Weekly Challenge: A New Year’s Swim

Student Life

2012 was only hours old and I was already barely clothed, freezing cold, and soaking wet. Fortunately this was not some New Year’s eve gone quite catastrophically wrong. I was embarking on this first of this term’s writer challenges in which one of the Features team will take themselves well out of their comfort zone for your entertainment. This week was the New Year’s swim.

New Year’s swims are popular all around the world; from Scarborough to San Fransisco and Berlin to Bondi beach. Those taking the plunge in Bondi, however, don’t have to face quite the same temperatures of the water in which I was submerged somewhere off the Cornish coast.The biggest New Year’s swim in the UK is at Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire which this year attracted a record 1657 swimmers all in fancy dress. This year they went for an Olympic theme with cyclists, runners and, inexplicably, gnomes among those braving the 7’C sea.

My dip in Readymoney cove was not quite so exciting and I didn’t have a soggy feather boa for extra warmth but what it lacked in glamour it more than made up for in, well, rain. Undeterred by the elements, me and the rest of the swimmers went through the preparation rituals which consists of the consumption of mulled wine combined with some lacklustre stretching.

I began to consider my imminent plunge but any premature self-congratulation over my forthcoming bravery was undermined by the fact that my eleven year old sister was taking on the same feat in a far more nonchalant manner than I was (it’s at this point that I’d like to point out that she wasn’t partaking in the mulled wine).

Nevertheless, we swam out to sea sans-wetsuit. It was undeniably freezing. Some others who had done it before reassured me that “it wasn’t so bad once you’re in there”. Are they mad? It was worse! I was chilled to my core. I wasn’t even really breathing; air just desperately flung itself out of my lungs every time I surfaced. In spite of my cowardliness, I made it back to land and after a bit more mulled wine was reeling off the “it’s not that bad once you’re in there” lie like a true veteran.

I can certainly see why people would do a New Year’s swim every year. It’s a good way to avoid January 1st disappearing quite as quickly as it so often does. I, however, may wait until I’ve sourced some whale blubber before I do my next one.


PHOTO/Dom Gilchrist

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