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Well, I’m A Sea Dipper Now

Fourteen years living in a seaside town with two beaches — and I only started sea swimming this week.

Knickers on the beach …

I don’t know if I liked it, but it felt good …

This goes deeper than connected …

Well, I’m a sea dipper now …

— The possible opening lines brain tossed out when I sat down to write this.

First one is a bit shock jock, I’ll grant you, but brain can be like that. 

But I bet you’d keep reading.

I sure would, and I’m writing this!

Now read on, as the late great sports journalist Con Houlihan used to write …

Fourteen years living in a seaside town with two beaches — and I only started proper, regular sea swimming this week.

Con Houlihan

Now, it’s been a bit of a pandemic sensation here in Ireland, all these boiled-in-the bag, born-again briny bobbers, shiny arses to the elements in their saltwater sanctuaries, their own private Ganges… and banging on and on about it: 

How do you find out if someone is a sea swimmer? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

And the yards of bull from the ’real’ sea swimmers about these poseurs in their designer dryrobes, clogging ‘their’ beaches like goose-pimpled flotsam …   

So, of course this put me right off, the old-stagers just as much.

Friends doing it, neighbours doing it, and I still didn’t bite.

Until I started getting these strange thoughts, like Kevin Costner in Field Of Dreams: “Go … Sea … In … Swim”. 

“Yeah, and wither the chaps off myself”…

But there I was, three days ago … togs on under my shorts … bag, towel, fresh jocks and T-shirt, heading for our North Beach.

Told no-one, in case I chickened out … which was a strong possibility.

Shins and calves barely brawn-hued after six weeks wearing shorts … like two handkerchiefs dangling off the end of a trailer.

Kevin Costner (right) and Ray Liotta in Field Of Dreams

Of course I didn’t just drop ‘em and go for it … I faffed around, scanning furtively to see who was around, and went collecting seashells in the little cove off the main beach,… which is where I saw the knickers.

Knickers on the beach, sung to the chorus of Mimi On The Beach, by the great Jane Siberry  …

Black they were … lying there in post-coital rapture on a pungent bed of crushed coral and shells.

Or so brain told me, while head tut-tutted something about reckless, feckless, debauchery  … as brain jealously pondered the shrill and wild release that must have followed that bruised-lipped “Yessss!’ out beyond crashing tide and blushing moon …

Or they just fell out of someone’s bag when they were down for their dip earlier.

No more dallying, it is time … my spot chosen, I put down my bag and divest myself of clothes and dignity …

I’m walking, bare feet squishing down the gently sloping boulevard of wet, pliable sand, the shallow rivulets running warm around my toes as I edge across those wave-shaped ridges.

The tide is far out and in and on I wade, the scuffed surf and sparkling marbled green waters lapping around my shins … slowly, slowly the water rises to meet the ends of my knee-length Bermuda togs …

This is Ireland, and the Irish seaside, so the sun is doing its peek-a-boo thing, dodging in and out of cloud banks … the frisson of breeze wafting cool around my shoulders when the sun is behind a gauze of cumulus, and suddenly sirocco-warm against my chest when the golden orb breaks clear.

A lone seagull is bobbing languidly on the spot maybe 50 yards ahead to my right … mocking my mincing advance to the frontline  … Oh cripes, I’m really not sure about this … the water is so cold and unwelcoming, and I start scooping up great dollops of seawater and splashing them across my arms, chest, and even down my back, frantically, desperately, my fingers effused with salty essence

Of course I’m only delaying things … and no amount of dipping and dabbing and puny sloshing will fully prepare me for the plunge of doom …

I’m 100 metres out now, and the waves are rising and rolling higher, half way up my shorts … it’s getting nearer …

I’m nervous and exuberant, and with no-one about, someone who must be me suddenly yells out the first lines of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer …”’You could have a big dipper

Going up and down, all around the BENDS!

