Traditional Irishman swimming at the Forty Foot in Dublin. A classic photograph via the Irish Times.
“The sea, the snot-green sea, the scrotum-tightening sea.“
James Joyce, Ulysses.
I love saltwater swimming. Time was I would swim all year round but now I limit myself to the months from St. Patrick’s weekend to Hallowe’en (March to October). While it is possible to swim all around Dublin Bay, I am also fortunate that my parents have a cottage overlooking the sea on Ireland’s Copper Coast so I have regular weekends of swimming and surfing. Technically, this is the romantically named Celtic Sea; in reality, it is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. At this time of the year it is, as Joyce implies above, extremely cold.
So what does the well dressed older man wear for a bracing dip in the ocean? You can, of course, as traditional swimmers do in Dublin, wear nothing. Alternatively, you could chose a pair of slimline Speedos that showoff your manly physique. Or you could consider a more sedate pair of shorts that are more age appropriate while retaining some of the glamour of Sean Connery in Dr No. But for me this is a time when function trumps form.
The old(er) man and the sea
Until the water warms to something approaching body temperature, I stick to a wet-suit. I prefer the shortie option shown but that does leave the lower arms and legs exposed to the cold. This particular wetsuit was rescued from a bargain bin in Lidl for less than the price of a good book. Surfers, sailors and serious saltwater swimmers may prefer more established brands but a budget brand is perfectly adequate for short dips.
I find a swim cap is essential dress all year round. In cold weather, your options are either head in the cold water or head out of the water but in the cold wind. Neither option is particularly appealing and a cap will help keep the head warm and dry. I also wear a swimming cap in good weather as, being a little thin on top, it prevents sunburn.
Finally, depending on location, some form of footwear may be necessary. My local beach is home to weever fish, small 15cm fish that lie under the sand near the low water mark protected by poisonous spines along their dorsal fin. While not fatal, the sting is extremely painful. Fortunately, the stings are not too long and a sandal or wetsuit boot is usually sufficient to prevent the sting reaching your skin.
Early evening swim in the Celtic Sea
What to wear swimming in the sea? Whatever, you like. If you are serious about swimming then appearance is probably a secondary consideration. If you want to look good in and out of the water? That will have to wait for another blog post.