Sea swimming has been gaining popularity in recent years, but none more so than this year; it feels like it has become one of 2020’s phenomena. It has been a joy to see the number of people who are now enjoying sea swimming locally. Even more so at this time of the year, when venturing into chilling water is normally reserved for a few aptly named groups or hardy souls, who unfailingly swim throughout each year. A community has been brought about, in part, as a positive outcome from the current pandemic.
Here, in Jersey, we are incredibly blessed with the landscape of our coastline for sea swimming, we have the spectrum of choices from intimate bays to the, often, dramatic sea of St Ouen’s Bay. Before you have even de-robed you can feel the beauty and surroundings working their magic.
Naturally, the benefits of seawater for cosmetic and health treatment, defined by the term ‘thalassotherapy’, cannot be claimed as a new phenomenon as it is a long-lived practice, which dates back to the ancient Egyptians. It feels there is a movement towards a reconnection with its benefits, and nature.
Some of these benefits are:
Seawater contains minerals such as magnesium, sodium, calcium, chloride and sulphate that work as natural cosmetics for the skin. Magnesium-rich seawater promotes the retention of moisture in the skin whilst absorbing toxins and reducing inflammation, leaving the skin fresh and vibrant. Other research suggests that seawater can help people with atopic skin problems like psoriasis and eczema as it’s an anti-inflammatory and speeds up the healing process.
Sea swimming has been known to actively improve your health and wellness with calming immersion and exposure to sunshine. The elements activate the body’s healing mechanisms and support healing for diseases, asthma, bronchitis, arthritis and localised aches and pains. Also rich in magnesium, seawater helps release stress, relax your muscles, promote deep sleep and spiritually cleanse your aura. Swimming in the sea has also been linked to stimulating the parasympathetic system which is responsible for rest and repair and can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. These are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels are linked with depression.
Circulation & Immunity
Thalassotherapy is known to improve blood cycle and circulation by restoring essential micro-elements within our bodies that are depleted by poor diets, stress or environmental pollution. The cold water moves blood very quickly from our extremities to our major organs and then back up again as we warm up, which is great for circulation.
Seawater contain an endless supply of minerals, vitamins, amino acids, trace elements and micro-organisms which have antibacterial effects and can even work as natural antibiotics. These components are absorbed by the skin when you swim and even by inhaling a sea mist. Also, immersing yourself in cold water boosts the production of white blood cells which are important for fighting off infection.
Sea swimming from spring to autumn has always been one of life’s pleasures. However, when it comes to the desires to swim under moon light and throughout the year, for me, they have remained on the annual wish list, until this year…
After having taken part in the ’30 bays in 30 days’ charity challenge, the momentum to carry on swimming remained within our group, although initially any mention of the hallowed time beyond September was greeted with a humouring smile. If there was an epiphany, I do not recall it, I believe there was merely a growing realization that we were hooked by the siren that is the sea. As well as consciously and unconsciously feeling the benefits, particularly of well-being, it brings a sense of liberation; it is heartwarming to see everyone shed tiredness and stresses as they immerse themselves in the water. The sea cannot take all the credit though, like anything it is who you share the experience with. Many of my sea swims this year have been in the company of lovely friends and family. During these times we have been reminded of the power and beauty of the sea, we have shared experiences such as swimming at night for the first time in many years under the light of Mont Orgeuil and being applauded whilst swimming at Anne Port, for braving the wind and rain!
The benefits of sea swimming are beautifully encapsulated by these quotes from some of my lovely swimming group:
“Sea swimming- any stress or anxiety that I am holding is washed away as soon I put my head under the water, suddenly I am at one with nature. I don’t care about the temperature in fact the colder it gets the more I want to do it, I am addicted!” Oonagh
“ Every time I finish a cold sea swim my overwhelming feeling is of pride and gratitude. I re-enter my house with a spring in my step, a smile on my face and a sense of feeling alive. “ Lara
“Unexpectedly in lockdown I embraced the challenge of sea swimming . Psychotherapist Esther Perei uses the phrase ‘what makes you feel alive ? ‘ I think about that often in my week and swimming in the sea is one of the now weekly events that me feel alive. The meeting with friends , the anticipation, the challenge of entering the water- particularly in November – the total body experience of immersion in nature and sheer joy of the event makes me feel fully alive. Every sense touch , taste , smell sound and vision are engaged. The experience remains with me throughout the day and several days later.” Marie
“My thoughts on sea swimming:
Gratitude for team spirit and friends giving lifts
Enjoy the location of each different bay
Carves out time off in the early mornings when the tide is fresh, and the beach is quiet
Senses are super charged
Extends the day
Memories are potent and I can recall the sensations after each swim
Each swim moves me on
Sense of achievement and fun
Physically there is the immediate cold bold plunge. I find it difficult to exercise in the very cold water. I aim for 20 strokes and are not in the water for long, a minute or two.” Jane
DISCLAIMER: Own every decision you make: risks of entering very cold water include heart attack, asthma attack, panic attacks, cold incapacitation, cold shock, drowning, hypothermia and death. With the freedom to swim outdoors comes the responsibility to do it safely.
By Katya Pastorini