Swimming with Seals
I have to admit, I am a bit of a rookie when it comes to wild swimming, I love swimming but immersing myself in cold water...not so much! I started swimming in the sea this summer because I was considering entering a triathlon. It is over an hours drive to the nearest swimming pool from where I live, so if I was going to swim regularly, it really had to be in the sea. Skeptical about how often this was going to happen, I borrowed a friends wet suit and had a go before investing in my own.
The first swim went well, I went with friends and fellow runners Jess and Jon, who were also considering a triathlon. We did not venture far, but far enough to know that I really could get used to swimming cold. However I was going to have to work on my technique. I have always preferred to swim breast stroke, but with the waves crashing against my face I was not going to get far. I booked a lesson in front crawl and practiced in a pool until I had a fairly comfortable breathing pattern sussed. On taking it back to the sea, I soon found that a wet suit was not going to be enough. I could only bear to keep my face in the water for so long, until I got brain freeze or sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, (who knew it had a scientific name!) So, hatted, gloved and socked, the training began.
Lucky for us, this winter has been beautiful. Cold but calm. There are sheltered bays to protect us from most prevailing winds here, allowing us to go out every week. In fact our love for wild swimming has meant that what started as a weekly swim has now increased to twice weekly. One of my favorite spots is in my own wee village, Culduie, where there is a large rock inhabited by seals.
The first time I swam in Culduie I smelt the seals before I saw them. I was quite happily swimming along, briskly as the cold bite had not yet subsided, when I noticed a strong fishy smell. As I was well away from the rocks and seaweed, I stopped and looked around. Behind me was a seal. We hesitated and looked at each other, then it ducked back under the water. I carried on, feeling un-threatened, then looked back again to discover, where there had been one seal there was now a herd. Like I said, I did not feel threatened in the least, but after my swim I decided to read up on it a bit as, as much as I don't want to endanger myself, I also don't want to worry the seals. The sea is their home, if I am going to visit it I want to do so respectfully. Seals have a similar level of intelligence to a dogs and whilst they are strong and powerful with huge teeth these are highly unlikely to be used aggressively towards you. They can be playful, but even then they are gentle. So I will continue to swim past their rock, giving them some space, and if they want to follow me, all the better. Last Sunday when we swam a mile and couple of seals followed us the whole way. It almost felt as if they were looking out for us.