Every time I swim in the ocean, it is as if I return to a long, lost lover. I feel uncontrollably drawn in to an embrace, and the initial meeting of selves is overwhelming. The shock of the cold is almost violent in its intensity. Mere milliseconds last for aeons, and I float along underneath the surface. Yet what follows is a beautiful settling. A gentle acclimation in which I feel my limb strengthen, and feel accepted by the water. I feel well and truly within my element. This delicious process happens every single time that I visit the ocean, but with my swim yesterday, I experienced a euphoric and volatile encounter with the sea, which I would like to share.
I arrived at Durdle Door in Dorsetshire when the sky was wreathed in thick, misty cloud, the air forbidding and chilly. Yet I felt a strong impulsion to swim. Felt beckoned by the beautifully calm waters of high-tide. The water was crystal clear, and a seductive hue somewhere between turquoise and silver; all the more vivid for the oystery clouds above. Donning swimming shorts I felt chilled already, and watched the choppier waves beneath the arch with more than a little trepidation. Yet as always, the waves felt gracious and inviting to my toes, and I strode in accompanied by the giggles and mutterings of many selfie-snapping tourists. With over a hundred folk behind me, I swam off. With these first strokes the sun emerged, and I could see my frog-like shadow silhouetted against the round, tide-scoured pebbles eight feet below me. It was marvelous.
Floating on my back beneath the stony arch was humbling, and beautiful. It felt like gazing up to the roof of a Cathedral, but seeing seabirds rather than gargoyles. The other side of the arch was teeming with feathered and beaked life, and noticeably whiter and smoother than the most photographed side. It was very dream-like, and the voices from the beach began to taper in to nothing. As I drank in this unusual perspective, I was plunged back in to reality. Literally plunged, by a powerful, now choppy wave. Within two feet of passing through the arch the water had changed, and it felt terrifying. Humbling. Deeply humbling. The water beneath me had turned black, and I could not even see my legs as I trod water. I struck out with a lurching stomach, feeling myself bobbed up and down the wave forms, now topped with a keen wind that chilled my head alarmingly. I am a confident swimmer, but I had forgotten how powerful the sea could be.
Suddenly keen to be back on shore, I set off in a front crawl. In seconds I had already been steered behind and partly around the foot of the arch, and so made my way around the remnant, avoiding the growling, sucking sounds that the water made as it struck the rocks. Daunted yet exhilarated, I reveled in feeling entirely alone with the sea. All human and avian noise had gone, and it was just me and the waves. They looked and felt magnificent at this angle, and swimming around the rocks was like tunneling along plough furrows (and sometimes across them). Although intensely awake, the rhythm of the waves felt almost soporific, and at that moment, even comforting. The fear went away. Using mostly my arms, I skulled back to the shadows, watching the water beneath turn steadily lighter. I had also forgotten the deliciously warm bands of current that the sea sometimes grants. Swimming in to these was seductive, and the sudden return to chillier depths truly teasing. It was brilliant.
I felt very out of breath when I beached myself at the shallows. The beach drops steeply away at Durdle, and so it felt like pulling myself out of a bath. I felt cold. Very cold. Yet only cold above water. My brain and body were urging me to get back in to warm up, and it was then that I decided something. I want to, and need to swim in the ocean a lot more than I do. Being sumberged in water makes me feel so many wonderful things, and give me a sense of wellbeing that is incredible. I have decided to do as much wild Swimming as I can over the coming months. I have decided that I want to become a Merman, and make the sea as much my home as I can. To swim further, deeper and longer. The Sea makes my mind feel peaceful and calm. I adore it.
Copyright Tom Tide 2017