How do you get in?

With the rise in popularity of Cold Water Swimming, how do you get in?

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The sea is a force amongst the Salty Seabirds that brings us together. We share a love of cold water swimming and as such our shared experiences of joy, respite and faffing is what notably makes us the same. But we all get in the sea differently.

We noticed this when we swam to the east of the Palace Pier to have a morning of celebration in the Beach Box Sauna and cold sea as we introduced some new Seabirds to our swimming pod.

Patrick McLennan, is the the co-director  of a new documentary called The Ponds, about Hampstead Heath Ponds. In a recent article written for the Guardian by Tim Lewis McLennan explains “Outdoor swimmers tend to divide into “divers” and “creepers”, with the latter group easing themselves into the water more gradually. There are also “tea-baggers”: people who jump in and get straight out.”

When the Salty Seabirds visited the Ladies Pond last year we were definitely divers as the jetty and steps only allowed for that form of entry. How we get in the sea on Brighton’s beaches, all depends on the conditions and state of the tide. If the tide is high you have no choice but to submerge yourself at speed as after three steps and you are out of your depth on our steep shingle. However, the length of time you faff,  get changed or observe your swim area can vary considerably. At low tide, particularly a spring tide, you maybe walking for what feels like miles across sand to get anywhere near swimming depth taking gradual acclimatisation to the extreme!

Outdoor Swimming Coach, Rowan Clarke has the funniest video parody on her Instagram account that charts the 10 ways people get in. When I watched it I associated each type of entering the water with  Salty Seabirds. The types are;

  1. Just Get On With Itthis is definitely me
  2. Faffthis is a favourite amongst the Salty Seabird flock – our super power is forgetfulness and changing bags are emptied and repacked quite a few times on the beach before we realise the swimming hat we are looking for is on our head
  3. Inch by Inchmany a fledgling Seabird starts off this way, but after a few dips and possibly an encounter with Brighton’s infamous shore dump, they soon join the rest of the formation and get in as quickly as they can.
  4. Swearyep lots of it. In fact the swearing normally starts with the faffing and just continues into the water. Swearing helps you to regulate your breathing – FACT
  5. Huff and PuffI love chatting to the Seabirds that huff and puff as they get in as they are completely unable to talk back and I get the opportunity to waffle on uninterrupted. 
  6. ScreamYep again and lots of it. It is a Seabirds primal call to nature
  7. Splash and SlapI am yet to spot a Seabird doing this but the more serious swimmers that migrate for the winter and return in the summer have been known to partake in this activity. On a serious note, it is a good way to acclimatise before a distance swim.
  8. Heads Up – So last year! Once we’d listened to Dr Mark Harper’s informative talk on the Health Benefits of Cold water Swimming hosted by iSWIM we have all been obsessed with stimulating our vagus nerve and stick our heads in as much as the ice cream brain will allow.
  9. Recklessly – definitely a ‘don’t do this at home kids’. Unfortunately as a tourist city by the sea the Seabirds often witness people making poor choices. We don’t and move to safe swim spots when it’s stormy or just wave bathe on the shingle shoreline known locally as “pilcharding”.
  10. Just Don’tthis applies to lots of our family members so we have created a new swimming family that ‘Just Do’

Whatever the time of year, outdoor water temperatures in the UK are cold. Even if you are wearing a wet-suit you will be susceptible to ‘Cold Water Shock’. Your breathing speeds up along with your heart rate and blood pressure – which in itself can lead to panic and gasping. The secret to over coming the cold water shock is to swim often and resist the urge to panic. The Outdoor Swimming Society has tips for cold water immersion written by the late great Lynne Roper of Wild Woman Swimming fame. She writes ‘ Much of the acclimatisation process is mental – knowing the moment of immersion will feel cold, and embracing it anyway.’ The RNLI ‘Float to Live’ campaign is aimed at people falling into the sea in British and Irish waters where the average temperature is 12-15 degrees. Low enough to cause cold water shock. The campaign promotes the lifesaving technique of fighting your instinct to swim until the cold water shock passes.

I have a unique style of entering the water. I am what Patrick McLennon would refer to as a ‘diver’ and Rowan Clarke a ‘just get on with it’.  But the first thing I do, after getting in quickly, is to roll onto my back and just float. It’s not a conscious considered decision based on my lifesaving training or an attempt to be in the moment with nature. It’s just something I do without thinking. What it does do is allow me to relax and my breathing has time to regulate without plunging my head through waves or respond to the physical activity of purposeful swim strokes. The urge to start swimming soon arrives as I realise I need to move to keep warm.

