In the last issue we wrote about Swimming on Christmas Day (Christmas Rituals Issue 192). In this issue, EMMA CLAUGHTON writes about what sea swimming means to her.

As a child I experienced the wrath of the sea when she bashed me against the rocks at Glyne Gap. That left me scared for sure, but also absolutely in awe of her. Many times I’ve wandered down to watch her waves rolling in and immediately felt calm and able to cope with life’s terrors. Watching was all I did, until I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy treatment.

CREDIT: Emma Claughton

I was told that cold sea swimming was great for chemo recovery, so I got brave, faced my fear and, finally – after years of just being an observer – entered the sea. I’ve swum every week since and I’m happy to report it works! The cold sea soothes the aches and pains left over from the treatment. It also soothes the emotional trauma and enables me to attempt life with a clearer head.

The swim community is full of stories like mine: people who started their journey with fear in their hearts; delaying their first winter swim because they were anxious about how they would handle the cold, but now completely obsessed and yearning for the cold sea if they have to miss a few days. 

Summer in the sea is lovely. You come out of the water to warm air and can laze about soaking up the sun. Winter though, winter has something extra special about it. The water is warmer than the air in winter. This creates a unique experience that is regularly described as ‘magical’ – the way it both calms and invigorates one’s body, mind and soul. 

Come join one of the various swim groups and you’ll be welcomed in like a long-lost family member. The need to look out for each other in the water creates a bond, a closeness that you can usually only gain from team sports. Whether it’s the squealing and ‘wild feminine’ of the St Leonards Bluetits, or the family community of the Azur Sea Swimmers, all who brave the cold sea gain so much more than just a new pastime. 

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