Something on my ‘bucket list’ for this year was to take part in a sea swimming event. I’ve done plenty of lake-based swims, but the sea can be quite a different experience due to the waves, current and salt.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to take part in the Poole Swim organised by Bspoke Events at the stunning Sandbanks Peninsula in Dorset. The beach is known for it’s cleanliness and water quality, plus the promenade is lined with properties worth in excess of £10 million. The perfect place for my first sea swim!
Our friends Simon and Anna live in nearby Bournemouth, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a long overdue catch up. We headed down on Friday evening to stay over, ready for the swim early on Saturday morning.
The following morning we made the short drive over to the golden sands of the beach, where plenty of swimmers were already wriggling into their wetsuits. Plus there are always the hardcore few who chose to swim without a wetsuit- major respect to them!
Registration was straightforward, we dropped off our bags and picked up our swimming caps. There were around 150 people taking part, with three distances on offer. I had opted for the 1500m swim whilst Glen went all out with the 3km option. We were given coloured swim caps, which as usual I struggled to fit on my head- I’m not sure if I have a big head, or it’s just my long and thick hair!
We ventured into the sea to acclimatise- the water was quite pleasant, slightly chilly but very clean as promised. Waves were rolling in towards the shore and already I could tell it would be quite a challenging swim. A man next to me commented that at least they are no jellyfish today- I hadn’t even considered this!
After five minutes, we were called back out of the water into the holding pen for a safety briefing. Once the klaxon went, there was a short run across the beach into the water. It was great charging into the sea as a group, although it was more of a waddle for me with my hip injury! I waded out until I couldn’t stand up anymore then began swimming. I took a kick to the chest but the woman turned and apologised immediately- this was definitely one of the more courteous open-water swims I’ve taken part in!
Before I’d even reached the first buoy, my swimming cap had slid back off my head. I grabbed it and tried to swim with it in my hand for a while, which obviously wasn’t the most streamlined technique! Then I shoved it inside the neckline of my wetsuit and hoped it would stay put. I had thoughts of being disqualified if I lost my swimming cap so I was determined to hold onto it!
We swam an anti-clockwise rectangle shaped course turning at large red buoys. The most challenging section was the stretch parallel to the beach (ie: the fourth side of the rectangle). I was pushed and pulled by the waves and felt as though I was making no progress towards the buoy. I kept battling on, trying to make my stroke as strong as possible. Sometimes I was lifted up on the crest of a wave then suddenly dropped into trough- it was quite a bumpy ride!
The swim was pretty tough, I was glad I only had two laps to complete. I wondered if Glen would cut his swim short at 1500m, but knowing his determination I was sure he would finish the 3km.
The water was of course salty, but not unbearably so like it was in Lanzarote where it burned my eyes and nose. I know some people can get motion sickness from swimming in choppy waters, but luckily I seem to have a strong stomach. My hip also felt fine throughout the swim, the only time it doesn’t hurt is when I’m swimming. The swimming cap fell out of my wetsuit before long, so I just had to let it go and carry on hat-less.
Two laps complete and I began swimming back towards the shore, sighting the two large yellow buoys. I hoped to surf back in on a wave, but it didn’t quite work out!
I staggered out of the sea and ‘jogged’ into the finishing chute to collect my medal and goodies. We received a flapjack, samples and bag from Activbod, plus discount codes and a free H2Open Magazine. It wasn’t a problem that I’d lost my swimming cap, although I did check to see if it had been washed ashore.
I finished in 35:38 which is around 5 minutes slower than my usual 1500m time, but totally expected due to the nature of sea swimming. I absolutely loved the experience, it was a real challenge but a beautiful location and great atmosphere.
I waited at the waters edge for Glen to finish his swim, looking out for the distinctive red panels on the sleeves of his suit. I saw him come sprinting out of the waves, finishing his 3km swim in 56:26. He had also found it a tough but amazing experience, and had quite bad chafage on his neck from his wetsuit.
Thank you to Bspoke events for the free entry and for a well organised event.