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Aquatic Chimp's Swimming Adventures

The Test Swim

AquaticChimpby AquaticChimpAug 21st 2012
There was a couple of things I wanted to test before the actual swim, the wetsuit, the safety boat and electric outboard motor. I decided to test all at the swim site, Llyn Padarn, Llanberis, North Wales.

The Boat & Motor:
The boat I'd chosen is an Intex Sea Hawk 4 inflatable. Basically it's a medium sized inflatable boat, that u can fit an outboard to if you need to. I chose this boat as it could fit three safety crew in, and me should I need to. I decided to get an electric trolling motor, rather than the noise, ferocity etc of a 2 stroke petrol out board. I settled for an Aqua Marina 12v Trolling Motor. Basically it's a cheap electric motor that has a small output, which seemed ideal for following me along. We blew the boat up with a 12v compressor, which took about 5 - 10 mins. Put the battery in the boat, a set of oars and hooked up the motor.

I decided to test the boat and motor first, and headed out into a little cove near to the surflines shop. The water was crystal clear, and only about 2 - 3 feet to begin with. We decided to row out as we didn't want to catch the propeller on the rocks. The boat rowed with ease and seemed roomy enough. Now we out of the cove and into deeper water, so we dropped the motor over and fired it up. Good, worked well, good speed, good manoeuvrability, perfect. Back to shore for others to have a go in the boat, while I test my wetsuit.

The Westsuit:

As I've mentioned I decided to get an Aquashpere Pursuit wetsuit, after having problems swimming in a JAG surfing suit.
I wriggled my way into the suit, put on my openwater goggles, and bright red swim hat and waded out into the cove, with the boat alongside me. The water got to waist deep, so I crouched, ducked my face in, no large rocks around and pushed off.

Straight away the difference was evident. So much more flexible and therefore comfortable in stroke. Front crawl felt 300% more efficient than the other suit. I was smiling my head off. Breaststroke was much improved, although much more efficient without a westsuit, but good enough. I felt good. Face in the cold water, smiling away, I picked up the pace a little, watching the Llyn bottom 3 feet beneath me, looking at the large rocks I'd need to dodge to stop catching my knees, the various shaped bits of slate, the plant life. Then, all of a sudden there was a ledge. The bottom of the Llyn dropped away from me, in a sheer drop. I couldn't see the "wall" of stone that must be there, nor the bottom, just a black abyss. It was so unexpected, so un-nerving. I hadn't put any pre-thought into the 100 feet deep lake, and how it went from three feet deep to it's depths. I now realised. Three feet, to 100 feet immediately. I couldn't help what was beneath me, in the dark, staring back at me. I admit to feeling fear, dread even. I swam back to the drop off, and swam along the ledge, plucking up courage (stopping myself being so bloody silly I suppose).

I now had a new fear. Not of heights, just of deep open water. Why had I let these thoughts enter my head? More importantly how would I overcome this?

I swam back and forth, along the ledge, peering into the dark of the drop off. Mt heart pounding in my chest. One half of me telling me it's fine. Anything in there ... down there .. is more afraid of you, too afraid to overcome any sort of curiosity the fish may have. The other half telling me some deep water predator was eyeing me up, go into the deeper water it was beckoning, I fancy a toe. PRATT I told myself, time to turn the imagination off. I've swum in the open sea before, so why the problem now. It must just be the psychological effect of seeing that drop off. Glorious clear water, interesting bottom with all sorts to look at, and then .. dark nothingness.

But what did I prefer? Ragley Hall water visibility, i.e can't see your hand in front of you, never mind the bottom at three feet deep, or great visibility and just not possible to see the bottom in the darkness?

I decided that the only way to get over this was to man up and go for it. I swam a good 20 metres back into the shallows. Composed myself. Stop thinking silly thoughts, enjoy the surroundings, don't worry about what might be below, concentrate on what's above and around. A deep gulp of air and off I went, full sprint towards the dark abyss of a drop off. Face down, looking at the bottom, the odd glance up to see when the drop off would come. I looked forward and could see the slight dip at the top of the drop off, the rocks slightly darker as the edge fell away. I looked down, brace yourself for it, and keep your stroke going. There it was, nothing but black. The visual contrast of greeny grey rocks to nothing, just black depths was quite stunning and shocking. I kept going. Again I began to smile, this open water swimming lark is good fun. I stopped, treading water where I was, looking down. What fears do you hold for me now? (If a large shape would have come rushing towards me at this point, I would never had got in the water again, and would have been very embarrassed when I took the wetsuit off). As it happened, nothing happened, just dark. Head out of the water and the views, well, what can I say. Llanberis pass in view in the distance, the mountains and woodland on either side .... perfection. I'm not a religious person, but if there is an afterlife, mine will be something similar to this. Beautiful, peaceful, spiritual if you will. I realised I was completely hooked. I was now an open water / wild swimming junkie.

Just a little note:
I don't wish to put people off from swimming at Ragley Hall, as it's a beautiful place to swim, and an experience to itself. I haven't yet seen the lake crystal clear, but am told it does get there if the rain stays away for long enough. In terms of open water swimming, it's a nice place to swim. But the Welsh lakes are in a completely different league
VivianEstebanby member: VivianEsteban, Apr 3rd 2013 07:41
I also want to swim some days and I think your experience will help me in some way.
fixed gear bikes
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