A Frisky Swim off Looe
I met up with Cornwall Wild Swimmers this morning at low tide for a swim around Looe Island. I made that sound simple; actually I couldn’t find them to start with, and my request for directions to the beach from a local with a Cockney accent was met with the response: ‘at the end of the river’. Thanks. When I eventually arrived, the sea was flat and pale turquoise and the sky was clear. In we went, and away we swam – in front crawl on account of my companions being the marine equivalent of racing-snakes…racing eels?
Forging through the salty water – well, I thought I was till I looked up and noticed the others slightly ahead of me – I flew over kelp beds, ginger-brown and luscious, splodged with some unidentified white stuff that resembled seagull shit. Popping my head up for a moment, I floated alongside Cormorants that perched, black Brylcream boys, on the part of the reef that pokes above the surface. Suddenly, I became entangled in a patch of weed that snaked around my arms and legs, like swimming through Medusa’s hair. I swallowed a good quart of water, smelling that poo-ey, seaweedy scent, and disentangled myself. Slipping through in breast-stroke, I found a channel through the weed and sped up again, noticing the distant ripples in the sandy bottom. Here I was faced with beautiful, deep-red weeds, suspended upright in the water, with arching fronds each terminating in a pom-pom like a poodle’s tail. We could see the island ahead of us, wooded and with a couple of cottages visible on the right-hand side.
As we left the shelter of the bay, a squall blew up and we were met with a suddenly frisky wind and speeding wavelets that slapped our faces like angry strumpets. We pushed through, and hit another kelp-field, this time the reef to which it was attached was closer to the surface. As we neared the island, a large sign became visible: NO LANDING. Richard and Pauline igonred this advice, while myself and Maggie decided to return to the shore. We were now being pulled parallel to the shore, and tossed around on the wavelets that were hitting us side-on. I really enjoy this kind of tussle with the elements, so I continued to breathe on the down-wind side, and then noticed my lovely poodle-tail weeds pushed out horizontally by the current. At this point I realised what we were up against. Maggie, who is rather slender for a wild swimmer, was worried about being cold and about the current, so she asked me to keep a close eye out for her – then immediately took off at the kind of speed that would give Becky Adlington a swim for her money. Floundering along, rolling from side-to-side in the chop, I stopped occasionally to keep my promise; I thought I caught sight of Maggie’s red hat on the horizon once or twice, but it could have been a buoy. Luckily she made it back to shore in one piece, considerably ahead of me.
At one point we had to swim round some nets, taking the upwind side. It was quite hard to spot where we were going, although it became calmer as we approached the shore. I heard a splashing behind me, and there were Richard and Pauline, having wisely also decided against circumnavigating the island because of the weather.
I always feel as though I’ve had six pints of scrumpy when I stand up to wade from the sea, with a vision in my head of looking like Ursula Andress, but actually resembling in my shiny, black wetsuit a pissed sadist who’s seen better days. But it’s how you feel that counts, and I felt great.
Richard, Pauline, Maggie, Rachel.
James, Abigail, Mr Maggie.
Chief Eater of Ice-Cream and Chips and Jedward Impersonator