Outdoor Swim Review: the Arabian Ocean (Andrew)

It’s coming to the end of the outdoor swimming season. The thought of swimming in budgie smugglers is as appealing as actually smuggling a budgie in your pants. Wetsuits have become obligatory and swim caps have been replaced by swim hoods. It’s getting colder and the only thing worse than cold water is…. hot water.

I was lucky enough to swim in the Arabian Sea last month. I had a stop over in Dubai, the hotel was next to the beach and I decided that a 42 degree day would be ideal time to swim in the ocean. I was wrong.

As soon as I got in I felt like a teabag in a cup of lukewarm tea. The water was too hot. It would have made a nice temperature for soup. Every time I ducked my head I felt like I was going to come out as red as a lobster after five minutes in the pot.

What was going on? I’d never swum in water like this before. There was no cold shock when I started to wade in. No head chill from ducking below a wave. It was almost… pleasant!

I couldn’t take it. It was just too nice!

It was then I remembered swimming in Norway two years ago in the Norseman practice swim. Competitors from around the world had travelled to a Norwegian fjord and had braced themselves for near arctic chills and icy waters. Iain and I checked the temperature, saw it was 16 degrees and warm for Scotland and jumped in without wetsuits.

“Are you mad?’ A man cried.

“No, we’re Scottish” we said.

“No, you must be SALMON!” He said firmly as he finished pulling on gloves, socks and three swim caps.

And that made me realise that everyone’s idea of extreme is different. For him, 16 degrees was as cold as a Penguin eating a Magnum while watching Frozen in the middle of the Arctic circle. While, for us, 16 degrees may as well have been as comfy as a towel straight from the tumble dryer.

But swimming in warm water is just madness. The whole point of swimming is to cool off, to feel nice and refreshed and you just can’t do that with an ocean warm enough to make Earl Grey tea.

I doff my 5 inch thick swim cap to all the warm weather swimmers. The one’s who can swim all year round and never reach that optimum temperature of 14 degrees when the water is as refreshing as a gazpacho soup. The one’s who never get the benefit of swimming with a five inch thick wetsuit so buoyant it could turn you into balloon. After swimming in the Arabian Sea I can see that all of you who swim in warm water all year round are truly the extreme swimmers!

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