Open water swimming and learning about the ocean

Mar 25, 2021



Journal entry:

When I get in the water, the mental boundaries shifting and constricting release. There are no boundaries in the ocean. Not even between my skin and the water. Floating effortlessly. In rhythm with the waves and the tidal pull. Escaping the physical body and world I inhabit, to peaceful freedom

When I step into the water, I return to my nature and it’s wildly exhilarating.  Reclaiming what is always there. Presence and freedom, a return to self.  The ocean and the incomprehensible vastness of it, that is my reset button. 

Jounrnal entry 2.0

The morning dip. The waves pounding and simultaneously glistening as the Sun bursts through the thick cloud. A glossy smooth palette in the sky and the high contrast details provide a dynamic change of the water. Moody, majestic and magnificent.


What causes the highest of high tides?

Most of us know that the gravitational pull of the moon and sun causes tides…but how about the highest of high tides and lowest of lows….what causes this anomaly?

Spring tides –

When the Moon, Earth, and Sun fall in a straight line, we notice the greatest difference between high and low tide water levels. These spring tides occur twice each month, during the full and new Moon. If the Moon’s stage of orbit is at the closest it approaches Earth, the tides are especially high and low. (image below will bring this visually to life)

A neap tide—seven days after a spring tide—refers to a period of moderate tides when the sun and moon are at right angles to each other. A spring tide is a common historical term that has nothing to do with the season of spring.

What causes sea swells?

The world and its weather is super powerful!  During a storm out at sea, strong winds over time generate surface waves. Swell is smooth long waves that travel in groups/sets away from the storm that generates them. Depending on the strength, duration and area of the ocean that the wind blows in, determines how big the waves will be, how far they will travel and how much power they still have when they reach the shore. Swell waves travel on the surface of the ocean and perturb the water underneath as they pass.  It is energy not water that travels with the waves. Once generated swells are almost impossible to stop until they reach shallow waters and land.  Land being the ‘obstacle‘.

Swell is an indication of a storm having taken place. The swell dies and breaks beautifully on the shore.

A swell is magnificent for the Surfers but not so much the swimmers!!

Journal entry

The  euphoric feeling of the sunrise swim.  9°c water temperature.  4°c ‘feels like’ -1°c land temperature. Clear skies not even a wispy cloud in sight. Light, clear, open vast spaces.

The vast open space symbolises endless possibilities. It is humbling to be a tiny speck on Earth.  Pure gratitude for this morning’s adventures.

What a privilege to be alive and healthy, to be able to walk to the beach, to be able to swim and dance around in the calm waters. What a privilege to be free in this way.  To feel safe, to feel a part of the morning community.  A community (at a distance) but still my actions have an effect on the community and another’s experience of their morning time.

A couple possibly 100 – 200m away were watching us swim. Not pervy as they were too far away! Perhaps they were watching thinking we were crazy.  We were just having fun…maybe I was very excitable!!

What effect does my actions have to an onlooker? Many things come to mind…as our experience is subjective. I would like to think: 

  • Brings a smile to their face, lifts them seeing others joyful.
  • Inspire them to swim, get in the water themselves.
  • Motivates them to get up for Sunrise more often
  • Seeing people having fun and not caring about the outside world gives them permission to do the same.
  • Inspires them to be in nature more
  • Will change the course/ trajectory of their day –  positive interactions with others has a ripple effect.

Ripple effect is powerful… “I want to feel what they feel”

The start of my sea swimming journey:

I started sea swimming in the UK in May 2020.  Having been a strong capable swimmer as a child like a lot of teenage girls I gave up swimming with a club when I was 13.  Even as a child growing up on the south coast of the UK I can sporadically remember occasions when I enjoyed going into the murky British waters.  It was cold, stoney, seaweed galore and I would panic about the unknown lurking beneath my feet!

The rocks on the seabed in ‘allocated safe swimming’ areas made the surface water appear black. My overactive imagination plus the lack of any good reason why I would want to get in the English Channel stopped me from going in the water until I was 31. 

As an adult the British waters were still never inviting or exciting to me. Not like the crystal clear blue waters and 29°c temperatures of the Thai island of Koh Lanta, where I happily spent 3 weeks diving doing my Open Water and Advanced Padi Courses, as well as jumping in at any opportunity in the deep blue sea to cool down.

On returning from Thailand nearly 8 years ago now, my excitement for diving and the magical Kingdom I had discovered was still there, but when I looked at the UK diving locations, the excitement soon dissipated from my being.

