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My year of ocean dunking

I did it!

I have recently completed 365 consecutive days of immersing myself in cold water. Almost all of these days have been in the ocean, with a few in lakes or rivers when I was away from home.

On 18th November last year, I made a casual comment to Terence after noticing people getting in the ocean on my early morning walk.

"I would love to commit to swimming every day for a year." says I.

"Why don't you?" says Terence

"Perhaps I will start on January 1st?" says I.

"Why wait til then?"

"I don't have a reason. Just seems like a good day to start...." (Big pause) "Hmmmm, Yes you are right. Ok. I'll start tomorrow!"

I went to the local OP shop and bought a wetsuit.

19th November was Day 1.

December

Summer arrived and the water, so the locals said, was warmer than usual.

Despite hearing this, within a few weeks, I was feeling resistant some days. The thought often went through my mind of "What was I thinking? This is a stupid idea. Why did I tell people that this is what I was doing!"

January 2022

I suggested to Terence that a dawn swim on 1st January would be a great way to greet 2022 and usher the new year in. It was absolutely lovely ... a 'soft' morning tinged with peachy clouds ... We were in the water by 5.45 am!

Felt so alive!

February

By now I had started to get into an early morning rhythm.... waking around 6am, getting up and dressed and heading out the door before 6.30am ...

Checking my Tide app, I walk east towards the rising sun. As I walk I can tell what kind of morning it will be at the beach by feeling the wind direction on my face.

My body eases into walking.

I usually walk down through the Waitemata Golfcourse. At this hour there is no need to dodge golfballs!

Some days it is moody and misty. So quiet and still. Other days the magpies and paradise ducks have a lot to say.

The sunrises are amazing and different everyday. Quite often I take a photo and send it straight away to people I love and hold in my heart who live in other parts of Aotearoa New Zealand or far away across the ocean I am gazing at. I send them love.

Bubbles of gratitude rise in me ....

March

Now I can swim further ... and the breathing is getting easier. There are moments when I feel quite dolphin-like!

I am developing systems to streamline the undressing / dressing process. I am cold when I get out so I need  to get a merino beanie on straight away and have my clothes organised and out of reach of doggy noses!

At low tide, lots of people walk around the point from Narrow Neck beach to Cheltenham. But when the tide is half or full, it is impossible to get around the rocks so this makes the point between the two beaches private.

Today (14th March), I clambered down the steep cliff and swam in a tiny cove. It was so secluded that I had the urge to skinny dip. The feeling of salt water on skin is so utterly sensuous and delicious.

This was one of the first times, I felt 'touched' and caressed by the ocean ....

Swimming is a relationship between myself and the ocean.

I stand and breathe in the new day ...

April

Now came the first big test of my commitment ... a road trip to the south island initiated me to swimming in much colder water. . Dropping Terence at the airport to fly to the UK, I drove south to Lake Taupo.

Oh my goodness! During my dunk the next morning in the Lake, I was accompanied by black swans! The mist hung over the lake with the mountains appearing and disappearing from view. So magical! And cold!

Bigger challenges were to come!

Swimming with my sister Cath and my darling neice, Michaela on the Kapiti Coast (near Wellington) was fun - and freezing!

The swims are certainly getting shorter! And the woolly hat as soon as getting out a real necessity!

Over to Te Wai Pounamu, the South Island .... and on to Christchurch.

Two choices for Christchurch swims:  Rapaki in Lyttelton harbour with no waves to speak of or big waves at Sumner.

The first time I got in the ocean at Sumner, I sent a video to friends and family! I was so excited from the sense of achievement. The water was seriously chilly!

But, more chills were to come. One of the places I am most connected is the southern alps. On the way, I swam in Lake Sarah (named by my great great grandfather, Joseph Pearson in honour of his wife.)

I wasn't in the water very long!

And then in the Bealey River at Arthur's Pass, fed by melting glacial water!

Take slow breaths Jacq! Slowly, slowly!

May

So lovely to have Terence back from the UK and have my swimming buddy and cheer leader back again.

Back here in the north, the water here is positively warm compared to the south!

June - Midwinter

Skinny dipping on North Head. 

Midwinter day swim June 21st 

(I hate selfies!)

Early morning, I was taking a photo of yet another awesome sunrise when suddenly two waka - Māori canoes came into view., the paddlers chanting as they moved rapidly through the water.

July

Now some would say I was a tiger for punishment when I suggested to my son, Josh that I come south again to mark Ivan's anniversary,

Swimming in the icy mountain river with snow on the ground was quite something. It was exhilarating.

August

Various friends told me August and September were the coldest water months -- and they were not wrong.

Terence was an amazing support, especially on the days when I lacked enthusiasm. When I had flu. he drove me down to the beach, even when it was raining and miserable. Those days I made a deal with myself that I would get in the water, if only for 30 seconds and put my head under three times.

The few days I had the flu, getting in the ocean was soothing.

Walking and swimming gave me gifts ...

a brightly coloured pohutakawa leaf on a rock ...

... a heart shaped rock pool with reflections from the cliff hugging trees above

... and perhaps the most exciting was a pod of orcas cruising less than 5 metres from the beach, where I had been in the water just 5 mins before! (12th August).

Thankfully orcas haven't been known to attack humans. Find out more info here - fascinating article

September & October

Now I have the end of this year in sight!

A trip to Waipu gave us the chance to enjoy proper ocean waves. Thank you Vic! I can see how people lose their false teeth with the power of the waves... I lost my footing and was tumbled over and over, with my breasts escaping out of my swim suit!! The next day we went skinny dipping!

November

A wet spring tested my resolve ... swimming in the rain is enjoyable. Getting dry and dressed in the drizzle not so pleasant.

I put on an invitation to dear friends to come and share my 365th swim on 18th November. We met at Windsor Park, and swam together. Then we celebrated with a scrumptious chocolate cake I had made and cups of tea using my old china cups and saucers.

So much fun and a wonderful sense of achievement!

What I've learnt:

  • I have a lot of willpower (most of the time!)
  • having a daily practice works quite simply because it is a daily practice.
  • Walking and swimming first thing in the morning has worked for me. It is peaceful and meditative as well as good exercise
  • even though I know something is good for me and that I will feel amazing afterwards, doesn't mean I won't be resistant sometimes
  • Having supporters makes a big difference. Its more fun and great to have someone to encourage and cheer from the beach!!
  • I used to absolutely hate being cold. Now my attitude to it has changed. I can tolerate more cold
  • I was inspired to start 365 swim challenge after noticing people getting in the ocean on a regular basis; people have told me I have inspired them to start swimming. So it goes.
  • I am not going to stop swimming daily. I have swum daily since 19th November.
  • My next challenge is to improve my swimming skills
  • Watch this space!!


 

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