However you get in – do it safely and JUST KEEP SWIMMING…….and eat cake afterwards. Copious amounts of cake.

Scribe: Seabird Kath

Footnote: An Our Screen Viewing of The Ponds is scheduled in Brighton on Thursday 28th February at 20:30 but has SOLD OUT!

A Swim Shakes Solution – the Cosy Sports Robe

Swim / Dry / Sports /Cosy Cloak product review by http://www.seabirdsltd.com

My second sea-swimming winter looms. Seabird Kath has written about the feeling of anticipation of the cold now it is a ‘known’ quantity. We are far more prepared this year – having found what works (no pants, bed socks, core-warmers and tea) and what doesn’t  (trying to put skinny jeans on damp legs with numb fingers, forgetting a woolly hat, waiting for faffier friends on the beach as the after drop kicks in…).

So….our new Sports Robes are a complete GAMECHANGER this year. They are so cosy after a swim that I no longer have the fear of how long the warm up is going to take as I know I have it covered. It is like taking your own turtle shell with you to retreat into after a swim, hence the little turtle motif on the bottom pocket. Cheaper than other options on the market but of very good quality they have lots of lovely extras:

  1. They come in a bag that doubles as a wet bag and a changing mat. Essential to stand on instead of cold ground.
  2. Extra long zip holders for numb fingers
  3. Lots of pockets! For keys, phones, goggles etc.
  4. Roomy for changing in.
  5. Toggles for moving hood and waist in for greater insulation.
  6. You will be warm and dry from the wind and rain as you change and then head back home after swimming.

 

They say “The Charlie McLeod Unisex Sports Cloak offers a tough shower-proof nylon outer, with a thick Sherpa fleece lining.  All Sports Cloaks come with the usual CMc draw string bag that doubles as a changing mat for wet and muddy days.  There are 5 colours available including black, red, navy, royal blue and purple and 2 sizes small/medium and large/extra-large.  Inside the Sports Cloak are a number of zipped pockets including a mesh goggle pocket. It’s the small details that set the Sports Cloak aside from the competition.  We’ve added extra-long zip pulls for cold fingers and V vented side seams for ease of movement.  “

 

We say “Bloody lovely. Really warm. Especially love the fleecy lined pockets for cold hands”.

Here’s a brilliant video review created by one of our 11 year old Sea Squids

 

Author: Seabird Catherine

 

What colour is the sea?

The weather and tides can change in an instant but so does the seascape. What colour is the sea?

The question everyone asks me is “What is the temperature of the sea?” The question I always ask myself is “What colour is the sea?”

When I swim off Brighton’s beaches, with a flock of Seabirds there is a lot of routine to what we do. We find a sheltered spot to change. But this spot can change depending on the state of the beach and the direction of the wind. We check our phones to make sure we haven’t missed any stragglers or welcome fledgling swimmers as we always swim in company. But it is never the same group of people. We look at the tides and conditions and consider the direction of the flow and which way to swim. But we don’t always get it right. We shout, scream and sing on entry into the cold water and gradually split into smaller groups to chat while we swim. But it’s not always the same person you end up swimming with each time and sometimes there is a bit of silence.

It’s in these moments of silence that I always, without fail, consider the colour of the sea. No But. There will always be a point during the swim that I focus on my hands in the water and look at the colour. The seascape changes all of the time. Sometimes the shingle is up on the prom, sometimes you can walk across sand to the pier, sometimes, just sometimes you get lovely lines of surf. Twice a day there is a high and a low tide. All of these changes are obvious to all. But how many people notice the change in colour of the sea?

sea colour1

We all use the term ‘Sky blue’…but what is sea green? I have rarely swum in the sea when it is green. But there is a palate of colours it has been and will be throughout the year.

