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Winter warmers - a guide to cold water swims from the wild north west of Ireland

As the temperature drops, we can feel the pull indoors to the fire and the warmth. But if we just push through that urge and take the plunge, the thrill of cold water winter swimming can be so rewarding!

As the temperature drops, we can feel the pull indoors to the fire and the warmth. But if we just push through that urge and take the plunge, the thrill of cold water winter swimming can be so rewarding!

If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s the link to the article on why cold water swimming is so good for your body.

What I’m going to cover here is my tried and tested kit and tricks for getting the most out of your swims - tweaked after many years surfing and swimming all year round in colder climates.

• The clothes for after - not something you usually think about before, but when your fingers have decided they don’t want to work in the morning chill, suddenly zippers of jeans or the stickiness of leggings, becomes a nightmare. A cosy pair of tracksuit pants, a loose t-shirt, a hoody or jumper and wooly hat are the winning combination.

• Your feet - again we’re going backwards on this one - but preparing for when you’re out of the water is key! They may not be the most fashionable thing in the world, but I’ve had the same pair of trusty sheepskin boots for years. They help get the warmth and circulation back in your feet fast.

• The waterproof changing robe - I was sceptical of these for a while, but find it to be an absolute essential now! Especially for those days when I’m just doing a quick dip without a wetsuit. It keeps the wind and rain off and perfect for changing under.

• The swim kit - for a longer swim - my current go to for the winter months is the Open Water SW wetsuit with the Wetsuit Base Layer underneath. I wear the Hydro Boots and Thermal Neoprene Swim Cap, for now am holding off on gloves for when the water temperature drops below 10C.

• For a quick dip (just a few minutes) - I wear just a normal swimsuit, but still wear the Hydro Boots to keep the chill out of my feet (you really feel the heat loss from your extremities) and the Neoprene Headband to keep the cold water and wind out of my ears (I have a slight case of surfers ear, from 15 years of having no ear protection in the water, learn from my mistakes!).

• I’ve recently bought a water thermometer (its a little turtle, one of the ones for baby baths!) so I can track the temperature changes across the winter.

• My last two hacks might seem a bit odd, but trust my they will stand to you! I keep a big thermos of mint tea in the car with me. Its lovely of course for after the swim, but its also great if you’re swimming a few days in a row and your boots or gloves aren’t full dry yet. Make sure the tea isn’t too hot (don’t want to damage the glue!) and splash a little in the boots, shake around and poor out. Tah dah! Warm toes for your whole swim (smells good too!). Secondly I use some kind of balm (even just lip balm) across my nose, lips and chin to protect my skin from the wind and salt, but also if I find myself rubbing my nose while wearing wetsuit gloves!

Winter swimming can be challenging and wonderful all at once, just remember to know your limits, the conditions and the weather! In winter on the wild west coast of Ireland I stay close to shore and always swim or surf with a friend.

ABOUT FINN

Finn is a marine scientist, writer and speaker from Ireland, you can keep up with her ocean adventures on Instagram - @saltwaterstories.me or her website www.saltwaterstories.me.

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