The Sea Sploshers
Worthing’s ideal location, set between the South Downs and the coast, allowed brief respite from the longevity of lockdowns, furlough, unemployment and the emotional toll that the Covid-19 pandemic wrought.
The ‘one hour’s daily exercise’ of the first lockdown in March 2020, saw many local residents head to the open space of the South Down National Park or to the sea to exercise while maintaining social distance from others.
Open sea swimming or wild swimming became extremely popular over the course of the pandemic. Many were particularly drawn to the sea to maintain mental and physical well being.
One group of like minded individuals swam in the sea as often as possible. The group, called The Sea Sploshing Society, connects via WhatsApp and when lockdowns permitted, gathered in small groups on an ad-hoc basis to swim at beaches along Worthing seafront.
Splosher Charlotte feels that swimming in the frigid water helps her refocus; “I think we’ve all experienced quite heavy brain fog over the last year. If I’m carrying some anxiety, I know the immersion in cold water will clear my mind faster and with more of a thrill than anything else. Sea swimming has given me access to instant clarity of mind. Being able to get in and get that adrenaline shock – it’s great.”
Sea water temperatures off the coast of Worthing fluctuate throughout the year, ranging from as low as 7.1°C to a maximum of 20°C. Keen Sploshers dress accordingly for cooler waters. Neoprene ‘shortie’ wetsuits, gloves and socks are often worn with knitted bobble hats to reduce the shock of the biting cold water during autumn and winter dips. “The sea is never to be taken for granted. In very low temperatures, we never go in alone. Our swim community is not only a safety measure but also, and mainly, brings a lot more fun to it! Sharing those nerves and then usually yelps and screams as we enter the water, brings so much joy.”
Being submerged in the sea allows individuals to ‘get back to nature’ at a time when other freedoms have been curtailed. The sense of joy gained by sea sploshing at sunrise or sunset especially, gives Charlotte the sense of “connecting to and being part of something bigger than just myself. A sense of perspective. A feeling much needed during the past year.”
The social connection provided by sea swimming has helped others during the pandemic. “There is something lovely about meeting people doing an activity like this. It makes people really happy and shiny eyed. You see people looking a bit miserable and a bit down in the mouth before a dip, then they suddenly get that extra buzz of life and they are suddenly buzzing.”
For Bridget, sea swimming was one of the reasons she moved to Worthing. “I’ve swum in the sea here during the lockdowns and it’s provided a moment of escape from everything going on. I particularly love swimming in the winter – the feeling after getting into the cold water gives me a total reset – whatever is going on you always feel better afterwards.”
Sea Splosher Charlotte’s tips for cold water swimming
• If you’re not used to getting into very cold water, take it slowly.
• Jumping head first is what causes a lot of problems because of the gasp reflex. Involuntarily gulping down lots of freezing water is extremely dangerous.
• Enter slowly, acclimatise, wear wetsuit shoes and go with someone else.
• Only stay in as long as you feel comfortable, it’s not a competition. It never gets warmer, but your body does get used to the reaction, it knows what to expect.
• Put warm clothes as soon as you’re out and take a flask of tea!
• Get dressed quickly when you leave the water. A phenomenon known as ‘after drop’ can occur when you’re out of the water as cold blood continues to be pumped around the body.
• Overall just enjoy it! There’s nothing like it for putting you firmly into the present, and a massive smile on your face.
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