Vitamin Sea

06th January 2017
Since coming back to Kerry after Christmas I've started trying to get in the sea more often. I had a cold but sunny swim at Myrtleville with Maurice and Rory on St. Stephen's Day and it was a good reminder to get into the habit again. We've started to make a thing of getting into the sea whenever we get together, and I'm keen to keep it up, even if it means doing so alone most of the time.

I live two miles from the sea, even less as the crow flies. So I've started cycling down to Wine Strand, running out and back along the curving arc of Béal Bán and getting in for a swim before hopping on the bike again for home. It's a nice way to pass an hour and the mental and physical rewards are hard to beat. Plus, the weather has been so good this winter that it's been fairly easy to keep heading out. I never liked running when I lived in Cork but I think that was mostly due to the surroundings. Running on the beach is far more enjoyable than pounding along suburban footpaths, and leaping over stone walls and streams in the sand is better than dodging dog shit and traffic. As a bonus, the water always feels less cold when you've worked up a sweat. Wine Strand is a nice little beach to swim at, sheltered from most winds, usually very safe and easy enough to gain depth in. And recently the water's been unusually benign. Last week I was able to stroll unflinchingly into the sea, a rare occurrence even in summer time. I'm not a very good swimmer but I enjoy being in the water. Whether immersed in the soft liquid velvet of sun-warmed shallows or the sharp cutting of a winter lake it's always invigorating. And thankfully it's been mostly the former recently.

Today I drove to the beach because I didn't get away until close to sunset and I didn't want to cycle home in the dark. The day was as soft as they come, with slack winds and thick mist and drizzle hugging the ground. The fug had lifted a bit when I arrived and a thin silky mist lay spread along the Three Sisters. Smerwick was flat calm, reflecting whatever land wasn't muffled in wet cloud. My legs were stiff from sitting at the computer most of the day but they soon loosened out and the sand was easy on my knees. A subtle neon glow appeared behind the overcast sky, signalling that the sun had hit the horizon. I turned around at a stream that divides Béal Bán in two and got back to the car as the day was fading. The tide was out and I left my clothes on smooth wet rocks close to the water's edge. Though it was mild I felt colder than expected and low water meant I had some wading to do to get deep enough to swim. Hesitation only prolongs the misery of getting into a cold sea though, so I kept walking and dived under as soon as the water hit my jocks. I surfaced, swimming out, out to sea, out into the coming dark. It seemed a very unlikely position to be in in early January but I love these strange experiences in the outdoors, finding yourself in situations so bizarre they're exciting. I flapped around for another five minutes, warmer in the water than I'd been half naked in the air. With night time coming I got out and got dried and dressed. I left my shoes off and the sand between my toes.

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