A the sea warms up and the season moves from Spring to Summer, May bloom appears.  May Bloom, is an algae bloom that is caused by increased sunlight and water temperature. This causes a massive growth in plankton, which colours up the waters. In 2018 it lasted longer and reached further across the sea surface than I have ever known. It not only changed the colour of the sea to a rusty orange, but gave it the consistency of a really yeasty beer. You literally had to wade through froth to find clearer water to swim in and you left the water with a slimy film on your skin. At high tide the water was too deep to wade through and we ended up with dirty Father Christmas beards. In the magic of one swim as the tide turned to push you could clearly see the plankton in the strong current and swimming through it, head immersed, it was like being in an episode of Stranger Things and swimming through the ‘Upside Down’

In the winter months, storms that sweep across the Atlantic create large swells and the colour of the sea couldn’t be more different from the warm water bloom. It is a dark foreboding pewter in colour, almost metallic. It’s dark colour is almost warning you not to get in. This colour is normally accompanied by large waves that sharply break just before the shingle known as shore dump. And the colour warning should be heeded when the tide is high and the waves are big. It creates a striking contrast against a normally light grey sky and coloured pebbles but it is my least favourite colour for swimming in.

Every now and then there are summer days when the wind is offshore but not cold and the water turns a Mediterranean turquoise. It is so clear you can see the seabed right up until the end of the Pier. As well as being crystal clear, it is a flat as a millpond and the sunlight reflecting on the surface creates mesmerising shimmers and sparkles. This is when the sea is at it’s most inviting and unfortunately in Brighton it’s most busy. There will be days like this over the colder months that ensure the tranquillity of the water can enjoyed with less company but the pay off is ice cream brain as you submerge your face to experience the water clarity.

Aqua green waves are my favourite colour. Again this is a rarity and seems to accompany clean swell that has managed to make it’s way round the Isle of White without finishing at the Witterings. The waves come in regular sets and don’t churn up the seabed leaving the water awash with sand. Instead the sun catches the wave face and creates a shade between green and blue. Like the aquamarine gem it glistens. The colour is just as wonderful experienced from above as it is below the waves.

These really are just a few of the colours the sea can be. There are peaty browns, bright blues and pea greens. It’s all to do with the colour of the light and how it is absorbed by the water and the depth of the water….or so I am told. Not sure I really care how or why the colour if the sea changes, I just love that it does meaning no two swims are ever the same.

sea colour2

Author: Seabird Kath

Footnote 1: The regency iron railings along the promenade in Brighton are ‘Brighton Blue’ a kind of aqua/turquoise colour. It changes colour from Brighton Blue to Hove Green at the Peace Statue marking the boundary between the once two separate towns.

Footnote 2: 100 Flags and Colour Wheel. Over several weeks throughout 2010 Finch observed the ever changing tone and colour of the English Channel. He then selected a pantone colour swatch for each moment observed resulting in a palette of 100 variants of sea colour, which was used to dye 100 flags. The four existing flagpoles at Christchurch Gardens were used to hoist a different sea-coloured flag every day. The colour of each monochrome flag was determined by an observer of the sea every day of the Triennial following Finch’s swatch. The flag hoister chose the corresponding flags and raised them at midday

Cold Water Swimming Hack!

How to beat the after-drop after cold water swimming

Discovered a few weeks ago whilst river swimming….

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I took an isothermal bottle  full of boiling water, my daughter’s mini hot-water-bottle and two core-warmers; one cotton for next to the skin and an ultra-warm one. Once out of the water and dressed (and while my fingers still worked) I filled the hot-water-bottle with the boiling water and popped the hot water bottle into my “roo pouch” of haramakis! Together with my robe, I built up a nice, warm core, which radiated heat.  Adding tea and amazing marmalade cakes, made for a delightfully happy, post-swim seabird! Been doing it ever since to beat the after-drop

cold water hack

 

Author: Seabird Catherine

The Gift of Giving – Gift Vouchers

Gift Vouchers are seen, by some, as a cop out. A way for distant relatives to oblige the kids or a present in a hurry. We at Seabirds HQ have a different view. A voucher is a great gift that allows the recipient to get something they really want, avoid postage costs of large presents and avoids plastic presents. Groups can club together and buy gift vouchers for an individual so their total to spend allows them to purchase an otherwise over budget buy. It also enables gifts to be thoughtful and avoid Christmas consumerism. Giving a voucher ensures the recipient spends time relaxing, learning something new, getting outdoors or doing something they love. Who wouldn’t want a massage or a sauna!

Here are some of our favourites from the Brighton Beach Community!

