Winter Wild Swim

Feel the chill of a winter swim in the video, below …                                    By Belinda Dixon

Sat March 5th, 2016. Plymouth, Devon.

Air temperature: 9C. Sea temperature: 8C.  Hot water bottle: toasty.

tinsidegvFor years now I’ve seen them, the swimmers wading into the water off Plymouth’s Tinside Beach. Whatever the weather, it’s a quick change on the shore then into the sea. In all seasons, in all conditions – they even swim during the big fireworks contest; jumping gleefully into inky depths as multi-coloured starbursts explode high above.

In the summer I’m in there too; buzzing from swimming alongside Plymouth’s iconic shoreline: lido, lighthouse, warships – the water here is an unforgettable place to drink in the views.

But come mid-October the cold defeats me. White hands and feet and uncontrollable shivering is not appealing. Until it dawned on me to do what now seems blindingly obvious: buy a wetsuit to swim in. Genius.

tinsidehalfinwatershotSo today, after a flurry of encouraging Facebook posts, I linked up with these awesome all-weather swimmers. I joined them for that quick change on the shore and that determined push into the sea. Now I know what it feels like: icy water seeps into my wetsuit, my neck and chin feel freezing. It is toe-curlingly, numbingly, strength-sappingly  cold.

But soon that cold-pain eases, laughter bubbles and conversations begin. We bob, watching people watching us from the shore.  It’s joyful; liberating.

After rounding two buoys, it’s time to head back to the beach – stoked and grinning. Numb hands turn to claws; socks become bafflingly difficult to put on. But even so there’s still a sheer, slightly-crazed sense of joy.

tinsidehotwbottlesThen it’s off to the Terrace Cafe for hot water bottles (bliss), coffee, cake and more chats. The sea might be cold but the welcome from these swimmers is gloriously warm.

For years I’ve seen them. And now it seems I can be one of them. From seeing to doing. That feels good. Cold, but good and a whole load of fun 🙂


This swim was with the fabulous Devon & Cornwall Wild Swimmers, check their website for tips and events.

Nationally, the Outdoor Swimming Society is a superb source of advice and inspiration. It’s website also features a Wild Swimming Map, and crucial safety advice (do read).

Books on wild swimming include Kate Rew’s definitive Wild Swim. Southwest swimmers can dip into Sophie Pierce & Matt Newbury’s Beyond The Beach (the secret wild swims of Torbay). They’ve also written Wild Swimming Walks Dartmoor & South Devon (published May 9th, 2016).

So maybe see you in the sea. Or the river. Or the lake. Or the lido … #Do52

Published by Belinda Dixon

I'm a travel & adventure writer (Lonely Planet), broadcaster (BBC Radio Devon & BBC Guernsey) and the British Exploring Society's media Leader on its 2016 Himalaya expedition. I write a blog that aims to inspire adventures; deliver inspiring training and record and edit powerful oral history archives.

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