Scarf, gloves, woolly hat

Dawn Swimmer, Teignmouth Pier
Dawn Swimmer, Teignmouth Pier

Two weeks ago, on the last Saturday before the clocks fell back, I got up at 5:30, threw on some warm clothes, and drove down to Teignmouth beach to photograph the pier. I’d photographed it previously before the dawn, and liked the contrast between the cold blue ocean’s horizon and the yellow sodium of the street lights. It took what seemed an age before the sun broke through and I wasn’t moving around much, so was pleased to put on my scarf, then a few minutes later my gloves, and a few minutes after that my woolly hat; they helped make the standing still bearable.

Some time after 7:00 a woman walked toward my direction, then down the steps alongside the pier and onto the beach. She was perhaps in her late fifties (I’m being generous), so when I looked over the barriers to see where she’d gone and couldn’t see her, I became a little concerned. I needn’t have been. She’d been changing into her swimming costume and was walking calmly into the sea. No warming wetsuit, just the costume and a cap. When the water reached her waist she swam forward, continued to perhaps half the length of the pier, then headed North into the open sea for around twenty minutes before heading back again to the pier.

I took a few photographs, but didn’t want any of them to make her recognisable; luckily the low light levels made for long exposures, and rendered her and her wake just a blur. Here is my favourite, where she is heading back to the pier:

Dawn Swimmer, Teignmouth Pier
Dawn Swimmer, Teignmouth Pier

I fear I’ll never be able to appreciate how glorious an experience dawn swimming in the British sea might be, except by merely witnessing it. I’m just not built for such a level of personal discomfort! This extraordinary lady walked to shore and took no longer than ten minutes to dry herself and walk back (coat-less) up the steps and (I assume) back home. No pause, no fuss. I’d have expected a reception committee and a fanfare!

A man of around my own age walked up to me a few minutes later, seeing me standing by my tripod, and remarked on the ‘nip in the air’; “I don’t fancy your job, standing around in this cold wind” he said. I told him, manfully, I was used to it, while I shivered in my scarf, gloves and woolly hat.

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