All this splashing about in Victoria Dock is all well and good, but the South Coast triathlon doesn’t take place in a dock, it takes place in the actual sea. I have never actually swum properly in the sea (splashing about in Crete after a few pina coladas on multiple occasions doesn’t count) so it was about time I tried. Rob had the bright idea of going to Broadstairs, and although I am usually suspicious of Rob’s bright ideas, this one didn’t involve bicycles, so I went along with it.
Even though I grew up in Bromley I somehow have never managed to go to Broadstairs before. It is actually quite nice! It has a load of bays with fine yellow sand, blue seas and white cliffs. If you squint your eyes and ignore the temperature you could even be in Malta or somewhere like that. We headed up to one of the quieter beaches, Kingsgate Bay, and mounted a mission to swim through a rock arch in the distance.
These are my conclusions from my first proper sea swim. I am glad I learned these things before the triathlon.
- Salt water does not feel nice on freshly shaved armpits.
- Leaky goggles are an irritation in fresh/pool water but a catastrophe in sea water.
- It is perfectly possible to breath in the direction the waves are coming from without swallowing the entire channel. It is not imperative that I get the hang of bilateral breathing after all.
- Tow float: more of a hindrance than a help. Repeatedly bops you on the head. Replaces paranoia that your belongings will be stolen with paranoia they will be lost at sea. Clashes with swimming costume. According to an article on the internet, most useful for marking the location of your dead body should you drown.
- Front crawl is not great for swimming in scenic locations as you can’t see anything except seaweed, or participant in conversation. Breaststroke is not good for getting anywhere fast in the sea, or indeed anywhere slowly if there is anything resembling a current.
- It is really important that you get all the sand out off your feet before you put your socks on and start walking, otherwise it will form a sandpaper effect and take all the skin off the fourth toe on your right foot. (Thank god Seaford is a pebble beach).
After a while we moved on to Botany Bay and swam from one beach to one which can’t be reached on foot. If I’d had a bit of foresight I would have put some beers in the tow float to enjoy on the secluded beach, but instead I just wrote “#idiotsinvests” in the sand and swam back.
I am quite relieved that sea swimming doesn’t seem to be particularly different from dock swimming and that I have discovered the salty goggle/armpit perils at this early stage.