The whole premise of this blog was to document the adventures of my 50th year. Clearly, adventure sat well with me and I have not lost my lust to try new things. And this was what prompted me to join a Facebook group called the Taffy Dippers and to begin to contemplate trying out wild swimming. The benefits of wild swimming to mental health have become increasingly well documented, and added to that it looked like the participants of this group were having a lot of fun… I decided to begin my preparations.
British springtime, with its usual tooth-chattering temperatures, meant that there was no way I was going into any open water without a wetsuit. I scoured second-hand selling sites and found a shortie one that might fit. Worth a punt at £10, and my first piece of kit was purchased. Staying warm once out of the water was also important, so next up was a dry robe – this was not cheap, but I am reliably informed that I got a bargain nevertheless. Beach shoes, long sleeved ‘rash vest’… I was almost ready.
And so it was that on the afternoon of Sunday 2nd May, along with my friend Kate and our big bags of ‘kit’, I found myself en route to Radyr Weir for a dip in the River Taff.
We were met by regular dipper James, who had already swum that morning and had come back for more in the afternoon. A small group gathered – some in full wetsuit get-up, some brave souls in swimming costumes, and even braver Rhiannon in a bikini! I felt I looked the part, and was ready to slide gracefully into the water 😂 What actually happened was that we had to clamber down the steep bank over some man-made steps, looking less than elegant… and the look on my face as I hit the water must have told a tale… IT FELT FREEZING (confirmed by one of the regular dippers at 11.2 degrees) 🥶 Standing waist deep, I felt the need to stay still until my bare calves had acclimatised (by which I mean gone numb!). At that point, I was able to move away from the bank and join the other dippers in the middle of the river. I waddled about for a while and braved a couple of full body dips and a limited number of strokes… although nothing that could really be described as ‘swimming’ as I found it too cold to keep my hands in the water for long. Mental note to buy neoprene gloves.
We stayed in the water for between 10 and 15 minutes. Quite exhilarating and a great sense of achievement. On exiting the water (in a slightly more dignified way than I got in), I donned my dry robe and got out of my wet gear. Getting dressed to drive home seemed like far too much hassle, so I drove home naked beneath my dry robe and with a pair of slippers on my feet. Sticking to the speed limit, for fear of having to explain my attire to a traffic officer!!!
Did I enjoy it? Definitely. Will I go again? It’s already on the calendar. I’m going to the river again, but am also looking forward to my first sea / reservoir dips. And if anyone is selling a pair of wetsuit gloves in a size XS, please let me know.