One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Stormy Hoe

Pauline and I looked over the railings on Plymouth Hoe into the maelstrom below. Wooo Hooo! Down the steps we went to the now invisible little beach, dodging the waves that surged over the walkway. Pauline is acclimatising for a Channel relay so she sat shivering on the steps in her cossie and her new yellow ‘Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming’ hat, hoping that the spray would serve as a gentle introduction to the fast-cooling sea. As I struggled with my wetsuit zip, I heard a shriek accompanied by a crash and clatter and Pauline vanished in a vast white cloud. I watched the step where she had been as the spray dispersed, but she was no longer there. I scanned the sea. After twenty seconds or so I spotted a flash of yellow about fifty yards out. Luckily, Pauline was still attached to it so I plunged in and followed her out.

Waves the colour of pewter smacked my face and I bounced in all directions as I tried to swim a course to the buoy that appeared between the lumps in a series of increasingly crazy angles. Pauline and I laughed and pinged around in the briny, watching the spray flying and smelling the scent of stormy sea. On the horizon, near the breakwater, two warships sheltered. The brightness of the horizon narrowed to a slash as a bank of swirling cloud loomed overhead, reflecting the temperament of the sea.

We swam from buoy to buoy, often exceeding the 4 knots speed limit with a little help from Neptune. Finally, having reached maximum exhilaration, we set off back in and were dumped inelegantly on the shore. Stripping off, Pauline shed a beach load of shingly sand from her swimsuit.


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