High Life

Wild Swimming

A chilling form of rebellion

At agnituslife, we feel we are all uber athletes. This is really another way of saying we are old folks who looking back on our athletic years and remember ourselves as being “world class” athletes. The older we get the better we were. In a few years I hope to remember myself as a NY Yankee shortstop.

With this in mind and still considering ourselves athletic, we try to bring our audience sports which you may have missed in your heydays. After all, why not try something new and exciting. Looking through our archives I see we did a piece on Bocce, a wonderful game, especially if you like espresso. If you have a few poly pones in the back yard you may remember we did a piece on Polo as well, a nice sport if you are careful of the sticks flying around.  

But today we have sport anyone can do, and you can do it anywhere in any season. It began in the mother country, Great Britain, and has grown in popularity all through out the world. It’s called Wild Swimming.

Wild Swimming grew from a short nature book titled “Waterlog”, by Roger Deakin. This unusual adventure log recounts the joys of outdoor swimming…all year round!

Before you put your parka back on, hear this. Not only has Deakin started a trend, but at last count there were over three hundred thousand wild-swimmers in the UK. There are also if we can believe the stats some two hundred thousand more around the world. The bookstores in London now boast sections on wild swimming, offering tips, maps, and clubs that you can join to meet your fellow adventurers. There are ponds, lakes, and sometimes even rivers where clubs meet on a weekly basis to chat about conditions and water temps, before taking the proverbial plunge. Some are open to the public.

On this side of the great pond we have the Polar Bear Club of Coney Island (Brooklyn, NY), but that is a once a year romp into the frigid Atlantic ocean on New Year’s Day. These English folks are finding lakes and ponds and swimming in them all year round.

Coney Island, January

They are following Deakin’s lead, and like him are both athletic and political. Their politics simply stated are that their sometimes subversive actions (often these water ways are not open for public use) are a way “to reclaim nature which has been cordoned off by capitalism” and most believe they have a right to seek the wild nature anywhere they see fit.

“How cold is the water?”, you ask. Simply put, cold, usually very cold. In Britain often the water is somewhere in the very low 50 degree range, dropping down into the low forties. As a point of reference, an indoor pool is about eighty four degrees. The Ocean in the middle of summer heat is somewhere in the mid seventies. Being in water below sixty degrees is really a test of desire and maybe mental stability.

Some seasoned stalwarts wii actually break ice to swim. Most swimmers wear neoprene booties and many wear woolen caps and swimming gloves.

Now swim in this case is a relative term. Firstly, you do not dive headlong into water this cold. The shock to your system could be physically dangerous. You walk slowly into the water, allowing your skin and entire body to acclimate. After acclimation, most swim, but others merely wade.

Swimming time is dependent on who the swimmer is, and their level of experience. Do not plan to take a nice forty-five minute swim, that probably will not happen. You should count on about ten to fifteen minutes at most. Sometimes in the quite frigid water four to five minutes might do the trick. Remember time here is relevant. The idea is to do something different, exciting, and many say quite healthy.

Most swimmers say that after a dip they feel refreshed and clear headed, and the energy built up while swimming lasts for the entire day. Most swimmers try for at least three dips per week. Swimmers who are not so seasoned actually refer to themselves as “dippers”.

If this sounds like a nifty vacation, reach out to the Brighton Swimming Club, England’s oldest, and they will put you in the know about all things wild swimming.

Click here for more information on the Brighton Swimming Club

*In all candor I must admit that after hearing and reading about this phenomenon I decided to give it a try.  As a warm up I stood before my home shower with nothing on but cold water. After allowing it to run for a few seconds while I uttered prayers from seven different religions, I stepped in thinking to start at three minutes. After thirteen seconds I ran naked and in shock through my house. It was not a pretty sight, but then again there was no one there to witness it…my wife was out playing golf in the beautiful seventy degree sunshine…or as we swimmers say “different strokes for different folks!” 

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Agnitus: (Latin) — Recognition, acknowledgement.

We are committed to the idea that those of us in our mature years have a long way to go. We have the resources of time and money — but also a sense of purpose. We still want to explore, pursue new paths, and create new adventures; we celebrate our lives rather than just muddle through them. Agnituslife.com strives to be a dynamic platform that provides information you won’t find anywhere else, and that will help you continue to expand your horizons.

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