About Zoe: Founded Splodz Blogz to inspire you to make the most of your time by encouraging you to try new things and have a good time on your journey through life. Her blog started off as a simply bucket list and has become a desire to encourage others to make the most of their lives by experiencing what life has to offer and creating memories that last a lifetime.
I remember the good old days. You know? When we were at School and we got the longest summer break ever. Six whole weeks to mess about playing, going on holiday. For my family and me, that meant heading somewhere with the tent for some camping which, inevitably, involved spending our days on the beach. I loved nothing more than playing on the sand, paddling, clambering over rocks looking in all the rock pools, body boarding on my amazing lime green board, and, of course swimming.
On arrival at any beach, we’d set up our spot with chairs and cool bags and stripy wind breaks. Next up would be a bit of a beach briefing from my dad; he would take my sister and I and give us clear instructions on where we were and were not allowed to go – how far to the left and right and, most importantly, how far into the sea. He’d point out the life guard flags, make sure we knew we should be able to see those faded wind breaks at all times, and then let us get on with our exploring. Yes, those were the good old days.
These days I think we’ve lost a bit of that trust and adventure. But I haven’t lost my love of the water. The confidence I gained thanks to being allowed to explore as a young girl has directly lead to a feeling of contentment whenever I am around the water. I will often drive to the sea just to check it is still there – just like my Grandad did – and am always looking for an excuse to spend time at the seaside. But the bit I miss the most is the act of actually getting in the water more than up to my ankles. While I swim semi-regularly in my local leisure pool, I miss the rush and exhilaration of swimming in the sea. For some reason I don’t swim in the sea anymore.
That very long preamble is supposed to set the scene for a short weekend adventure I took recently, when I joined the team from Wilderness Weekends for a sea swimming experience. This was my opportunity to relive those childhood memories, to remember the feelings I had messing about in the waves. Joining an organised trip meant I a) had no choice but to get in the water – I mean, I’d signed up for some open water swimming and b) I could do it safely under the watchful eye of a couple of rather excellent swimming instructors Marnie and Jonny. Both of these was very important; I’ve had plenty of opportunities to swim in the sea in recent years, but always find a reason not to – no excuses this time.
Getting back in the water after so many years just looking from the shore was a very exciting prospect. My weekend adventure was to involve four sea swims off the coast of Dorset – the Jurassic Coast. This part of the UK is characterised by its steep cliffs, rocky shoreline, and amazing sea views – and some of the most iconic swims in England. What more could I want?!
I donned my new Huub Axiom wetsuit, designed as an entry level suit for beginners, and entered the water. My swim instructors were just in their swimmers, but as someone who feels the cold and is not used to sea swimming, I knew that wearing a wetsuit was a wise move. Wetsuits not only help keep you warm, therefore extending the time you can spend in the water, but they also add buoyancy, which for strong and race swimmers is a bit of an annoyance, but for beginners and leisure swimmers like me just helps the fitness levels a little and makes swimming that little bit easier. The suit is a 3mm all over affair, with extra flex under the arms so you’re not restricted, and a reasonably low cut neckline so it’s not too tight or uncomfortable for those not used to wearing neoprene. I ordered it online and prayed to the wetsuit gods that it would fit okay, and thankfully with a little wriggle and squeeze it did up and I was off and into the English Channel.
Over the course of the weekend I got in the sea five times, and each time I fell in love with sea swimming a little bit more. We started off at Worbarrow Bay, which was an excellent place for a first dip as it was a nice sheltered cove with a beach that made getting in and out super easy and also meant we were close to the shore at all times. One of the instructors, Marnie, stayed with me the whole time, giving me tips and chatting away about how much sea swimming is good for your fitness as well as your mind. My swimming technique is atrocious, but that didn’t matter – I wasn’t going far or fast, I was just there to enjoy the water.
After Worbarrow Bay we headed to Winspit for less of a swim and more of a dip and a play in the water around the rocks. We didn’t swim far in distance because the current beyond the rocks is very strong and the sea was quite rough, but I absolutely loved the childlike simplicity of messing about in the sea; swimming, chatting, laughing, and practising technique.
By far the most iconic swim of my weekend was at Durdle Door. This was the swim that made me sign up for this adventure weekend in the first place – the idea of swimming through the arch filled my childlike heart with joy. The combination of my poor technique and six-foot high waves meant achieving this bucket list swim was something of a challenge, but I made it – just – thanks to a lot of encouragement and help from the team. Want my advice on swimming through Durdle Door? Get up early to beat the crowds, we did and it was hugely worth it, and do it on a day a little less rough than the one we chose! We followed this adrenaline-charged swim with a calmer dip in Man of War Bay, which was flat and still and quiet – quite the opposite.
The final swim of the weekend was at Dancing Ledge. The story goes that a local vicar or teacher blasted a hole on the ledge left by quarrying in order to create a pool in which to teach kids to swim. Some scrambling is required to get to it (the area is popular with climbers and to those experiencing coasteering), and it’s quite small so don’t bother in mid-summer, but it’s a great and iconic spot for a dip. I did this one sans-wetsuit, which meant it was really rather bracing, but it was absolutely the best spot for the final swim of the week. The pool is probably only 15-20 metres long, but it is long and deep enough to actually swim.
So the big question… Have I rekindled that love of sea swimming from my childhood, and will I be swimming in the sea a lot more now? And yes, absolutely, on both counts. Booking onto a guided swimming adventure weekend made these swim locations easily accessible to me as a novice open water swimmer, and even with my water-baby confidence, I would not have taken the plunge without the encouragement and instruction. But now I’ve done it once with help, I know I can do it again, and have every intention to. Open water swimming is utterly exhilarating, it is proven to be good for your body and mind, and I am once again hooked; I am so happy to have reminded myself of those happy childhood summer holidays messing about in the sea. My wetsuit will be in the boot of my car whenever I head to the sea to check it is still there, and I can’t wait to have more water based adventures very soon.