Wellness | The saltwater breakfast club
3… 2…. 1….
A last exchange of looks between us, a flash of nervous grins, and then we run in. For a moment, nobody says anything except for a few involuntary whoops and gasps. But then the calmness comes over us, and we take a few long strokes out to where we can swim beyond the breaking waves. We turn around to look back along the coastline and marvel at how different the landscape looks from here; like Alice through the looking glass.
The sea is grey and churning, but the waves lift us up – both physically and metaphorically. We swim until we feel ready to re-enter the real world (or at least until the cold becomes too intense) and then one by one we stride back up the beach, feeling invincible, 40,000 volts of cold water electricity flowing through us. With glowing pink skin and bright eyes we dress, chat and laugh. It is the very best start to a day.
I have recently started a regular, early morning sea-swim group with some local female friends. Although I regularly swim on my own, I wanted to share with others the experience, and the joy that I get from it. But the magic flows both ways – I get something too: not only does swimming with others create and strengthen friendships, but it also gives you an accountability, for those mornings when the weather looks less than wonderful and staying in bed seems the preferable option. The increased safety of swimming in company (rather than alone) is also not to be dismissed.
There is something about swimming with other women that forms bonds like nothing else. Perhaps it is the shared mixture of raw emotions – excitement, trepidation, elation. Or perhaps it’s the endorphins coursing through your veins, released by your body in response to the cold water. Or maybe it’s the communal experience of being present in that moment, the beauty of your surroundings, taking the plunge together and emerging feeling stronger and happier. In an increasingly isolated digital world, real human connection combined with the added health benefits of cold water swimming (stronger immune system, improved circulation, and a positive effect on your mental health to name a few) is something to seek out and celebrate. And it doesn’t have to be competitive; it’s not a question of who can swim the furthest or stay in the longest. Sometimes a 2 minute dunk is all you need.
Many of my favourite wild swimming moments – and I can recall them with crystal clarity – are with other women. The very best times are when you think you’re going to be swimming on your own, and then you turn to see your once-reluctant companions stripping off to join you – a life-affirming combination of spontaneity, adventure and exhilaration.
It is well documented that time spent outdoors, surrounded by nature, can boost your mood and even alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. When you add good company to this, you’re almost guaranteed to start the day smiling. And you don’t need to live near the sea to give it a try: take a look at wildswim.com and you’re likely to find a suitable river, lake, estuary, flooded quarry, mill pond, waterfall – or at the very least, a lido, nearby. So grab a towel and some willing friends, and go for it!
Flora Jamieson is a stained glass artist and wild swimming enthusiast. She wrote Wild Swimming, a beginner’s guide to the glorious pursuit of outdoor swimming, illustrated by Gemma Koomen. Withpractical advice and safety tips, as well as inspiring quotes and useful resources, this little book is a great place to get started. Available to buy HERE.
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NB: Please note that wild swimming is not entirely without risk. You are advised to take the time to read up on safe and responsible swimming. Neither the author nor Sisterhood Camp can be held legally or financially responsible for accident, loss, injury or inconvenience sustained whilst swimming, jumping or diving into water.