Today’s the day I’m leaving my comfort zone and joining the ranks of cool winter swimmers on Insta. I’ve signed up to do my first ice swim with an instructor at Hellasgården. Swim socks, gloves, hat, check! Blankets, bathrobe and cake, you bet!
Just shockingly, I read this morning that someone drowned there yesterday. It’s a stark reminder to refresh my winter water safety skills (don’t miss our ice safety workshops with SLS). I’m sad and my enthusiasm is waning.
But I channel my inner Clint Eastwood and improvise, adapt, overcome. After all, without the swim, it would feel anticlimactic just writing about cake.
My new plan is to swim from the dock at Hotel J where I normally train in the summer. But without access to a sauna (the hotel is temporarily closed), the thought of warming up outside isn’t pleasant.
Another change of plans, then. My fellow open water swimmer Shane Chaplin has been writing about winter swimming in a wetsuit, so I decide to follow suit, literally. I suit up, don my bathrobe, collect my lifeguards and lumber toward the dock.
I know from competing in speed skating that it’s a good idea to lay your clothes out in the order you’ll put them on, and today is no exception. Once everything is organized, I put on my neoprene socks, winter gloves and hat and prepare for entry.
Remembering Coach Saima’s advice, I get in without testing the water. The swim socks are doing their job and I can’t feel the cold yet. I keep going down the ladder and suddenly, I’m in! I’m a winter swimmer! And it’s not as bad as I expected. In fact, I’m relatively warm except for my hands which are freezing in my soggy gloves.
I’m actually able to swim a bit before getting out. Really, only my neck and hands are cold. Wetsuits deliver!
Once I’m out, I want to try again, this time in a bathing suit. My gloves are too wet to put on so I skip them and start my descent.
This time, the cold is palpable. It burns my skin and I can only bear a few seconds really. But the experience isn’t that bad. I feel energized. Tough, even. I’m the only one doing this here today!
I get out and try to dress quickly, but my hands are so cold, I can hardly put on my pants. Note to self: get neoprene gloves!
I also understand now why a warm changing robe is a winter swimmer’s best friend. And since the towel I’m standing on has frozen to the dock, I decide that a bag that doubles as a changing pad is indispensable.
Soon, I’m wrapped in my teddy coat, cup of tea in hand, already thinking about what to improve in my kit for next time.
Extra bags for wet things and neoprene gloves would be helpful. And seat pads. We manage with our blanket and for once, my kids don’t complain about the cold. I guess I’ve earned some cred.
Gazing at the sea, I’m not sure I feel as euphoric as some of the winter swimmers I follow. But I’m warm, happy and alive. Feeling smug, even, as I think about what I’ll post on social. The sky is blue and I’m enjoying the view and my cake, in true Sally Goble style.
Watch the full video of Molly’s winter dip!