Tuesday, 3 August 2010


The Winterswimmers are of a different breed.

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.


Anonymous said...

Oh that sounds quite fun!

I need to get to the ocean...

Leslie said...

Winter runners and winter walkers experience something similar here in the north. Anyone can stroll or jog in the summer, but if the snow is cracking and squeaking beneath your boots, the wool scarf you're breathing through has developed a thick coating of ice pellets on the outside, and your eyes have begun to hurt, then you will nod or greet everyone you meet in similar garb. Of course, that might be because you can never be sure if it's someone you actually know.

Anonymous said...

My preference is to pretend winter does not exist. I can deny that it is minus 43 degrees by commuting to work with my eyes squeezed shut and not leaving the car unless I am parked in the garage at home or the indoor parking lot at the office. With sufficient denial, I can avoid exposing myself to the elements for the requisite 9 months until either spring comes or the baby is born (gestation is faster than the return of spring here).

Amber said...

Leslie: There is always an early-morning interview on the news, isn't there, with one of those joggers on the coldest day of January, and they have to talk through three inches of ice-encrusted beard. Nobody has interviewed the winterswimmers here, but I think that's because twenty degrees is far too cold for Australians to go out.

Dr Bee: Yes, they do have a slightly different concept of winter here. And thanks for reminding me of the one I will be heading back into after I've finished with this one.

Also, I must remember to stay off the roads when you are on the way to work.

Anonymous said...

All sounds a bit too cold for me... but then I wear cardigans sometimes in Sri Lanka and get cold after a dip in the sea in Thailand. If we were meant to bathe in chilly waters, we would have that layer of blubber whales have...

As for interviewing winterswimmers - why ask them anything? They are obviously barmy!