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Rock A Nore Photo LB

Rock A Nore Photo LB

Jellyfish, UFOs and Speedos

What is it about swimming in the sea that turns otherwise rational (well semi-rational) human beings into tide-obsessed amphibians? It’s certainly not the freezing-to-lukewarm temperatures, the chance encounters with Unidentified Floating Objects, or being frequently described by passers by in words to the effect of: ‘that person must be bleeping insane’. Luca Bercelli writes.

No, something must be pretty special about ‘going in’ to drag us from the sun lounger and cool-box full of assorted drinky poos, into the murky deep blue yonder. The key must be endorphins – those fun-loving blighters that get released as a result of: pain (buttock-clenching cold temperatures), vigorous aerobic exercise (swimming…obviously), and laughter (have you seen what most people look like in Speedos and a red rubber hat!)

As well as there being a chemical reason for the magnetic allure of the waves there are also many others. If you are normally an unfit sofa surfer with dodgy knees like me, there is no better route to fitness than a bit of plishing and plashing every day. It’s amazing how quickly 10 strokes (which is what I managed when I first went in) can become 100 metres, 500 metres and eventually whatever you want.

On top of the obvious boon of becoming fitter, there are apparently proven health benefits of exposure to salt water (the colder the better apparently). I know one thing – you feel absolutely on top of the world for the rest of the day if you’ve had a chilly dip. The skin positively buzzes with satisfaction and energy levels rise considerably.

Luca in action

Luca in action

A couple of tips for sea swimming:

Get the breathing right. This is by far and away the most important aspect of sea swimming and it is something that naturally evolves over time. Start by gently breathing out whenever you’re not breathing in. This will help make you feel more comfortable, get into a rhythm and keep that salty horribleness from entering your gullet. Once you get used to it you can actually stop constantly breathing out and just hold a barrier of water in your mouth – that way nothing gets down your throat. All sounds tricky but it’s not really – just a matter of practice. I never swallow the slightest drop these days and it makes all the difference. Without drowning to worry about you can get stuck into the business of improving your stroke!

Don’t swim after a downpour. Unfortunately, our seas get swollen after steady rain by the overflow from our drains. Don’t think about it too hard but yes – it’s gross. If you want to avoid ‘UFO’s of the watery kind, then give the day after a storm a miss.

Wear a swimming hat – preferably a day-glow red one. Not only will your head (and as a result the rest of you) stay much warmer for longer, but you will be seen by assorted menaces including paddle boarders, kayakers, sailors and the scourge of all sea swimmers…the jet skier. Please Mr Boy Racer-on-the-sea, keep an eye out for us lot and SLOW DOWN! I haven’t graduated to towing an inflatable giant carrot yet (otherwise known as a safety buoy) but it’s probably only a matter of time. I’m convinced they must slow you down but am regularly assured they don’t.

Don’t wear a wetsuit unless you really can’t bear it. If you do, you’re missing out on 63% of the enjoyment (at a rough guess). It’s like paddling in wellies – what’s the point?

St Leonards beach

St Leonards beach

Lovely coastline

We are lucky in Hastings/St Leonards to have miles of lovely coastline from which to launch ourselves, so if you haven’t done so already, give it a go. After all, what did you move to the seaside for in the first place? Persevere if things don’t click straight away – I guarantee you’ll get the bug if you stick at it.

If you want some encouragement or the odd tip or two you can find me ‘going in’ most days on the beach opposite Warrior Square round about high tide.

What are you waiting for?

Posted 23:26 Monday, Jul 2, 2018 In: Sport


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  1. Nick Weekes

    I don’t know about unidentified floating oddities but there’s a seagull shaped drone that flies up and down the beach occasionally. What is that all about? The gulls hate it and nobody appears to be controlling it from the ground.

    Comment by Nick Weekes — Thursday, Jul 12, 2018 @ 10:15

  2. Andrew Wallis

    Yes, everyone who lives by the sea should go swimming in the sea. Apart from the fact that it is free it is just amazing & wonderful in the sea. Myself, I have just been in. It is a lovely day & it was lovely in. I deserve a drink (of coffee.) It doesn’t look cool in a red hat though in Winter I do wear one. It isn’t necessary in Summer. People who wear wet suits – yuk – why bother to go in at all? People who live by the sea & don’t go swimming in it shouldn’t be allowed to live by the sea. They should be sectioned.

    Comment by Andrew Wallis — Thursday, Jul 5, 2018 @ 14:45

  3. Kendal

    know your beach!

    Be careful going in at lowish tide and observe the beach when the tide is out to decide where is best to enter and exit – those there rocks are mighty sharp. also remember, concrete groynss often have wooden groynes extended beyond them, aslo covered in sharp barnacles.

    a good breathing exercise to try at home or at the shore, is to dip your face into a sink of water breathing out first through your nose, then mouth, then lift your head and inhale before repeating it. when in the sea, if waves are consistent, this will help you relax and gain a rhythm, breathing out underwater, so you do not allow any into your mouth.

    Comment by Kendal — Wednesday, Jul 4, 2018 @ 20:49

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