Cold Water Swimmers
“Just me, the ducks and the swan. That’s my world at 07:30 two or three times a week. I greet them cordially with a cheerful good morning, after all I’m on their turf (can water be classed as “turf”?) and don’t want to upset them. Sometimes they answer, not the Swan though, she is not on speaking terms just yet, but the ducks gabble and quack and paddle towards me in a frenzied gaggle (or Flock to be more precise), then rush away as though they had just remembered they’d left the oven on. Conversations are short, one sided but oh so satisfying. Just writing this I find myself relaxing and smiling.
I’ve always been competitive in sport, if I play something, I want to be the best I can, swimming, running racket sports, all of them are about winning.
So how is Open Water swimming competitive, in the middle of idyllic Wiltshire in a 50m pond with other like-minded people, I hear you ask. It isn’t! But, that is the beauty of it. Oh sure, I started off wanting to do lots of head down, swim as fast and as far as I could. But one day when the water was a tepid 3.4 degrees, my face got too cold, so I changed to my version of breaststroke, which is akin to a 3-year-old splashing around in the pool whilst being held by an alarmed parent, noisy, splashy and non-propulsive. In this mode of non-propulsion, I noticed that the sun was just setting, and it took on such a different aspect from water level, that the water had a mesmerising reflection wherever I looked, that the ducks (yup same ones, but not talking to me at that stage) were swimming towards me in a “Chillax, unwind, lay on your back and float away the stresses of life”” kind of way. Besides the odd splash of water from other swimmers (doing breaststroke in a weird smooth forward trajectory kind of way). My whole world had slowed down, allowing me to live in the moment, not rush, not think about work, not worry about anything, just enjoy the sheer tranquillity of it all.
So, if you are reading this wondering why people do it, don’t ask anyone, just try it. Yes, it is cold and yes it can be a tad uncomfortable for a couple of minutes. But, when the body has accepted where it is and relaxed, then the mind has nothing to do except follow suit. I no longer swim lengths, I dawdle and chat and dawdle, hoping, just hoping that one day that swan will wish me a good morning as it majestically “swans” past in the morning sunlight.”