Can I get a witness?
So this weekend I completed my latest challenge. This one was the Polar Bear challenge. There are various categories/levels ranging from the entry level Penguin through to something like a Ninja Arctic Polar bear, all requiring greater levels of extreme open water swimming but in essence all being about getting into open water during the winter.
As its my first year of doing this challenge I opted for the classic penguin which simply asked for two “dips” per month, each month between November and March. A penguin is allowed to wear a wetsuit but an extreme penguin is expected to dip wearing just a swimsuit.
I first dipped a toe into the open water about 10 years ago when I signed up to swim the Solent as a charity fundraiser and since then I’ve been a regular wetsuit swimmer, but only during the summer months initially with gloves and boots as well. So extreme penguin during the winter months has been an exhilarating challenge which has seen me rush down to the beach at almost any opportunity when the weather was cold enough but the sea was calm enough. I’ve often arrived at quite a low tide so had to wade out a fair distance, (which is actually a very safe technique as your body adjusts to the water as you go in and this helps with cold water shock, see below you should never dive straight in) and I’ve had some odd looks from the dog walkers wrapped up in hats, gloves and big coats as I’ve raced across the beach toward the water in just my speedos. BUT, its been an absolute blast and after the initial couple of dips I really started to enjoy it. Most of my friends have considered it madness but the afterglow, the cold water tingle and more importantly the sense of well-being have been noticeable.
A nice mug of hot coffee, heated seats in the car and a big towelling tracksuit have ensured that the warm up afterwards is relatively straightforward.
Sammy the Seagull dropped by to witness one of my dips.
As the old saying goes March can sometimes come in like a lamb and go out like a Lion so I’ve timed my March dips to avoid any possible Beast from the East weather and now I’m luxuriating in having completed the challenge with a few weeks left.
If you are contemplating some cold water swimming, I can thoroughly recommend it. The health benefits are well documented but please though take care, always take someone else along and don’t take risks. Here are a few top tips for safe swimming.