FeaturesSeas the day

Seas the day

Grab your trunks and dip n’ dunk! We caught up with local photographer and avid sea swimmer, Danny Richardson to get the lowdown on the current sea swim craze…

Jersey’s shores have seen a huge rise in eager swimmers taking to the water, come rain or shine. Lockdown seemed to spur the popularity in sea swimming; the gyms were closed and normal work-out regimes had to be tweaked and reimagined. When you live on an island,  using the sea and shores for exercise and activity is a bit of a no-brainer. By all accounts, it seems like sea swimming is a little bit addictive!

When the summer wound down and the colder weather set in, it’s not just the die-hard swimmers bobbing around in the icy Channel… Pretty much anyone and everyone has been braving the cold water; a whole host of dippers, dunkers, swimmers and divers are still heading to the beach and getting in the sea… Brrr! Whether it’s the challenge of swimming to work out, or the simple enjoyment of immersing in salty water, the wild and wonderful water around our island is proving to be a tonic – it’s vitamin sea and apparently its very good for the soul.

Danny Richardson has been capturing islanders (and their furry friends) as they take to the water and now he’s part of a group of swimmers who are embarking on a challenge to swim the 35km distance, from Dover to Calais in order to raise money for the JSPCA.

So Danny, what made you get involved with sea swimming and documenting the popular pastime?

“Initially it was my group of artist friends now known as ‘The Salty Sea Pups’ – Jason Butler, Will Bertram, Ben Robertson and Sam Carney who sparked my interest. They regularly set themselves mental and physical challenges and the latest one that arose was sea swimming. It started fairly spontaneously in the summer and they have carried it on throughout winter. I used to swim competitively when I was younger, so part of me was confident that I could rise to the challenge… another part of me was nervously excited by the challenge of the extreme cold and rawness of the sea.”

Many swimmers are finding the experience of nature and the great outdoors to be just the ticket to combating stress and anxiety as well as getting a stretch and some fitness…

“There’s a wildness to the sea and the cold that I find awe-inspiring. It is so vast that on one hand it has the ability to make you feel incredibility small yet on the other, it also makes you feel at one with nature and the earth itself… we do not come into this world… we come out of it. Having spent so much of my younger days in a pool the water feels like a natural habitat to me – although the beauty of the sea is that conditions are ever changing so no swim is the same.

I’ve recently been reading and following the incredible life story of ex-Navy Seal David Goggins, whose book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ is an absolute must read (the audiobook is arguably even better) and his mentality was something that I felt I needed to try to incorporate into my own daily practice. This past year has been tough for everyone and I felt as though I needed to install some much needed discipline and routine into my life to help me deal with what life throws at us all. He speaks of doing something everyday that you don’t like doing… to callous your mind… and to find comfort in the uncomfortable… this is how we grow and that’s certainly something that I felt that I needed to do.”

Whilst sea swimming is indeed something that anyone can do, there are certain things to consider – after all, the sea itself and the cold temperatures can be hazardous if you don’t take care when going in.

What advice would you and your swim buddies give to would-be sea swimmers?

As someone who has only recently started sea swimming I’m sure there are many people in a better position to offer advice – I’d also reiterate that I’m in a bit of a unique position in that I used to swim at a national level when I was younger so, while I’m well aware of the power of the sea, I am probably much more comfortable in water than the average person – that being said, there are some basic guidelines that newcomers should adhere to and these can be found at www.jerseyseaswims.org/safe-sea-swimming but if I was to recommend a few things they’d be the following…

1. Check the tides and weather forecast – the more novice you are the better/safer the conditions you’ll need.

2. Be aware that it can be dangerous to start sea swimming in winter as the extreme cold can be a huge shock to the system.

3. If you do decide to take the plunge, don’t go alone, wear a hat, gloves and booties to retain heat and don’t spend more than 10 minutes in the water.

4. Make sure you have plenty of warm clothes to get into once you are out – along with a warm drink… the 20-30 mins after you’ve got out can be the most dangerous period as your body temperature will continue to reduce (known as the After Drop).

Aside from the beautiful ‘behind the scenes’ images you’ve been taking, what’s the plan for the Dover swimming challenge?

“After seeing some of my pictures on Facebook, I was contacted by Andy Truscott – a swimming friend from my younger days who was now involved in Swim Smart. Having swum the English Channel by himself he was now putting together a relay team of 6 individuals to swim across the 35km distance from Dover to Calais in order to raise money for the JSPCA.

This type of challenge is not for the faint-hearted and nor is it cheap. Thankfully I have been sponsored by Building Renovations Ltd who have covered my entrance fee, but we ( the rest of the team and I) will be looking for further sponsorship from both businesses and the general public to help raise money for this worthy charity. As well as covering the 35km distance, there is the possibility that we will have to swim at night, through jellyfish blooms and through the busiest shipping lane in the world!”

We commend anyone who’s taking the plunge and dipping in the chilly Channel, but a 35km swim is definitely note-worthy, and what a fantastic cause too. If you’d like to sponsor Danny and his team, head over to his Facebook page or email him at dannyrichardsonphotography@gmail.com.

All the very best Danny! And, in the wise words of Dory, ‘just keep swimming’!

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