don’t forget flasks etc and if the sun is out, a book 😊

Advice for Newbies – Part III – Kit

It has taken a while to gather the threads of my thoughts to be able to write. It almost seems that the more I stay at home, the more my thoughts meander far and wide and if ‘distraction’ were a qualification…… 😊

If anyone has any questions or would like more information or advice, please do let me know.

Right – kit! It seems to me that there are different flavours of people; those that have what they perceive as all the ‘right’ stuff and then others who subscribe to the ‘what can I use’ school. And of course, what is right for one person is not for another. I have honed my kit bag to the following BUT, with something where the physiological demands on your body’s system are quite extreme, it is whatever works for YOU!

Towel – large – old. I have a selection. The reason I prefer old ones is because they tend to absorb water better than new ones.

Towelling change towel. I use this to grapple with changing into dry clothes rather than my Dry Robe (other brands are available 😊 ) which I don before I go into the water and after I have changed. I have found that if I put my dry robe on over a wet swimsuit, then change, I end up with a very wet rump as the robe absorbs water from my swimsuit where my body bits protrude and then this water soaks back into my dry clothes, so I have discovered when I next sit down. I suppose you could have two dry robes, one for wet and one for dry – seems a bit excessive to me.

Neoprene Socks and Gloves. I wear these when the water is colder. For me, it makes a huge difference and it means I don’t have to worry about taking my rings off as fingers shrink with the cold. it also helps with underfoot pebbles etc. I don’t think they are designed to last much more than a season though so not really sure it is worth spending loads of money on these. Inevitably the gloves will last longer than the boots and if you are walking any distance in these then probably worth wearing something like a pair of crocs over rough ground. In the summer I often wear flip-flops to the water and then once in, I take them off and stuff them up the back of my swimsuit.

Swimming hat. I don’t wear a hat but most people do. You can use one – or two – normal swimming hats – bright colours are obviously better for visibility. You can also buy snug fitting neoprene ones – it can be amusing watching people trying to put them on the correct way round!

Wetsuit. I do have a wet suit but don’t wear it. I love the feel of the water, I am not aiming to be an Olympian and just enjoy the water as it is in ‘skins’ as it is called. However, wearing a wetsuit is absolutely, perfectly fine. If you are in a wetsuit, in the water then you are doing more than the vast majority of the population so it REALLY doesn’t matter. Just go in.

Mat. I bought a cheap yoga mat which has the advantage of being very light and the disadvantage of being very light and trying to fly away in even the lightest breeze. Chasing after said mat can help in the warming up process but better to secure it under the rest of your kit and either share with others or cut into smaller pieces for individual use. There are various diving and swimming change mats you can buy, often circular, in which you stand, change, take off wet kit and then just carry the bag off. Prices vary tremendously. Alternatively, you can buy a large (e.g. Ikea or similar) bag and just stand in it. Cost, minimal.

Layers. Post swim, particularly in the colder weather, it is vitally important to warm-up (see previous article) and the best way to do this is to put on layers. Do not try and bother with anything fiddly, a tee-shirt, loose, no bra (men OR women) battle, a thick shirt (my corduroy red one dates from 1986) or sweatshirt, another jumper, coat, dry robe. Trousers – elasticated waist or at least loose enough so you can just pull them up. Lovely, thick, wooly socks, multi-coloured are far warmer than plain and if they do NOT match, even better 😊 Slip on footwear like furry-lined boots are my preference.

Flasks and hot water bottles. I take a flask of hot water. I ensure that the flask lid is not too tight and that the hot water bottle is also loosened. Hot water bottle then filled directly post-swim, it has a cover on it – do NOT put it straight against your skin! I try and change with my feet very close to the bottle (better not to stand on it just in case cold hands haven’t secured the lid properly) and then once change, it is a cuddle bottle.

Changing order. if possible try and lay out your clothes so you can grab each piece easily, make sure things are undone. if it is raining or very windy, place things in your bag in the order in which you want to put them on.

Valuables. This is difficult. I have a ‘blank’ car key, one which unlocks the doors but nothing else. You can buy mini key safes which go over the tow hook on the car. Often we are lucky in that usually we have at least one ‘groupie’ who doesn’t swim and can keep an eye on our kit. More worrying can be dogs that pee on kit. There’s not much you can do about this apart form try and select an area where they are unlikely to find anything of interest and that isn’t on the usual dog walkers path. In essence, probably better not to take anything valuable with you to the beach or leave with your designated groupie.

Advice for Newbies – Part II (looks posher than β€˜2’) – β€˜Post-Swim Drop’

Tip 3: I have a feeling that once the restrictions are lifted people will be flocking to their favourite beach and throwing themselves in with wanton abandon (me included – once the car battery has been recharged) so I thought I’d skip to this topic as we don’t want to add to the awful statistics for whatever reason!

