By Katie Cole
From the start of lockdown, many of us have been turning to the great outdoors to find some comfort away from the daily diet of bad news. None more so than a group of women who’ve discovered that a dip in the cold waves of the North Sea is a cure for their stress and anxiety.
I spotted the Seaham Seaside Swimmers on Facebook sharing lots of photos of people looking very happy and energised in the water. So many members were commenting how good the cold water was for their mental health. The group organise socially distanced dips and was set up in July following the national lockdown. It started with six members and now has more than twelve hundred.
Myself and cameraman Paul Kingston joined group founder Nicola Napier on a cold October morning in Seaham. As soon as I drove down to the car park next to Slope Beach I could see why it was popular. The moon was fading away and the sun was rising above the water. It looked stunning and suddenly getting up at 6am was worth it.
We stayed for a couple of hours. As soon as someone got out of the water another was heading in. The joy on their faces when they came out of the water was lovely to see and everyone kept asking if I was going to have a go. "Just here to film you ladies," was my reply - although Paul was brave and whacked a wetsuit on. He looked like a kid in the sweet shop swimming around.
From Seaham we went to Seaburn in Sunderland where cold water immersion instructor Hayley Dorian was running a pre dip mediation for a few members of her Wild Sea Women Group. She set it up in June and again it has now has more than a thousand members. She knows the science behind the cold water therapy and was keen to tell me about the physical benefits of a swim in the sea. From boosting the immune system, to speeding up your metabolism to the cold water reducing inflammation, swelling and sore muscles.
It was now my turn to get into the water. The Wild Sea Women went for costumes and bikinis...I opted for a wetsuit (and buoyancy aid.) Hayley advised that as it was my first time going in, I shouldn't do it for any longer than ten minutes. Slow and steady is key - as well taking a calm deep breath.
So in I went and it was absolutely brilliant. A little cold on the feet to begin but as soon as I was in, I forgot about the temperature and loved splashing about in the waves. My ten minutes was soon up and I was a bit sad to have to get out. It was so much fun and I definitely had the cold water high for the rest of the day.
I have promised myself in the next few weeks (before Christmas) I’ll set my alarm and head back to Seaham for a sunrise swim. We are lucky to live in a part of the world where this is on our doorstep, and now more than ever we all need a bit of positivity to start the day.
Watch Katie's full report: