One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Mewstone? In This Weather?

Well, we tried. It’s blowing a hoolie and there’s officially a six to eight foot swell. The Mewstone taunts us from the maelstrom, highlighted by spray from the surrounding reef; there’s no way we’ll make it there today. Most of the gang have failed to show, and John our safety-kayaker decides it’s too frisky for him to paddle through the surf so he opts to ‘photograph you guys drowning from the beach’ instead. Sophie does some body-boarding while JJ, Hugo and I go for a swim.

The water’s warm and churning, and I swim and either dive through the waves as they break, or shoot up to the top and push and plummet off the back. I grin through the constant rumble and hiss of crashing waves and foam, imbued with stormy energy. As we swim beyond the surf, we hit the crazy choppy area where wind, tide and currents meet. We’re walloped and whipped and flung. There’s a whiff of sewage from the Point.

White horses break as we crest, and spindrift runs towards the shore in the squall that hits us around half-way to the Mewstone. Small wrinkles cover bigger wrinkles in the gusting wind. Rain splats into my face and partially washes the sticky brine from my skin.

Slicks of uprooted weed marble the sea, and I hit one as I swim. It slows me and pulls at my arm. I’m breathing on the downwind side, swimming at an angle to the waves, and timing my breaths for the point where I feel myself dropping off the top. But this time I’m slapped by a witch’s hat wave that smacks me in the face just as I inhale; I cough salty water through my abraded throat for a couple of minutes before I can breathe again.

I decide to make my way to shore, while JJ and Hugo continue on for a few minutes. I keep my eye on the Church and head back against the tide which is now retreating. I’m quite scared as I watch the backs of the breakers rush the beach, and I know they’re too strong for me to body-surf. I decide to swim hard and look out behind as I breathe.

When a wave is about to break it towers up and steepens while its lip teeters before curling into a sneer, after which, like a school bully, it gets you.  So I stop, face it and dive underneath to avoid the washing-machine effect. They come at me fast in the breaking zone and It’s hard, frantic work for a couple of minutes, with barely time to catch a breath between.

Suddenly I’m through, and I can surf in where the worst of the energy has dissipated. I stagger to the shore and look back to spot Hugo and JJ who appear after a few minutes. Hugo is wiped out by a huge wave, loses his prescription goggles and has his body bent in ways it’s not supposed to bend. The sun appears and lights the foaming surface so that it gleams like fish-skin.


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2 thoughts on “Mewstone? In This Weather?

  1. woo hoo! I had a similar experience last Friday on Garretstown Strand, Kinsale Head, Co Cork. Washing machine madness. Shrieks and yowls.

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