Let me tell you about the Bantham Swoosh. It’s a 6 km swim along an estuary in South Devon, England.
Six kilometres. That’s a long swim. 180 lengths of my local 33 m pool. Just shy of 4 miles if you are still working in ‘old money’.
But this swim has a trick up its sleeve. The ‘swoosh’ refers to the the push of the outgoing tide which is strong enough to transport swimmers like human pooh sticks for the last kilometre.
Standing on a concrete slip way at 9 am with 400 others, the swoosh felt a long way off. At 9.10 am the chilly estuary water had my immediate attention. As we made our way down the slip way the estuary water introduced itself by seeping down the neck of my wet suit. Now we are friends.
We breast stroked between clumps of seaweed waiting for the peloton to disperse as swimmers found their own pace. The water in my wet suit had warmed and my hands and feet, either acclimatised or numbed.
Immersed in water that only ten minutes ago was less than inviting, there was nowhere else I would rather be.
I found a comfortable stroke, breathing every stroke at first to keep an eye out for my swim buddy. Visibility is a meter or so but in the shallows the water clouded with sand. Much more interesting to swim under the open sky and negotiate anchor chains and seaweed rather than plasters in the pool. Seaweed hooked on my goggles for a couple of strokes and a clump attached itself to the timing chip on my ankle.
As I relaxed, I began to breath every 3 or 5 strokes. Concentrating on my breathing and feeling the water snug around me, my stroke pulling me along fast enough to pass other swimmers but not enough to raise my heart rate. Almost meditative.
Aside from keeping a weather eye out for boats and other swimmers, all I had to do was swim. Nothing could touch me. Inside my own head and away from the office and wedding planning. The next hour or so would be mine.
After an hour, we swim past the distinctive Bantham Boat house, the effect of the swoosh started to take hold. Swimming became effortless covering meters with each stroke and then all, too soon, we were shepherded onto the steep, sandy beach.
Back to reality, a big hug from Jamie and a hot chocolate to fend off the cold. Life is the same, but I am now Laura, open water swimmer.