SeaLanes Brighton

SeaLanes Brighton gift vouchers make the perfect gift for family or friends. Whether they are a keen swimmer looking to improve their stroke, or a novice looking to gain confidence, give them the gift of swim coaching in the most advanced endless pool available.There are four gift voucher values available and these correspond with the SeaLanes coaching options. Seabirds have tried, tested and loved the coaching session which uses high definition underwater cameras, to provide instantaneous visual analysis of your technique. Using the video playback, you and your coach can then see exactly what you are doing in the water allowing you to make adjustments to your stroke there and then. It’s on our Christmas List to go back again for more amazing Andy analysis.

sealanes

Beach Box Brighton

Situated within the SeaLanes complex Beach Box Brighton is a wood-fired sauna spa right on on the beach. Their set-up, on a secluded area of Brighton beach, includes a wood-fired sauna in a beautiful converted horse box, indoor changing and hot showers, cold showers/buckets and chill-out area. It is the perfect place post sea swim to warm up. Again Seabirds have tried and tested the sauna and will be returning this weekend with a new batch of birds to experience the Finnish fun. Currently open at weekends over the winter months but it can be privately hired on request. In true beach community style they are donating £1 from each voucher to our Social Enterprise which in turn will enable us to get more people in the sea to improve their well being. We even got owner Liz to swim with us in the summer.

Brighton Beach Bikes

More than just a bike shop, Brighton Beach Bikes is a seafront institution. Run by born and bred Mark there is nothing he doesn’t know about the local area and not just bike routes! You can hire your bike on-line and pick up on the seafront or join a tour. There really is nothing better than being outside with the whole family. So why not book a bike for the Spring with family or friends to ensure you get outdoors and get to spend time with each other. In the summer months Mark swims regularly and welcomes anybody to join him or is always happy to look after your stuff. They have a selection of clothing, swimwear and accessories in store. Take home an original design Brighton Beach Bikes t-shirt, or if you want to give your bike that Californian style they’ve some cool bike accessories from Electra. They are experienced sea swimmers so they carry swimwear, goggles and wetsuits from TYR and Aqua Sphere as well. It’s where the Seabirds get theirs!

Brighton Beach Bikes logo

Seabirds Ltd

An then there is us! We have just launched our Gift Vouchers. Not only does the voucher allow the recipient to chose a gift from our webshop it also allows the purchaser to give as they live. As a Social Enterprise everything we sell increases the donation we make to Surf Solace, a local community group. They aim to improve the wellbeing and mental health of Sussex based young people by encouraging them to participate in sea activities with a supportive group of volunteers. Surf Solace will launch in the summer of 2019 and the unrestricted funds website purchases raise will be used to buy equipment such as surf boards and wetsuits.

seabirds logo

Plastic Free Christmas Hack!

The fabulous and inspirational Surfers Against Sewage are crowdsourcing tips for a “Plastic-Free Christmas” guide – which they will release during the days of advent.

Seabirds the have added a few suggestions and would encourage you to add them to their post and in the comments below this blog please 🙂

Here at Seabirds HQ, we’ve been thinking hard about how to reduce all our waste at Christmas.  ZERO waste might well be a bridge too far but we will do our very best. Here are some suggestions below on how to make it less of a waste-binge-horror-fest this Chrimble!

A few tips for a less-waste Christmas

* Buy pre-loved

Shop from second-hand shops to find unique gifts that are built to last. Charity shops, vintage markets and shops like Brighton’s own Pre-Loved

* Give memories, not ‘stuff’

Go for an experience. No shortage of brilliant ideas in Brighton. It even has Feminist Swear Nights which sound truly perfect for our potty-mouthed Seabirds… How about Membership of the Duke of Yorks Cinema? (last year they had great Black Friday deals…hopefully the same this year. Apologies for mentioning BF), A Kimchi making workshop, a gig or a talk about anything from micro-dosing to the art of flirting….or, my personal favourite –  the Catalyst Club , which promises to celebrate the singular passions of everyday folk. That’s us!
 
* Make your own cards, presents and wrapping

We love re-using fabric wrapping like the Japanese Furoshiki or even old scarves. My kids re-use last year’s cards for gift tags and we are already busy collecting glass jars to make kimchi for everyone this year.

* A Secret Santa actually worth doing

Have fun, save money and get a gift you actually want with a “friends and family Secret Santa”. Our family uses  DrawNames to keep it anonymous and add as many present suggestions as you want. Saves you time and money and avoids you getting or buying unwanted landfill. Buy some brilliant gifts from Wastenot Shop – it’s plastic free paradise

  • Don’t go anywhere near a Poundland.
  • Make your own crackers, without the landfill plastic moustaches.
  • Buy all your presents from us!  All carefully chosen to reduce the use of single -use plastic or be very very useful and long-lasting!

What are your top tips? Do  please share and re-share you ideas….

