As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming….” And that is exactly what many newcomers to sea swimming are continuing to do, well past the lockdowns and isolation periods of Covid 19.
The sea has always been there, the sunrises and the sunsets. It took some of us a while to remember our beautiful blue and green landscape. I have always been fond of rising early and capturing a sunrise or two. I rekindled this hobby during the pandemic and began to swim more regularly and not just in the summer months.
For me, water has always been a soothing, magnetic experience but I am still fearful of the sea and don’t take it for granted. In 2020, I like many people began to swim daily and continued through the winter months.
Sometimes literally just dipping into it, to get that adrenaline high when you feel the sea around your toes, then your knees, working its way to your waist the deeper you go. And then it’s all or nothing and under you go, your breath taken away for a few seconds, and then the giddiness sets in. You look around at other people with their woolly hats on in winter and they are giddy too and smiling. And you feel alive.
The sea swimming community is supportive and welcoming no matter where you swim. I swim at numerous beaches around Ireland and the swimmers are always fun, kind and encouraging. The next step for me now is proper sea swimming lessons to give me the confidence to go that little bit further and not to be scared of a seal or two swimming near me.
Another positive factor of sea swimming has been the new businesses that started up introducing an unexpected trend in swim clothing and accessories. Who would have thought you would need gloves, swim shoes, towel robes, swim bags, etc for this hobby. I love to see the rainbow of colours from the clothing worn by swimmers at my local swim spots. The display of bright colours, the chatter, flasks tops been screwed off and the steam from the contents warming your hands, hot water bottles snug in the inside pocket of dry robes, the constant transient atmosphere as people come and go, home to a hot shower – it is a wonderful atmosphere even if you are on your own as you will always have someone to chat with while you sip your hot tea.
Some wonderful local designers I discovered have included the Vico robes brand (www.vicorobes.com) with beautiful colourful, practical products and also the Dee Robe (www.deerobe.ie) with the softest bamboo swim robes all meticulously named after Deirdre Mc Knight’s swimming friends. I am sure this new trend of sea swimming will continue to grow and connect people everywhere and it can only be a positive as it provides a physical and mental health boost as well.
And if you are still not convinced about the benefits of being near the sea, author and well-being expert Dr. Catherine Kelly (originally from Co. Wicklow) has written a book called “Blue Spaces.” Catherine explores the latest research into why and how the water makes us feel better.
So, back to the beginning of this story and “Let’s keep swimming….” and supporting our local businesses and authors too.