You might remember, if you sea swam as a child, spending a glorious day on the beach, in and out of the waves, running around like a little rocket and then popping back to eat with the rest of the family – iyou could find them on a crowded beach. Do you remember the aptly named sandwiches? Sitting wrapped in an oversized towel, shivering? More than likely, that shivering was due to post-swim drop. 

When you enter the water, which, even in the summer in the UK, is inevitably colder than the ambient air temperature, your body does a clever thing. It detects the cold water and reduces the amount of warm blood flowing from your core to your peripherals. This protects your core temperature but makes your legs, arms and skin, cool. It has a name – β€˜peripheral vasoconstriction.’ 

Once you leave the water, the reverse happens. Your body knows it is no longer immersed in the cold and peripheral vasoconstriction ends, the colder blood in your peripheries starts to mix with the warmer core blood and hence, even up to 15 / 20 minutes after you exit the water, you may begin to shiver as your core temperature drops due to this mixing of different temperature bloods. 

There is nothing wrong with shivering but it is very important that you do not become hypothermic which is when you lose heat faster than it can be generated. This is something that can only really be judged by experience and if you are not a regular sea swimmer, it is why it is important to swim with others. 

The best way to ensure you do not succumb is to:

  • Dress quickly in warm dry, clothes, plenty of layers are best. I also favour taking a flask of hot water and a hot water bottle which I fill (having loosened the tops of both pre-swim) post swim and warm my feet whilst I am changing.
  • Hot drinks and cake – being cold and / or shivering are high-energy activities. Flasks are great but the cups are often insulated so if I am β€˜flasking’ rather than β€˜cafeing’ I try and remember to take a non-insulated mug around which I can wrap my hands. 
  • Do NOT have a hot shower. When peripheral vasoconstriction occurs it also alters the fluid balance in the body so your core has more than normal – this is why you tend to pee when in cold water. When the balance is restored it means there is now less volume in your core and hence your blood pressure lowers – a hot shower can exacerbate this and you can faint. The best thing to do is to potter, do those odd jobs you keep putting off, take a walk IF the weather is conducive! 
  • If you don’t feel well, DO NOT DRIVE, or ride a bike. Hypothermia can lead to cognitive impairment and it can be as bad as drink driving. 
  • Keep an eye on your fellow swimmers. It is all too easy to spend too long in the water, particularly if you are with friends, chatting and larking about, not wanting to be the first to leave the water – there is no room for ego in these situations. 
  • Hypothermia – the signs: shivering, reduced circulation, slow weak pulse, lack of co-ordination, irritability (hard to tell with some people J ) or confusion, nausea, slurred speech. 

As I have mentioned, everyone is different and you need to find your own level. Lying in the water is different from swimming where you are generating some heat. People often remark, within our group, that if the water is rough, the effort of wading through the waves and maintaining your balance, jumping and splashing in the waves seems to make some people feel less cold than if it is a perfectly flat sea, again, only you know how you feel. I tend to think that when I STOP feeling cold, it is time to exit the water. 

Whatever you do, take it slowly and safely and live to swim another day!

Virtual Swim Trip – Good Friday 2020

I would like to invite you to join me on a virtual swim trip to Penzance. The virtual highways are quite crowded but once there, we can relax and watch the waves lapping and the rippling patterns being created – ever-changing, mesmerising.

There is, luckily, a data buoy and amazingly the sea temperature is 11.5 degrees, Sandown Bay is 9.8!!

If it’s okay with you, I thought we could stay a couple of days, leave later today – we can catch the virtual train there and back, return Sunday? Then we can swim at all of the following beaches, Perranuthnoe Beach, Marazion Beach, Lamorna Cove Beach, Long Rock Beach, Praa Sands Beach ( as well as visit St Michael’s Mount, have a non-fattening virtual cream tea, pretend to sunbathe and maybe take a trip and see if we can spot some of the diverse marine life – dolphins, sunfish, basking sharks – that inhabit these waters.

Wouldn’t it be fun to do this for real in the summer!

Advice for Newbies

A few weeks ago I asked people what information / topics they would like to see included and quite a few mentioned advice for those new to sea swimming. As we are so lucky to be surrounded by an easily accessible sea, this advice will not, at the moment, cover rivers which can be an entirely different beast.

For those of us who have been sea swimming for as long as they can remember it might seem a little daft to state the obvious. BUT it is ONLY obvious for those who have been this lucky.

