"I love swimming for the connection it gives me to nature, to myself and to those around me. The community and camaraderie between a group of swimmers who are prepared to swim together through the entire winter is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I’m so grateful every day for these brave and beautiful women who want to run screaming into the ocean with me and emerge feeling completely reborn, renewed and immensely calm."
Photography by Anna Blackwell @annablackwell & Words by Grace Kingswell | @gracekingswell
The night before this particular swim in April, the Whatsapp group that my girlfriends and I use to plan our swims (and our coffees, general catch ups and barrage of puppy photos) was going off incessantly: the forecast was for glorious sunshine and flat calm waters - a complete rarity on the North Coast of Cornwall.
Don’t get me wrong, I love jumping over the waves, perhaps body surfing a few, but there’s nothing like gliding through cool, still, calm water first thing in the morning.
Companions on the trail
Fraser the Rucksack (32L) is a quiet achiever. Just like the bags favoured by alpine explorers in the past, we’ve kept this lightweight and added modern details such as hidden pockets and compression straps. The result is a bag ready for almost anything, whether it’s overnight stays or weekend walks.
Our meet time was 7.30am, always at the mercy of the tides, and on this day we’d decided to forgo our usual dunk at the main beach in St Agnes, and swim at nearby Cove which is walking distance from my house. Being able to trot out of my front door and within 20-25 minutes be on a beach is something I am still getting used to since moving out of London this time last year, and something I am incessantly grateful for.
So off I went, past the pink house with its one solitary palm tree, past the fields of cabbages, winding my way down the coastal path in glorious solitude. I took my Fraser 32L Rucksack with me, stuffed to the brim with my towel, swimmers, dry-bag and the all-important cafetiere, coffee and thermos full of hot water. I usually walk this route every morning to stretch my legs, sometimes getting as far as the water, sometimes doubling back to head home before a hail storm or freak shower soaks me.
On this particular day we were 5 women and 3 dogs, a pretty good ratio if you ask me - although I did suffer a savage scratch from @bilbotheadventurepooch on a bare, freezing cold bum cheek when I got out of the water! Thankfully I was numb enough from the frigid water not to feel it too much.
The thing about sea swimming is, I hate sand. Sandy feet are something that my co-host Sophie Hellyer and I talk a lot about on our podcast, Two’s Company. Soph is totally happy to just shove her covered-in-sand-feet into her crocs and deal with the mess later, whereas I can’t think of anything worse than sandy toes in my socks. I know, it’s completely illogical for someone that loves a sea swim but there you go. Having two pockets on the side of my Fraser Rucksack means that I can use one for the boiling water for the coffee pot, and the other with lukewarm water to wash my feet with after the swim - and it helps to warm them up too.
I love swimming for the connection it gives me to nature, to myself and to those around me. The community and camaraderie between a group of swimmers who are prepared to swim together through the entire winter is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I’m so grateful every day for these brave and beautiful women who want to run screaming into the ocean with me and emerge feeling completely reborn, renewed and immensely calm.
As a Nutritional Therapist, I’m also really passionate about the health benefits of cold immersion: The way it helps us train our stress response via a process called hormesis, and the way it can support immunity and improve blood circulation. Above all though it’s the connection and community that makes me strip off in 4 degrees, and for that I’ll always be truly grateful.