“Whose dipping?” The question pops into my family chat group. You might think they’re asking if I am having boiled eggs for breakfast, but that’s not it.
I head to the beach, squeeze into my swim socks and walk into the cold water, wondering if the fear and dread will ever leave me.
One morning in May, my sister and I arrived at the beach to meet with the Hartlepool Brass Monkey Sea Swimmers and get some help. I’d been doing Wim Hof style ice showers since January, but it did naaah-thing to prepare me for my first dip in the North-East Sea.
“Walk in slowly. Once the water gets to your waste, drop down to cover your shoulders and wait 20 seconds.”
Said a gorgeous woman from the group.
We almost didn’t do it.
“Shall we just watch today and go in tomorrow?” my sister said.
“I got up at 5:30am. I’m on the beach in my swimming costume. I’m going in!”
We walked in slowly, trying not to scream, or run in and out of the waves like 5 year olds.
“It’s like a thousand knives all over your body.”
But then something magical happened. Everything fell quiet, my body relaxed and I was completely calm. Just like that, I’m bobbing in the waves, looking at the sunrise with a massive smile on my face.
I drove home with the blowers and heated seats on max, fumbled with the house keys and let myself in. Four hours later I got out of the hot shower and dressed in three jumpers.
At 6am the following day, we were back, shoulders submerged, counting to 20 waiting for the pain to pass.
And that’s how we became Sea-Dippers.
Some days I like to be alone and enjoy a meditationy experience, but mostly we’re bouncing about chatting.
In the sea, we are all the same.
Nothing to compare.
Nothing to judge.
The waves don’t care how expensive your car is, nor do they want to read the label on your clothes. Perhaps the only thing the Brass Monkey’s do judge is who best captured the magic in their photos.
We each have our own reason for being there. I’ve met people recovering from cancer, others have joint problems, depression, inflammation, and anxiety. I’ve heard stories of pain and struggle, leaving me in awe. What resilience people have. I sometimes wonder how they are still functioning at all. In so many ways, the sea is their therapy.
We have each been transformed by the sea. Nature. A place that doesn’t accept credit cards. Just your barely clothed body and a smile.
Join a dip near you! Free! Courtesy of planet earth.
Occasionally she throws in some waves for free.