Author: Seabird Catherine
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10 Good Gifts for under £10

Affordable, thoughtful, local, ethical or non-plastic pressies for under a tenner!

The dreaded ‘C’ word. Much like the inevitable John Lewis Ad and the Coca Cola bus.

The Television of full of Christmas adverts. Restaurants and pub are full of Christmas menus. The shops are full of Christmas presents. It is an expensive time of the year and too much money is spent on single use, plastic cheap gifts. It’s easy to say stop buying gifts but a hard thing to actually do. So if you are inevitably going to buy gifts here is a list of affordable, thoughtful, local, ethical or non-plastic pressies. Happy Shopping!

  1. £5 Thirty Words for Water book. A wonderful booklet written by Vivienne Rickman Poole who swims and photographs in Snowdonia. Open Water Swimmers will love it and it will be featured in next months Book Club. In her words it is “Part descriptive, part emotional, these words are personal, found from inside my very core. Brought about by my wandering relationship with water since childhood, from a month of continued swimming, and from loving and losing.”
  2. £8.50 Ecostrawz – eco-friendly stainless steel drinking straws. In an ideal world people wouldn’t use straws but we do not live in an ideal world. Kids love them and the elderly sometimes need them to assist with drinking. Pack of 4 with a squeegee to clean them thoroughly so you can use them for years and years. Eradicates the need for plastic straws. Dishwasher friendly. High quality stainless steel. Suitable for hot and cold drinks. No more single use plastic straws and closer to zero waste and a plastic free community. A durable and sustainable plastic pollution solution.                                                           stainless-steel-straws-long-[3]-163-p[ekm]180x180[ekm]
  3. £8 The Box Express 30mins session at Brighton Beach Box Sauna

    Beach Box is an outdoor Sauna Spa at Sea Lanes Brighton . The sauna is in a beautifully converted horse trailer on Brighton Beach. The sauna experience gives you space for relaxation, body care, digital detox and socialisation. Great for a quick warm-up after swim, massage, treatment or class.

  4. £7-£10 Seabird  Pint Pots and Water bottle   The 800ml stainless steel water bottle in our tough canteen range and comes with both a quench cap – good for drinking on the go or at the gym and a screw top. The pint is made in the UK from recycled stainless steel. Take your own pint to events and festivals and avoid single use plastic.
  5. From £7.50  Lush Shampoo Bar   Shampoo in a solid form so there is no need for a plastic bottle. There are different shampoos for different hair – lots to choose from.            web_halcyon_shampoo_bar_2018Lasts longer than conventional liquid shampoo too. What’s not to like! And everyone likes smellies at Christmas.
  6. £6 – £9 Seabird Enamel Mug and Bamboo Coffee Cups Reusable Coffee Cup in beautiful patterns. There is no more excuse for single use plastic. Reuse cuts daily consumer waste of single-use cups. Made with natural, sustainable bamboo fibre
    Light and lovely to drink from; no plastic after-taste and fully dishwasher safe.Or you may prefer the Classic/Retro White and Navy Large enamel mug printed with the Seabirds Logo. Great for camping, picnics or at the beach. Long-lasting. Holds a whole pint of tea!

     

  7. £8.50 Wastenot Shop Bamboo Cutlery SetThis super lightweight cutlery set can go anywhere with you. I keep mine in my handbag. Ideal for camping, hikes, impromptu picnics, and to keep in your bag or pocket for lunch on the go. The set comes with its own handy travel pouch to keep it tidy and clean. Say no to single use cutlery, bring your own! cutlery
  8. £5 – £6 Seabird Tote Bag and Turtle Bag  These colourful, and durable cotton bags are small enough and lightweight enough to squeeze into your pocket or handbag so you are never caught out. Your only decision is which colour to buy!

     

  9. £7 No More Plastic Book by 2 minute beach clean founder Martin Dorey.  Have you ever wanted to know what you can do to cut down your plastic consumption but don’t know when to start? No.More.Plastic. is a simple and effective way to do this. Great as a gift for a family member you are trying to convert! Also £ 8 Duffys Lucky Escape available in the Surfers Against Sewage Shop is a wonderful children’s picture story book.
  10. £7.50 Seabird Swim Hat – for the swimmer in your life. It doesn’t matter if you swim in a pool, the sea or a lake hair in your eyes in a thing. There is one in every colour to suit every swim suit or pair of goggles and the profits go towards getting more people to use swimming as respite.

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Happy Shopping and Ho Ho Ho!