A Dip in the Sea

Rusty jumping at Compton Beach

It takes an extreme kind of procrastination to somehow leave ten months between sea dips. Last summer I was full of the joys of a salty swim, but this year it just didn’t happen. I was loathe to let the entire season pass without some wild swimming. After all, the water is at its warmest this time of year.

The added delight is that now, after years of my solo swims, Tom will jump in too. It is hugely more fun to splash about in the white water when you have a partner in crime. Of course, it’s a tradeoff, as he seems to think that a run is required before swimming, that one must get hot and sweaty to warrant that chilly dip. So last Friday found us escaping work as soon as possible, to dash out to the far west coast.

Sun setting over Purbeck

We parked our old rust bucket (love that car) in a gravelly layby and rattled east along the cliff path. We ran past Hanover Point and on to Brook beach, before turning back and running west along the wet sand, filling our trainers with icy splashes on our way to far Compton Fields. By the time we got there, the vast smooth beach was empty. Good thing too as we only had our smalls to swim in (scoutly preparedness not being in my nature).

It just felt so good. Sure, it was a bit chilly, but it only added to the fun. We whooped and crashed through the waves, braved it up to our necks and generally rolled around until we felt justified in abandoning the water for the warmth of our fluffy towels (we weren’t entirely unprepared). So, with another Friday coming round oh-so-quickly, we might just have to do it all over again. There’s few better ways to welcome in the weekend.

Silhouette of Rusty at Compton Fields

Saltwater and Wildness: A September Read

Book "Dip" by Andrew Fusek Peters on the beach

Ever since Michelle reminded me of the delights of an ocean dip earlier this year, I’ve been seeking out saltwater whenever possible. In celebration, Tom gave me this beautiful book for my birthday.

Peters shares stories of his various wild swims through each month of the year, interspersed with his thoughts on recovering from depression and the healing powers of water. He is clearly a water rat: searching out the hidden swimming holes on even the most unlikely of trips, and diving in with little regard for inclement weather. The photos are beautiful and the clear passion he shares for this pastime had even me, the most fair weather of wild swimmers, braving the depths this autumn.

Rusty walking along the beach at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

Freshwater Bay is the perfect grown-up swimming hole: a steep shore that plunges quickly into deep water, with pebbles that leave the water crystal clear and encourage noisy families to head off to sandier bays.

The harbour is sheltered and there’s a small contingent of lifers: hardy old swimmers who are out here every day, their presence reassuring you that diving in is not completely bonkers.

Photo collage of swimming at Freshwater Bay

I’m starting to see how addictive this wild swimming business can be. The ice cold shock of the first plunge pulls you in to a single moment, before the edge of the chill subsides and you’re left rolling about in the buoyant water like a giggling fish.

This is pure and simple joy, with added tingly-fresh skin, and the promise of coffee and cookies on the beach. Can’t get much better than that. It’s a revelation to me that this adventure needn’t be the sole preserve of the summer holiday.

Dip was a book that soaked in to my blood and gave me the courage to take a quick paddle even in this autumn chill. And I doubt I’ll be able to stop at one.

Book "Dip" by Fusek Peters on the beach at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight