Never mind that it is actually almost 23 degrees outside. It’s Winter, so almost nobody is at the beach, and absolutely nobody is swimming.
Except, of course, for the Winterswimmers.
We love our Winter Sea, the Winterswimmers, and we love each other a little because of it. After all, everyone’s a Summerswimmer, so there’s no common ground, no unity among the masses. Winterswimmers have Shared Experience, a special nod, abbreviated interactions of recognition and acknowledgement. “How’s the water?” we will ask. And “Bewdiful,” we reply. We all know ‘bewdiful’ is code for ‘it’ll take your appendages off if you stay in too long’, but we participate in the code nevertheless.
Winterswimming, to be fair, is different from Summerswimming. Although the sun is blazing over 20 degrees at us, the sea didn’t get the memo, so it’s pretty cold. When the waves close around you, your body gets that physiological reflex to gasp in, which means you have to concentrate very hard and override your natural response each time you go under. The Winter Sea is unforgiving and unlovely. Its waves are a little choppier, its currents tug at you a fraction more magnetically. It swells snarled black mats of seaweed unexpectedly beneath you. It’s even a little more difficult to extricate yourself from, because the suckback of the waves as you stumble up the shore after Winterswimming is strong and unbalancing; the sandshelves fall away uneven beneath your soles.
For some time after I leave here, I know my body will fight not to relinquish its memory of being a Winterswimmer.