Outdoor Swim Review: Elie Beach (Iain)

My first ever sea swim was at Elie Beach. It was a charity event that had been advertised as a 1 mile swim in a flat calm bay. Unfortunately for me the remnants of a Caribbean hurricane had raced across the Atlantic just in time for the swim start.

The wind was fierce. It was so strong the woman’s Open Golf Championship at nearby St Andrews cancelled the days play because of fears for the safety of fans and players.

Upon hearing that the golf was cancelled I fully expected my sea swim to be cancelled too. If it was too unsafe to be on land then it was definitely too unsafe to be off it!

The event was not cancelled. I stood on the beach hoping, until the last moment, the organizers would see sense and postpone the swim. They didn’t see sense. A whistle was blown and the swim began.

I ran into the water and immediately ran back out again. I’d forgotten my goggles.

I put on goggles. I ran back into the water and tried to swim freestyle. I lasted one stroke before a huge wave smashed into the side of my head knocking my googles off. I hadn’t put them on very well.

Thankfully I could stand as the sea wasn’t very deep. I stood up and put my goggles on tight. I tried free style again but this time a wave struck me in the face whilst my mouth was open. Unlike Monika Lewinsky, I swallowed. I spluttered to a stop as my lungs filled with sea water. I stood up again. I still hadn’t made it very far but at least my goggles had stayed on.

I composed myself and decided to do the only thing I could think of to get through it. I changed to breast stroke so I could see the waves coming. I could then take evasive action and duck under the wave before they hit me.

I managed to do the swim. I was slow and it was deeply unpleasant but it had one positive effect. Since then I’ve not been scared of bad conditions at sea. Every swim seems gentle compared to this one.

My first time in a wet suit at Elie.


Ease of Access: Excellent. Elie beach can be accessed from any part of the town. Elie is in the East Neuk of Fife which is 90 minutes from Glasgow or 60 minutes from Edinburgh. Its a great spot for weekend breaks as the weather is normally better here than anywhere else. Mainly because rain predominately arrives from the west. The rest of Scotland gets wet first and the rain has run out before it gets to Elie.

Water quality:  On a good day the water is clear but mostly when I’ve been its been cloudy.

Swim Quality: Excellent – the sea was calm and there were views of the pretty town. Water temperature was 13.5C in late September. There is options to swim from one end of the beach to the other or to go further out and swim around a light on a rock.

Other People: Elie is a popular place. In summer it can be mobbed but outside school holidays its much more pleasant. Mostly folks walking their dog.

Would I go back: Yes. I swim here whenever I’m in Fife.