As many of us are doing things more slowly and thoughtfully at the moment, I will write this over a week or so depending on how sunny it is and therefore how much time I am ‘forced’ to spend in the garden 😊

Tip 1: If you are new to sea swimming then it is an excellent idea to find someone with experience, who regularly swims in that location. Thankfully, with the rapid rise of social media there are groups that can help. The group with whom I swim most often are the Salty Sea Birds (Facebook – Outdoor Swimming Isle of Wight) and we meet regularly (in normal times) in Sandown Bay, year round, either at The Sundial cafe at the end of the Esplanade or at Yaverland slip way by the sailing club. If you would prefer to swim elsewhere, still get in touch as we may be able to put you in touch with swimmers more local to where you would prefer to swim.

Tip 2: A question / debate that seems to ‘rage’ in some circles – but definitely not ours – ‘Do I wear a wetsuit or not?’ This is entirely up to you. No-one will think any less or more of you because whatever you wear, you are doing more than all of those who’re doing nothing. You will still have the same fun, the same wonderful feeling of a) being in the water with its ever changing moods and beauty and b) part of a lovely, incredibly eclectic, more often than not, artistic community or slightly anarchic people who love the sea and the benefits of sea swimming.

Tip 3: Do not worry about your swimming ability. It really doesn’t matter. Some people swim, some lie in the water doing otter impersonations, others pop in and out; again, you are doing something – that’s all that is important. None of us are training for the Olympics, we just love being in the sea.

The next few tips will be about safety, post-swim drop (‘What?’ I hear you say? – you’ll sea) so watch this space 😊

‘Zoom’ for the sea

I started writing this post some time ago, and then my brother became ill with what they now think is the virus. He is now in hospital and, despite the noise and subsequent difficulty of sleeping (he’s like my husband in this respect, even the birdsong irritates him in the early morning 😊 ) he is very glad he made the call, as am I. he said that the staff are being, unsurprisingly, wonderful and fingers crossed…….

I am therefore now seeking ‘distraction techniques’ hence completing this blog.

It is two weeks since my last sea swim and the withdrawal symptoms were just too much so today we used ‘Zoom’ to chat about sea swimming and the other important things in life like how the Isle of Wight Zoo really needs our help at the moment ( and what we would like to do once the restrictions are lifted.

Sea conditions on the day: Accuweather 9 degrees, real feel 4, wind ENE 35km/h, gusting 37, pressure 1037 – VERY high! Met Office 7 degrees, real feel 2, wind NNE 34km/h, gusting 60, pressure 1037. Channel Coastal Observatory wave height 0.97m, max 1.35, sea temp. 8.7 degrees.


All at sea – sadly not literally!

I cannot quite put my finger on why it has taken me so long to post this, I feel like I am in a kind of mourning for normality! Hardly surprising given the circumstances. I do know that I have had to wrestle with the idea that I am currently unable to drive to Sandown and throw myself in that delightful briny. But there are people going through far FAR worse than I am and although I am unable to volunteer I can at least do as asked and stay at home and thankfully have some wonderful friends and neighbours.

Sunday 22 March 2020. Accuweather 8 degrees, real feel, 1, wind E 48 km/h, gusting 57, pressure 1023. Met Office 9 degrees, real feel, 6, wind E 31 km/h, gusting 52, pressure 1025. Channel Coastal observatory, 1.2m waves, max 2.59m, sea temp 8.9 degrees.

Saturday Socially Distanced swim

There is SO much conflicting information flying around at the moment, don’t forget to exercise, don’t mix in groups, don’t swim alone, or together. After weighing all of this up, some of us have decided that the mental health benefits of sea swimming within the context of the social distancing guidelines mean we can continue as long as we are allowed to do so. To be honest, it was so rough and windy that we only had a quick dip in the easterly flowing ‘water-slide’ followed by a free windblown sand-body-scrub. It was also beautiful 😊

NB at least 2m apart! We are being careful!

Accuweather 8 degrees, real feel 2, wind E, 43 km/h, gusting 56, pressure 1024. Met office, 9 degrees, real feel 3, wind 46 km/h, gusting 68, pressure 1024. Channel Coastal Observatory, wave height 2.02m, max 3.2m, sea temp 8.8 degrees.

Wednesday Wonder Swim

It was pretty bleak on Wednesday, overcast, gray – again – yet the lure was there, the pull of that salty water, that odd sensation when your brain cries YES and your body wonders what on earth you are doing. Yet, as ever, it was good, in fact wonderful. As you can sea we kept our distance as per the advice as it just isn’t worth the risk. Wouldn’t life be easier if the coronavirus was visible! Then it might just stop the ‘idiot-I-am-immune-brigade’ from ignoring the new social etiquette! At least we can still swim πŸ™‚

Accuweather 11 degrees, real feel, 7, wind SW, 113 km/h, gusting 28, pressure 1014. Met Office, 12 degrees, real feel 8, wind SW, 16 km/h, gusting 25, pressure 1014.. Channel Coastal Observatory wave height 0.85m, max 1.45m, sea temp 8.8 degrees.