It was not until May 2020 during the first UK lockdown, having left the city life, for an extended holiday did my friend Barnaby suggest that we go for a swim…. post beach workout.

Overcoming Fears:

My first reaction was excitement mixed with a whole load of insecurities rising about my pasty white, body. After a couple of months of emotional eating…eating everything insight…. getting in a bikini seemed more terrifying than the English Channel and the imaginary sea monsters.

It was for these two reasons that I had unintentionally created a mental challenge for myself in FAVOUR of getting in the water. 

  1. Fear of what might or might not be lurking – Fear of the unknown.
  2. Fear of what I will look like to others – in my bikini – Fear of judgement.

I have learned over the years….when FALSE FEARS arise….face them head on.  It is an opportunity to grow and develop a stronger mindset.

The first time in the water….it was magical, it was a warm spring morning, the sun was out and I absolutely loved jumping in and diving underwater, doing handstands and roly-poly’s and pretending to be a mermaid! 

In July 2020 me and two friends decided to swim out to the yellow marker buoy, 200m out approx.  I was nervous because the water was pretty deep. The clarity of the water was incredible and the sunrise dazzled and sparkled majestically upon the water just below the surface but I was still nervous.

I felt the fear and I did it anyway!

I remember feeling like I had ventured to another world,  a world that wasn’t deep sea diving or on land, but into a peaceful abyss, where reality paused time and life on land melted away. Total presence, freedom and serenity. Supported and welcomed by the vastness of water.  It felt strangely like a return home, or a return to self.

In Sept 2020, 3 of my friends took their paddle boards for a sunset paddle, I dressed in my speedo Cossie, goggles, Garmin wrist watch and decided to swim alongside them.

Deep open water still scared me, after a terrifying experience when I was 8 years old,  having cliff jumped into the Mediterranean waters off Majorca,  I was stung by what I think was a jellyfish….my left thigh had a horrible reaction to the sting, leaving the wound raw, fleshy and infected with a deep scar that is still around the top of my thigh to this day.

I felt the fear and I did the thing anyway. I swam and I swam and my friend’s kept an eye out for jellyfish and I absolutely loved it.

I’ve continued to swim, throughout the autumn and winter months including a New Year’s Day sunrise dip. The colder the water, the bigger the mental challenge…but the bigger the rewards. The euphoric endorphin serotonin rush after a cold water Sea Swim is incredible! 

Cold water swimming is both a physical and mental challenge but even more so mental.  You have to go with the water, move with it, be at ease with the water, and the water will be at ease with you.

Flow with the water and everything is easy and enjoyable.

Maybe that is where ‘flow state’ comes from?

*Google Search*

Flow is so named because during Mihaly Csikszentmihályi‘s 1975 interviews several people described their “flow” experiences using the metaphor of a water current carrying them along!!!

Sea swim equipment and accessories what you need and don’t need.

Keep it simple.

Like any sport/activity, you need the right clothes and/or equipment and like a lot of sports you have a whole range of budget or pricey kit.

  • The only bit of clothing that is essential for UK waters is your swimsuit or shorts.
  • In Winter months, I recommend neoprene gloves and shoes/socks, with a long sleeve swimsuit or top! If you want to put your head under for longer than 2 seconds a sexy neoprene swim cap and goggles!
  • Warm clothes on getting out the water is essential!! Easy to dress and lots of layers. If you want to spend a little extra…a dryrobe is an amazing bit of kit, nearly a year into sea swimming I still rock my 2 tops, 2 woolly jumpers, large coat, scarf, hat and ski mittens! 
  • The outdoor swimming society is a great resource for Cold Water Swimming Guidance – recommendations for ‘how long should I stay in the water when its super chilly!’
  • Check local council swimming and  sewage reports.
  • Swim buddies – help you show up get in the water. Also can alert the coastguard if you get eaten by a sea monster.

These two babes kept me swimming all winter!

Insta: @elissadavies is your go to girl for info on kit, water sewage and confidence to get in the water.

Coming soon….At Dawn swimwear…Insta: @atdawnswim

You don’t know if you will like something until you have tried it.

What’s your open water swimming story?

1 – Newbie?
2 – Want to but never tried?
3 – 24/7, 365 in the water?

Let me know in the comments!

Next Blog Post Live on Monday 29th morning….Keeping the Open water convo going….

How can you relate to the water. What can we learn about ourselves?

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