I swim out to the bathing zone marker buoy 200 or 300 m offshore. I go in gingerly wearing windsurfing boots over the shingle and a ‘shortie’ wetsuit. I have latex bungs in my ears and a swimming cap. It is cooler already than a week ago; I let myself in gently, not repeating the mistake I made a week ago setting off in a Triathlon by leaping in dry and racing off for the first marker as I were the sprint swimmer in a water polo pack determined and used to getting to the ball first mid-way up the pool. I let the wetsuit keep me buoyant and I set off my head high, only lowering it further into the water to tip my eight forwards after a few dozen strokes. I rested up a couple of times too, my excuse was the water in my goggles, my excuse was I did a half hour pool training session this morning, my excuse was the swell coming in from the South East that could fill my lungs and belly; I made that mistake last week too, taking several mouthfuls of sea-water within minutes of setting off. Not today.
The sun sets, the beach is quiet
It could be the Mediterranean in March, Cannes in November. I rest at the buoy, threading my feet around the rope that anchors it to the seabed. Rested I head back, this time without a break, a steady, relentless swim, head down for six strokes, checking my way forward on the seventh. It’s easier with the swell coming over my right shoulder as I find breathing to the left less forced. Once used to the water I breathe bilaterally for a stretch, not for long, just to see if it can be done in the sea. I’ll bring a football out next and swim with it, water-polo style, head up; that’ll work the shoulders more and prepare me for the more upright position that is sometimes required when swimming in the open sea.
I would never have expected to sunbathe in mid-September and feel flushed; I would never expect to swim in the sea, but I did.