As soon as we got a few steps out into the water it was clear that things were going to be, to use a technical term, a bit lumpy. The swell coming in, whilst by no means big, was certainly enough to push one around a bit. As we got deeper it became necessary to jump up a bit as the waves struck to avoid a faceful of water. In front of me Ian and Kathrine at first bounced up with each wave and then one after another dived through an oncoming wave and started to swim.
As soon as I followed their example I realised that the sea was quite a bit rougher than anything I’d swum in before. It wasn’t nastily rough, but it was certainly a magnitude more wavey than anything I’d experienced previously. I consider myself a reasonably experienced open water swimmer, and I am, but all of my experience has been in lakes and rivers; the few swims I’ve done in the sea have been on calm days. I just wasn’t used to swimming in sea conditions like this.
Swimmers often use the phrase “It was like swimming in a washing machine” to describe swimming in rough water. I’ve used that phrase in the past myself, but this was a washing machine of a different order of magnitude. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that rough; people training for and swimming the Channel, swim in much rougher water, but it was still a bit by disconcerting. For a start the sea throws you around: you go up, down, up, down, up up, down, sideways, down, up, down, sideways, down, up, sideways… you get the picture.
And in a wetsuit this is exacerbated, as you bob on top of the water and get chucked around like a cork. Ahead of me I could see Ian and Kathrine cleaving through the waves, while I was feeling a bit as though I was on a fairground Waltzer. The being thrown around I could cope with, just; the nasty part was that quite quickly I started to feel a bit sick. I’m slightly prone to travel and carsickness in any event and I had the feeling I’ve sometimes had in cars when I don’t feel exactly sick but as though I might at any moment start feeling sick. My usual remedy is to breathe deeply, but in a situation where an injudicious deep breath is likely to net you a lungful of wave, it wasn’t really an option.