Solo open water swimming

IMG_6148 Today was a landmark day for me: my first open water swim in a non arranged solo location!

I asked the local swim club where was safe, and here is where was suggested for me: Awarua Bay.

Ever since I have started open water swimming, it has always been in a privately owned lake where I have to go to a pre arranged session that is supervised and pay a fee. With all that in mind it seems odd that I am supposed to just rock up at a location somewhere and get in, with no other prior arrangement other than checking the tides!

Find a safe location

I looked up the local swim club and asked them for advice: where was safe to go. I don’t have that much experience with coastal locations having lived in land locked Northamptonshire. I wanted to make sure I was are, specially since I would be going alone.

Awarua BayThey suggested Awrua Bay, but warned for me not to go out any further than the pylons because that’s where the strong currents were. I checked the tides, having been down to have a look at the bay, and the tide was high at about 4pm. Being a very shallow bay, the tide being full in was essential, or it would be a long walk out over the cobblestones!

When I got there, it seemed to be ok weather conditions. It had been warm for a couple of days so the water should be warm enough, the wind didn’t seem too bad.

Remember all the important items!

It has been a good while since I have been in open water so I very quickly regretted not bringing the baby oil when I was trying to wriggle into my wet suit! I left the car key tucked in a discreet secret location, and set off to the water. It didn’t feel too cold, so I waded out a bit before getting in. After the initial ‘ack’ feeling of cold water, and a swift intake of breath (I’ve been in a pool way too long!) I very quickly remembered the number 1 rule of sea swimming: don’t swallow any water! I was also thankful I had remembered one other very important thing at least – a bottle of water to swill my mouth and face afterwards!

Manage your fears

Even though I am an experienced open water swimmer, I actually felt quite scared. I asked myself why. I think it was because I was alone, it was a location I had not been to before, it wasn’t safety boat supervised, only my husband knew I was here. Plus, I actually don’t like to see what lies beneath, and I wasn’t sure what wildlife I would see under that water!

I decided to keep the water shoes on to help me across the cobbles (aka, ‘just in case’!) and just get in and not think about it.

After the immediate strong salty taste (that I’m not used to) and the shock of the cold, I got into my stroke. My face was cold, I could feel the breath shorten, I turned over and floated for a while. Is it cold? Or am I being a wimp? I cast my mind back to Box End. I think the fact that I didn’t have an official temperature reading was also bothering me. My hands weren’t cold, my feet weren’t cold, it was just my face.i’ve been in Box end when it was 11 degrees, THAT is cold! This wasn’t cold. I thought about it, this is NORMAL Mel, grow a back bone! I continued to swim.

Lakes don’t tend to have waves, so that element will take some getting used to. As I got t into deeper water, the waves got bigger. I could feel the swell pulling me up and down. I remembered this from swimming in Auckland harbour. It wasn’t that ┬ábig, but it was big enough to cause some of the horizon to vanish behind a wave. I decided to play it safe, it was after all my first trip. I turn back over to float and look back to shore, I was out further than I thought. I turned a right and decided to swim down the beach a little, maintaining the same distance from the shore. This was much easier.

I went back to the beach, now at the other end, further from the car. I got. And sat looking out to sea. I was checking out the landmarks. The pylon didn’t look far. Was I being a wimp? It is hard to get scale when her looking. Over a huge wide bay rather than a small lake!

Appreciate nature

I sat looking out for a while. What a peaceful location, just me and nature. I felt this same peace when I turned to float and look back to shore. I could get to like this swimming solitude a lot.

GB hat!I got back in. The aim was to get at least half way out to the pylon. The waves began to chop up and I began to see white caps in front of me. I think swimming along parallel to the shore might be a better plan. I looked at the landmarks. I had gone 3/4 of the way out. I had also forgotten how quickly time and distance passes when you aren’t swimming lengths!

When I got back to the car to exercise the ‘get completely changed with just a car for privacy’, I noticed I was probably swimming for 35-40 minutes. Gosh doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

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