A swimmer running out of the sea after outdoor swimming

‘I tried outdoor swimming and I am still beaming days after’

Come with our social media editor Sophia Grace to a wild swimming meet at Barry Island, Wales

The last time I jumped into the sea without any reservations was when I was about 15. I’m now 22 and honestly, just the thought of being cold makes me uncomfortable, so obviously I was thrilled when the Plunge team asked me to try wild swimming again. 

All jokes aside, I was quite excited to try a dip as I’ve heard about all the great benefits it can have. Cold-water plunging is actually proven to raise dopamine levels by 250% according to Czech researchers.

As the popularity of cold water therapy continues to rise I wanted to see what all the buzz was about. I found a local group called The Wet Dippers, a wild swimming society at Cardiff University established in 2016. Those involved are keen wild swimmers and they meet every other week for a dip in nearby bodies of water. I DM’d them on Instagram and they were happy for me to come along and join in at Whitmore Bay, Barry Island one fresh February Sunday.

Getting ready

Using Plunge’s handy guide to double check I had everything I would need, I packed my things the night before so there was no excuse for being late for my train in the morning.

I don’t own any waterproof shoes so my trusty Vans would have to do to make sure I didn’t get any nasty cuts from rocks on the seabed. I also packed my Oodie to make sure I could wrap up warm after, a towel to dry off after the dip, some fluffy socks and dry shoes. On the way to the swim, I wore my swimming costume under my dry clothes. 

Getting there

I walked to the train station with all my gear, absolutely bricking it thinking about how cold it would be. Waiting for the train I noticed a few people who looked like they might be part of The Wet Dippers and the idea of running into the sea didn’t seem too frightening. If they can do it, so could I, right? 

On the way there I decided to listen to some tunes to hype myself up. As we got closer to Barry Island the excitement I had felt last night reappeared, squashing the anxiety I had while waiting at the train station. Once we arrived, I followed the group of people who looked like they were off for a dip too; thankfully my detective skills had sought out the right group. 

Before The Dip

a person with green and black hair standing on a beach with the sea behind them. they are wearing a green bikini top and swimming trunks with aliens and flowers on them. they are smiling and have their hands in their pockets. they are wearing a bright green beanie.
I was all smiles before the dip! Image Credit: Thomas Boyd

Just before the dip I spoke to a few people about how often they went with the group. Some told me they had been once or twice. Rowan, a wet dipper, told me she had been to five dips and I asked if I could jump in with her, to which she very kindly agreed. I took off all my layers and stood around waiting for someone to tell me what to do.

The committee members gathered us all around and welcomed us to the beach, they then told us that if we started feeling warm in the water to head out, as this was a sign of hypothermia. Not scary in the slightest, right? I looked at Rowan and then, before I knew it, we began to run towards the water. My heart was racing as I thought about what I had got myself into. 

The Dip

My feet hit the water and soon enough I was up to my knees. Adrenaline began coursing through my veins as the freezing water sloshed around me, but I didn’t hate it. Even though I was breathing fast I managed to get up to my shoulders and it felt amazing! The initial shock had worn off and I felt a hit of dopamine so I submerged myself back up to my shoulders a few more times.

The tingling sensation of the cold water against my skin was exhilarating. I think I was in the sea for about five minutes before I decided to head back to the beach for warmth. I couldn’t stop smiling as I left the water and kept thinking about how I wanted to do it all again. 

After the dip

Running up the beach I made a beeline for my towel. It was so nice to wrap it around me as I buzzed with joy from the plunge. I don’t think I stopped grinning for the rest of the day. I really wanted to run back in, but was warned against it – apparently it’s horrible dipping a second time straight after the first. I’ll have to wait until the next swim! I dried off the best I could without getting too much sand on anything (a practically impossible task). I threw my Oodie on and got changed out of my wet things underneath it. Bringing my Oodie was a great shout as it meant I could wear it for the rest of the day and stay warm. 

Afterwards, we went for chips and a chat. It was so great to go with other people as I felt supported and made some friends too! 

Overall, it was an awesome experience and I’m still beaming about it two days later. I would definitely recommend trying wild swimming at least once, for the fun and mental benefits.