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Take the plunge in the great outdoors.

Byline: Kate Hodal

IT'S a bright, sunny March day in Scotland and I'm standing at the edge of the sea, wearing nothing but a bathing suit and swimming cap, clutching an inflatable plastic daffodil.

The water might be sparkling in the sunlight, its gentle waves lapping at the shore, but for the next five minutes of my life, the sea will be my archnemesis.

I - along with 49 other crazy people - have come to North Berwick, East Lothian, to commemorate the first day of spring with a bracing ocean swim.

Ranging from the wee small age of five, right up to 60, and all with a mad glint in our eyes, we - students, barristers, filmmakers and grandmothers alike - are taking part in The Big Dunk, an event organised by the Nairn's (of oatcake fame) Natural Woman campaign, which is promoting natural ways to vitality such as outdoor swimming.

The water is icy as we rush in. Swimming caps - mandatory to keep the heat of our bodies as intact as possible - bob around as we fling ourselves into the 7C sea, shrieks of pleasure and pain echoing off the water. I grew up swimming outdoors, but I have never swum anywhere so cold.

My thighs and shoulders start tingling, then burning, as the cold makes my blood dive into the core of my body. Three minutes later, just when I'm not only getting used to it but enjoying it, we get out - the danger of our limbs and muscles weakening in this temperature too great for us to stay in any longer. We might all be shaking immediately afterwards, but we're smiling too - a common appearance at outdoor swims, says regular swimmer Rachel Smith.

"Wild swimming makes you feel acutely alive," says the family support worker for a cancer foundation, as she wraps up in a towel.

"It allows me to relax from a hard week and dissolve my worries into the water."

Outdoor swimming might be good for the brain, but it also has numerous physical benefits, says Kate Rew, founder of the Outdoor Swimming Society [www.outdoorswimmingsociety.

com] and ambassador for the Nairn's Natural Woman campaign.

"In general, swimming gives you a massive boost to your circulation and immune system - but with outdoor swimming, the cold water gives you an endorphin rush and makes you feel high and happy afterwards."

"There's something magical about swimming outdoors and absorbing the world around you," she says, having chosen a stripey bikini for this occasion (while others are in wetsuits). Since she founded the Outdoor Swimming Society in 2008, the number of outdoor swimmers has risen exponentially all across the UK, with wild swims organised on and offseason (autumn to late spring) on their own and at events such as the Keswick Mountain Festival or Port Eliot Literary Festival.


Brave: Dozens of adventurous ladies taking a daring plunge into Scotland's chilly Firth of Forth as part of the Nairn's Natural Woman 'Big Dunk'.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 30, 2010
Next Article:Fit out to fight climate change.

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