A higher wave is breaking quickly towards me now, like a mighty foam-flecked python, coming down to suck me in and claim me into its black snake belly …

Peter Gabriel ‘Sledgehammer’

‘Yeeoooow’ I shriek as I dive headlong into this twisting surge of wave and energy … and into a chill way beyond mere icy-cold

I’m the big dipper now, only I’m going down and across the horizontal bends of this arctic vortex …

The cold … the cold!!! I surface and flail above and through this sudden mid-winter murk, like I have been transported to an underwater Narnia, my face burbling in this icy, churning realm, as I thrash like a crazy man … 

I’m up in seconds, my thighs heavy and my knees trembling, half-man, half-simian, as I stumble to a standing position … primal amoeba rising from the primordial soup and speed-evolutioning into Rush Man 2021…

The ascent of man in seconds flat, those parts of my legs below the water ice-cold, and the rest of me alive to the exhilaration of a burst of glorious sunshine …

‘I’ve done it!’

I can’t say I felt the immediate rush of higher knowledge and cosmic empowerment that some have claimed, but yes, I don’t know if I liked it, but it felt good …

And I steel myself for another plunge … more splashing and dabbing … but  without the primal fear this time … the same chill and frantic thrashing, mind, but maybe 10 second longer under the water …

Up again… and soon. , one more bruise-lipped “Yesssss!” as I dive for a third time into the water and down into the depths of my past and my present, feeling at once ancient and ageless in my watery abandon.

I rise from my shallow sea and turn for shore …

My initial post-swim sensations were weird … I felt as if I was no longer just an observer, just filling this picture seaside scene, like those people and their dogs over yonder, or that older man with the faded red baseball hat I often see and his tiny terrier, the same man who always looks as if he is just about to remember something, or to forget it.

Rather I felt plugged into my surroundings somehow, a participating element in this tableau vivant of swaying sea, rolling sky and wuthering strand, the shrieking, swooping gulls, the wild cliff plumage of scutch grass, fern and unclaimed flower, the jagged outcrops, lighthouse, squat Martello Tower near Loughshinny … laid-back Lambay Island… everything … the very sand beneath me the compacted fragments of a thousand civilisations washed and weathered down into this finite infinity. 

As I walked I felt connected to myself in a different way … feeling the same tingle of energy and unthinking exhilaration I must have felt as a boy, a boy walking from the waves, the drying sand jagging between his toes, his togs clinging hot and wet to his wiry thighs, going back to the soggy sandwiches and the football, and the cake and warm red lemonade, and mum and dad, and my red-backed brothers and tiny sisters … at once immediate and a thousand years ago.

“This goes deeper than connected,’” brain exclaimed … to be connected you are joined temporarily to something you are not usually a part of, but here, and now, for however long, I wasn’t just connected to sea and sun and sky and gulls and cliffs and lighthouse … I was at one with them… a drop in life’s ocean.

At least until I set about getting out of my soggy togs, and began to reconnect with that fuddy-daddy in my head, the one now annoyed by the wet sand stuck to his feet and stumbling as he tried to get as much of it off his bare toes before poking them through the openings of his shorts, or falling on his sandy arse … 

But able to smile about it too, as he brushed his burnishing forehead and ran contented fingers through the Medusa tangles of his hair …

Well, I’m a sea dipper now.

16 comments on “Well, I’m A Sea Dipper Now

  1. I haven’t gone swimming in ages and ages. You’ve inspired me to hit the water!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Drama queen you! Lol. I enjoyed this piece again and yeah, you are a sea dipper. A little bit jealous over here too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was born and brought up by the coast, and lived there for the first twenty years of my life. Despite numerous attempts I never learned to swim – too scared of the water! You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I want to go now! Love your description. I love swimming in the sea. Chortling at the black knickers. 100% dropped out of the bag. Hope you go again. #wotw

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve paddled in the sea but gone no further than my knees. The thought of things floating around me fills me with dread. Go you! x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah my last comment didn’t wash up in the tide so I’ll try again. I haven’t been swimming in the sea for oh so many years, but I loved that floating feeling and being lifted by the waves. As for the knickers, well, maybe someone has been skinny dipping? I heard a rumour that it’s quite invigorating. I hope you brave the waves again soon. I can’t wait to just get to see the sea again, although I won’t be swimming in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ian Northeast

    Good for you for making it fully into the sea! It appears we enter the cold unknown in similar fashion. I have yet to head to the beach (a massive mile and a half from my house) this year, but will now make an effort to follow suit soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Back from another dip on another scorcher of a day here, Ian. Go for it. You’ll love it… after you get over the shock😉

      Like

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