Crayfish and grebes are just two of the attractions at Denham Waterski Club – along with hot chocolate and post-swim euphoria. By Jody Jones
The crisp, cool breeze brushes the loose strands of hair that poke out from under my swimming hat. I look out over the lake. There are only a handful of swimmers this morning. The nights are longer and the temperature is dropping. I know that a fresh, slightly stinging feeling on my skin awaits me where the water meets the steps from the jetty. I can hear the tell-tale splash of another swimmer already cutting their way through the glassy surface of the lake, making ripples with their stroke.
I make my way down the jetty, the slap of my flip flops loud in the quiet stillness. I ease my feet out of them and put a tentative foot onto the first rung of the ladder towards the water. Another step followed by a deep breath, knowing what awaits me on the next rung. Cold – that word that outdoor swimmers do not like to use – but cold it is. The big toe goes in as a tiny squeal is emitted from my lips. Another step, a slight gasp. Two more steps and the water is up to my waist. I rinse my goggles and put them on, check my watch and begin my little cold water immersion routine. In to the waist, splash some of the cool water onto my neck, shoulders and back. The arms are next, then I repeat the whole procedure before starting the timer on my watch and dropping down fully into the water. A quick deep breath to compensate for the shock of the cold and I’m off.
I look for the fish that have been invisible over the warmer months of summer. I love to watch the hypnotic bubbles as they trail off my hand when the water is this clear, thus taking my mind off the fact that the water temperature is somewhere quite close to the border of uncomfortable. I look out for the family of grebes that are diving for their breakfast and wish I had my camera with me to capture that moment when one reappears from under the water with a little fish dangling from its long beak.
I try to swim over the little rocks where I know the crayfish take refuge. I like to see them scuttling along the muddy bed of the lake as I glide through the water. I now need to think about how my body is feeling and if I need to get out of the water as I swim back up towards the jetty or if I am able to swim another lap safely. My heart always argues with my head at this point. I check my watch. At this temperature I should be fine for another lap. I carry on, loving every minute of the solitude and zingy sting of the cold water on my skin.
The time ticks by and I make my way towards the jetty. I feel sad that I’m having to beat a retreat from the water. I’m now looking forward to the delicious post-swim euphoria that goes hand in hand with cold water swimming. I climb gingerly up the ladder on the end of the jetty, stopping my watch at the top as I ease my feet back into my flip flops. Getting dry as quickly as possible so that I can start to gradually warm myself back up safe in the knowledge that I have more than earned the thermos of hot chocolate that is waiting for me in my car. The lake is now completely empty of swimmers, the surface has returned to a glass-like state, the only ripples coming from the grebes as they make their long dives under the water. As my body starts to have little shivers and the thought of hot chocolate beckons, I retreat to the warmth of my car, with a euphoric little smile on my lips.