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The joy of sea swimming

Credit: Holyrood

The joy of sea swimming

The first time I did it, I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

I could feel the palpitations in my chest and couldn’t breathe properly.

The shock of hitting that cold water on a blustery Friday morning had, quite literally, taken my breath away.

My first attempt at sea swimming at Portobello Beach – I don’t care if it’s technically an estuary or a firth – wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for.

Since I moved to the area more than five years ago, I dreamed of the day I’d be brave enough to swim and admired those hardy souls who took to the sea come wind, rain and even frost.

Since lockdown, the number of swimmers dooking from Porty beach – many of whom are friends of mine – has gone through the roof and I knew that if this wasn’t the time for me to finally pluck up the courage, then I’d be destined to watch from the sand forever.

So, I did it. Then I did it again the next day. And the next day. And then most mornings since 5 June.

Sea swimming has been one of the positives I have drawn from lockdown. In many ways, it has been my saviour.

The intense cold rush when you finally take that plunge and thrust your body into the water is the exact moment that everything else disappears. Any stress, tension, anxiety, fears all fade into the seemingly endless expanse of water.

When I’m in the sea, I feel so miniscule, so inconsequential, and so completely grounded as I become acutely aware of how fleeting my existence is on this planet; the sea will still be here long after I am gone.

It has been incredible to view Portobello, the place I call home now, from a different angle and watch its early morning runners, dog walkers and cyclists make their way along the prom while I look on from what feels like a million miles away as the sun makes its entrance to the day.

It has been strangely satisfying to wave a knowing ‘hello’ to other swimmers who pass by, and it’s been really special to have shared the experience with my good friend, whose foray into sea swimming started on the same day as my own.

More than anything, it’s been humbling to really connect with the place that I love, that I have chosen to make my home and bring my girls up in, and to really acknowledge that such beauty on my doorstep should never be taken for granted.

I’ve swam alongside jellyfish – yet another fear I’ve conquered – and for the past week or so I’ve gone into the water hoping that I would be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Firth of Forth’s swordfish.

I have become calmer, happier, less stressed and more energised since I started and, above all, it’s given me the confidence to believe in myself.

If this whole period of lockdown has taught me anything – which it most definitely has – it’s that it really is the simple things that are the most important.

That, and the fact that jellyfish stings can be pretty sore.

Read the most recent article written by Gemma Fraser - The long road to equality: Interview with Joseph Malik

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