I am of the firm belief that anyone can become friends with winter water. Even those of you who just cringed and said to yourself: well, not me. I invite you all in. There is something so magical about winter water. It will not only call you to your senses (literally taking your breath away, which I like), but if you are open to it, and you go slowly, it will introduce you to a whole new world of subtlety and wonderment. Believe it or not, the cold is perhaps the least interesting sensation…after a while.
This is my second year of winter swimming in open water, and I have developed my own approach and methodology, which I now share with others. Winter water has brought me the most wonderful assortment of brave, curious, courageous people who have asked me to walk them into the water. Cold water conjures deep, primal, impossible-feeling fear, but on the other side of it awaits joy in equal measure. I have witnessed people move from total gripping to total exuberance, almost as if they are meeting themselves for the first time, and it’s such a huge honor. Once someone discovers their relationship with water, it’s theirs forever. Especially cold water.
My Top 5 Winter Swimming Essentials
I swim out on the North Fork of Long Island. Today’s air temperature 26, sea 34, wind South 10 mph. These are my favorite high-performing gear picks that give me either the insulation, comfort, or peace of mind (sometimes all three) to enjoy the water more. The most critical and fun, however, especially in the winter, is human: a swim buddy.
1. A good pair of swim gloves and socks. For me, hands and feet are critical. I have cold hands and feet even in the summer. Because your extremities lose heat faster than your core, once your hands and feet are over-cold, the swim is over. Why I like these: They fit well, are sleek (even at 3.5mm), liquid-sealed so water doesn’t get in, and have a Velcro closure to really fit. So many gloves and booties I’ve tried gape and rush with cold water after a few uses. These keep their form. As an added bonus, the socks slide right into my Laguna fins so I don’t have to give up this extra bit of workout in the winter.
2. Neoprene bathing suit. This Zone 3 suit solves so many issues. It fits well and gives you extra insulation and buoyancy but, most importantly, it doesn’t feel “wet” against your skin. This is especially appreciated on a windy day. A cold suit is no fun. This is so much more pleasant. All of my cold water swim buddies have one now. For men, a pair of buoyancy shorts saves the day. These move well and keep the most sensitive bits warm (no more excuses).
3. A thermal skull cap. I wear a Blueseventy cap over a silicone swim cap, to keep my head as dry and warm as possible.
4. A big water-proof robe with lots of pockets. I resisted buying one of these for a long time; this year, I finally caved. Why I love my dryrobe®: No more futzing with zippers and layers of clothing on and off in the sand. Wear just this over your suit, toss it to the side when you get in, jump right back in when you get out, use it as changing station to get back into dry clothes.
5. A brightly colored safety buoy, which keeps you visible in the open water. My swim buddy brought it to my attention, and I’m hugely grateful. This buoy also doubles as a dry bag.
My favorite post-cold-water-swim ritual: a hot cocoa made with Anima Mundi’s raw heirloom cacao powder. Magic. Deeply warming and satisfying.
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Dates May 21-27, 2022
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