That First Swim

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“Go on, I dare you!…just dive in will you ! ” The self talk which arises once I am determined to take that first plunge of the season. The weather is divine, in the mid twenties with a light breeze. I’ve built up a sweat on the beautiful coastal walk and turning a corner I see the hardy, braver souls,usually younger, swimming and sunning themselves on the white beach.
“Tomorrow, yes I’ll have my first swim tomorrow” I declare to myself and the world. The day  is even hotter, making yesterday’s declaration even more appealing and yet as I take the short walk to the accurately named Shelly beach, parts of my body which have glimpsed daylight but briefly since the beginning of winter, resonate a certain trepidation. Just how cold will it be? Rationally, you know it won’t be but the body has its own intelligence and protection mechanisms.

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Are you an incher? A plunger? A splasher? I start out by being an incher, moving bit by bit into the water which is neither too cold nor too warm, then change into a plunger diving under the waves. When I’m with a friend who inches in, I am known to turn into a sadistic splasher, a sea creature who spoils their attempts at easing their way into the sea.
In the water I reacquaint myself with the joy of sea play; going over and under the waves before attempting a bit of a swim depending on the wind and waves. Emerging from the waves I feel reborn like Venus in her shell.

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That first swim is a detox from the winter blahs. Parts of your body which have been hibernating suddenly come alive in a sensual rejuvenation. There is nothing like a layer of sea salt and minerals on your drying body, as well as wet sand to exfoliate your feet and legs. By the time I reach home, a short five minute walk up the hill, I’m tired. Its a good tired though and I feel like the sea and the kelp has combed through my mind to release any stress and tension.
Soon the swim will become a daily anticipated pleasure, replacing bush-walking in the height of summer and I’ll take for granted its sensual pleasures.
That first swim of the season invariably takes me back to my childhood when I first connected with the ocean and developed the skill of gracefully moving through the water. We lived near the beach so it was essential to learn how to swim first and later those lifesaving techniques. My mind is murky when I come to recall my first attempts at overarm swimming, but what is memorable is that first swimming certificate. Twenty-five yards, from one ladder at Balmoral sea baths to the next. I had to jump in and swim without any adult assistance, in fact they were standing on the boardwalk looking down. My mother, a strong swimmer, was sure I’d make it and I did, though I think my technique left a lot to be desired. How old was I? At least five, maybe older.
While I continued to develop my skill in the water, I never lost the joy of swimming, particularly immersing myself in the ocean at best or backyard pool at least for the first time of each new swimming season.

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