Cold water swimming. Often greeted with a delightful mixture of sheer horror and intrigue, this fun little hobby of mine has time and again brought joy to others, normally through caving in and immersing themselves in the chocking cold water.
I first began dipping my toes into the cold water world in the mountains. Many of the hiking guests I accompanied on walks had radiated their shiny joy when swimming in a mountain lake or river and soon enough I was joining in on the fun too. It oddly reminded me of a Special K ad from the 90s, featuring a woman in a red swimsuit elegantly diving into a prsitine lake in, probably, Switzerland. That was what I was going for when I first started. The reality is never quite so effortless, and the benefits… Far more than a bowl of Special K.
When taking a dip in the Pyrenees once, in quite a raging river with snow melt happily plunging into it, my swim buddy Olly (who is actually very good looking, think tall, blonde, Scandi Viking), put it beautifully, “In my mind I’m channeling Daniel Craig in his blue shorts, but what I think it is translating as in reality is Gollum.’
What with zillions of sharp rocks, numb yet hyper sensitive feet, the shivering, goosebumps, gasping and the hyperventilating, I can see what he means.
So why put yourself through all this I hear you cry. For utter bliss.
It is quite hard to articulate why it is so blissful. I find it is to do with the stress of the cold and the complete focus that is required to deal with it. Everything else falls away.
Mindfulness is required to combat the shock and once achieved my body seems to enter a space euphoria. I’m sure there are plenty of sciencey reaons for this, but I’m really over science and peer-reviewed journals; I know it from experience and the way it feels.
Cold water swimming, or wild swimming, has become so popular in recent years, especially amongst the female community. Maybe due to a bit of extra insulation or perhaps a sense of empowerment in the water.
Often I think it is just for the sheer liberation. On one walk with a group of guests in the French Pyrenees, we reached the top of our ascent, rewarded for our effort by a magnificent mountain lake. All feeling somewhat out of puff, I halted us for a while to drink in the view as well as agua from our backpacks. I noticed an older couple, who were part of the group, sidle off to the other banks of the lake. Super nice, I thought, a lovely moment together. A mere minute or two later I heard a clear “Are you ready dear?” followed by a resounding “Yes!”, I turned to see our exquistely free lady being revealed nude as her partner took away his jacket from around her,and as smooth as a mermaid, she dived serenely into the lake. Surfacing, she whooped for joy and it was for the rest of us a moment of happiness and exhilaration mixed giggles of excitement. At that moment, I knew I wanted to attain that level spiritual freedom.
For me it is an intese feeling of liberation and inter-being, with the self, the mindbody and the world. I feel more connected to my true self than at any other time. I can also gain this from swimming in balmier waters too, but nothing is as bracing as glacial water. So, what do you think? Time to go for a dip dip? 🐬