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A Timeless Swim

You can’t beat the sea…

“ The water wasn’t any less cold a century ago when people skinny dipped without thinking twice. And this spot has been the same for thousands of years. “

Yesterday. It was a beautiful late May afternoon. After some weeding in the garden, my legs were stinging from contact with nettles. I couldn’t find my calendula cream and I fancied a cold dip. My friend Paul lives about half a mile away from Ceibwr Bay (see picture), a magical bit of the North Pembrokeshire coast.

I found him in his garden. ‘Do you fancy a swim?’

“It’ll be cold.”

With his dog Modra we walked through woodland down to the bay and passed a neighbour making himself a garden table.

“It’ll be cold,” he said.

The sun sparkled on the quiet green water.  There was no one else around.

We clambered over the rocks, and I emptied the contents of my bag. Old Speedo jammers, earplugs, Mary Groove goggles. Great indoors and in open water, I find they don’t leak or fog up. Two bottles of Gwynt y Ddraig Orchard Gold cider, for after, and a towel.

I sat on a ledge till my legs acclimatised. The water was flat calm. Running parallel to the coast is a long rock, forming a perfect swimming lane.  I slipped in and swam across, hyperventilating there and back. Paul chose to dive in and swim about between the rocks.

I set out along the lane, breaststroke,  to a big peak a few hundred metres away. I didn’t warm up exactly but I found my glide, my breathing calmed down and I felt at one with the sea. I swam into the sun with bright bits of sand and seaweed dancing around me.

As I pressed forward it occurred to me how timeless this human activity is. The water wasn’t any less cold a century ago when people skinny dipped without thinking twice. And this spot has been the same for thousands of years. For me, it’s just so much better, timeless, elemental, without a wetsuit.

15 to 20 minutes is what the cold sea gave me, in my trunks, no added buoyancy, no extra warmth, and without any special toughness or ability. As I swam back, the top of my head ached with cold. I couldn’t have been in for much longer.  As I approached Paul, dressed and rolling a timeless fag, my speech was hindered by numb lips.

I shivered strongly as I climbed back to my clothes and continued shivering as we sat drinking our Orchard Gold.  As we walked uphill back to Paul’s house, my shivering stopped. 

I ended the day with my vital organs glowing, slept deeply and woke up this morning two hours later than normal.

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