I know the British are known for going on (and on) about the weather but when you’ve got to get in the sea every week, the weather, wind, sea temp and air temp is really important.
I keep an eye on the BBC weather websites and www.magicseaweed.com religiously. Magic Seaweed is a surfing website that gives surf and swell height. I don’t really care about the temperature these days (it’s just bloody cold) but I do care how viciously the sea is going to chuck itself at you when you’re gingerly inching your way in to it.
Many of us turn sideways to the waves to expose less body to the cold. It doesn’t work, of course, but it must be a natural reaction. What you’re meant to do is gracefully dive through the wave but I can’t bring myself to do that when I’m getting in. Too much cold too quickly – it’s taking me a long time to get my head in at the moment.
Anyway, the good news is all the websites I’ve seen say that the sea in the Channel starts to warm up in March. The bad news is that apparently it doesn’t start to feel warmer. This is dispiriting because, when the water starts to get cooler in the autumn, you can bloody well feel every half degree drop. Apparently, as the water temp starts to creep up, it still feels horrendous as you get in and when you’re swimming. The only sign that the temperature’s rising is that you manage to stay in for longer.
Anyway, for the time being the water temp is still on the way down, it seems.
Last Sunday was the coldest yet at 5.5°C (other than the Cold Water Swimming Champs at Tooting which was just above freezing). At 5°C it’s officially an ice swim which gives you an idea of the realms we’re going into. Certainly the amount of swearing and ‘oh my God’-ing has gone up. Some of my swimming friends say the sea feels colder when it’s flat – which it was last week.
It certainly looks very menacing when it’s steely grey against a grey sky with no sun to glint off the water. I lasted 12mins and, when I got out, I was bright lobster red (normal after a cold swim) and I couldn’t feel my skin. I kept having to check what clothes I’d put on because everything was numb. You could’ve amputated a limb and I wouldn’t have felt it.
But there has to be light at the end of the tunnel. The sea WILL start warming up. The bitter north east wind from Scandinavia WILL die down. The air temperature WILL increase and lo – the day will come when we can stand around on the beach in the sun in our swimsuits after a swim rather than getting as many clothes on as possible as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, anyone know how to keep a hot water bottle hot for five hours?
You can follow Lou on Twitter: @LouArtfulHen or at www.louwalker.com.