The sea the sea
I’ve just been swimming in the sea. No, not the one with miles of golden unspoilt beaches, shaded by palms lush with coconuts and breadfruit, nestling alongside a glassy blue ocean meeting the horizon in a large scale version of an infinity pool. On the contrary, I’ve just had a dip off the Sussex coast, where getting into the water involved an uncomfortable stumble across sharp stones and, once I’m in, ensuring I didn’t get my limbs tied up in the seaweed brought in by the tide.
But for me, these minor inconveniences pale into total insignificance once I’m in the water. I am probably at my happiest when swimming and leaping amongst the waves. When I go swimming (and only ever in the sea – I hate swimming pools) I am usually one of the very few who is happy out of my depth, so I head straight out to sea and once alone, I can sing, shriek, tumble and generally be thoroughly silly. And no one can hear me.
Whatever problems I am experiencing, a dip in the sea seems to resolve them all; it’s the ultimate stress buster. When swimming I genuinely don’t think about anything beyond the next wave and kick of my legs. I know I’m not alone in this; sportsmen and women in any field of activity know that all they can focus on if they want to achieve their optimum is the next stroke of the bat, lob of the ball, kick or throw. How otherwise could Chris Froome have won the yellow jersey – again?
As children heading off on family holidays we always used to shriek in unison when the horizon first became visible. There was a sort of tacit understanding that the first person to shout out ‘I can see the sea’ had somehow won, but there was never any prize, just a thrill of achievement and anticipation.
For all my love of swimming and the sea, I’ve never somehow got the hang of water sports. I didn’t grow up in one of those families where you learned to sail, and I was content to view my father’s and brother’s water skiing antics from the security of the shore. As soon as they were brought back I would head out for yet another swim, not sure what all the fuss was about.
However, water sports have come a long way from the humble (?) water ski. I have tried surfing, but only the type where you lie along the board – certainly wouldn’t dream of trying to stand up on the wobbly thing. Then there’s wind surfing; a joy to watch, but I just hope they won’t come near me as I leap around in the waves. And just when did wind surfing segue into kite surfing? I was watching groups of kite surfers on the Devon coast a few weeks ago and the movement of their kites was positively balletic, enhanced by the fact that the strings attaching them to the surfers were invisible from where I was sitting.
So I’ll continue to keep it simple. Must go, I fancy another dip. And the tide’s going out.