Welcome to Cold Town. Population: Crazy

Hey, I watched a great film last night. It was called Sing, by the guy that made Once“.
“I hate musicals”.
“No, this was good, I really recommend it”.
“I hate musicals”.
“No, yeah. I agree. I do too. But this one was good”.
“I hate musicals”.
“But you’ll like this one. It’s 80s music and set in Ireland”.
“I hate musicals”.
“Hey, I understand. But what about Chicago? That was great. If you ignored all musicals you won’t have seen Chicago, and Chicago‘s great.”
“I wouldn’t know. Because I haven’t seen Chicago. Because I hate musicals”.
Chicago was great”.
“You said that”.
“But Sing is funny too! It’s great. You should watch it.”
“I’ll add it to the bottom of my list”.

Three months passed.

“Hey, I went to a great film last night. La La Land“.
“I hate musicals”.
“No, this is really good. Oscar winner, sure to be”.
“I hate musicals”.
“Yeah, you and Herself should give this one a try.”
“I hate musicals. Herself hates musicals. We are Musical-Haters. If we were to rename Loneswimmer Lighthouse, it would be to The House of Musical Haters. I hate jazz. She hates jazz. And it’s a musical with jazz. What do you not understand here?”
“You like Willy Wonka don’t you? I mean, everyone likes Willy Wonka.
“I like Gene Wilder. Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka was the epitome of unpredictable crazy dangerous. Kind of like how you are making me feel. Just ’cause everyone knows the Oompa Loompa song, doesn’t mean it’s any bloody good.
“Look, all I’m saying is La La Land is a good film. You should try it””.
“I feffin’ hate musicals. I told you three months ago. I didn’t watch the feffin’ last one,  and that one didn’t even have jazz. FFS, it’s 7.30  in the morning, I need my quiet time, leave me alone and drive the feffin’ car. And try being on time in the morning instead.”


Loneswimmer returns from the Ocean, holding aloft the commandments of cold water swimming

Loneswimmer returns from the Ocean, wearing a Surf-Fur & holding aloft the Commandments of Cold Water Swimming

Substitute cold water for musicals, and those conversations, which drive me demented, and which I suspect based on the evidence available are not yet over, could equally be about cold water swimming.
Not least in that there are many people who seem to think they have a role in proselytising about cold water swimming to people who really don’t want to so do, as some people want to get me watch musicals.
The ironic thing is that a lot of people think I’m one of them: Given I am, after all, “The Coldologist”, “The Prophet of Cold Water”. I assigned myself some capital letters there, like a bad fantasy novel. It’s a superficially reasonable assumption, given I’ve written more about cold water swimming than anyone else.

But here’s the thing: I hate cold water.

I mean sure, I swim in it. And I even enjoy it. But I still hate it.
Because I have no choice. Or if I do, the choice is between swimming… and not swimming.

Wearing a wetsuit might seems like an interim choice. It’s not. Wetsuits are for the morally weak. Ever notice how the wetsuit wearers, who ostensibly wear them because the water is too cold in summer, disappear completely in winter, when the water is actually really cold? This proves my point. (It’s a bit fuzzy. I’ll come back and fill the details later).

I need to swim. And I need to swim in open water, because in winter writing a blog or pool swimming is not enough to keep the crazy-wazies always. And I only have cold water. Especially since the pool caught fire. Yes, the pool did catch fire. I’ve been out of the pool for two weeks. We’ll talk about that another day. Anyway, you see where I’m going with this? Yes, that I occasionally swim in cold water. No, not that I’m crazy.

Let me tell you this. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who tells you that water under seven degrees is pleasant is lying or delusional. Or both. You know what happens in water at seven degrees? Your tooth (teeth)-fillings hurt. They hurt right up into your brain and down into your testicles. Your testicles that hate cold water. Your testicles are smarter than your brain. Your fillings will also hurt, even if you don’t have any. And if you don’t have any, it means you are probably smart. And if you are smart, what the hell are you doing thinking about getting into water under seven degrees? Although it could mean you are American, especially since a lot of Americans read this blog, and Americans had traditionally proven their smarts by the superiority of their teeth. And if you are a woman and don’t have testicles? Wait, that sentence didn’t come out right. You know what I mean. Seven degree water  feels like eating a soft boiled egg, when you’ve put the spoon into the runny egg you discover it’s not a spoon but your finger. (This analogy may need some further work. I can probably get a cultural study grant).

Sun light breaks through clouds beyond Newtown Cove

A cold winter’s morning in T-Bay – Pic by Donal

You know who says they like water under seven degrees? Charlatans. Opportunists. Snake Oil salesmen who will pretend that swimming in water under seven degrees will unlock some mystical third eye into your soul, when in reality the only third eye it will open not be one in your head, but the one opened through blood pressure increase. If you get what I mean. Sphincter. In case you didn’t. Is what I meant. (I think a few of you might have been struggling with my allusion).

And while we are at it: here’s a rule to live by: Never trust a person who uses the word “mystic” to describe anything. And especially, especially someone Irish who uses the word mystic. Never trust me if I ever use the word mystic. They are out there, the gobshites. They want you to believe that they are transported to the water by a pony and trap driven by a quaint older softly lilting Richard Harris, to where the mystic lake lies in the winter, with the snow dusting the mountain and the fog laying a soft sheet of gauze over the water’s surface, while the leprecauns sing and cavort on the far shore writing a musical and calling you on through the cold water to experience paroxysms of joy and ancestral connection, opening your senses to the transcendant wonder of a holistically connected universe where we are all one, when all you can really see is people hopping about looking like over-cooked pink lobsters and all you can hear is the screaming of people razoring open their toes on the sharp grit, the exposed bones left of the remains of  last weekend’s swimmers and the bitter frozen tears of pool swimmers and triathletes who wanted to try open water swimming. People who use the word mystic about swimming can’t even spell transscendeaent, proberly. And that’s coming from someone delusional enough to think that swimming is the same as being an astronaut. Aquanaut, astronaut. Whatever.

You know how you teach kids only four years old to dry themselves after a bath? With seven degree swim you have less coordination than that four year old and about the same amount of common sense. And that’s before the swim.

Seven degrees is Cold Town. Who wants to live in Cold Town? Sure, maybe an occasional visit, see the relatives. But then leave, thanks your lucky stars you don’t love there and be glad you are not one of those crazy people who think it’s something and somewhere special and to be envied.

But eight degrees?

Nah, eight degrees is gr-eight. Let me tell you how great eight degrees is…

Related articles

Introducing a precise open water swimming temperature scale. One of the site’s first viral swimming posts and the first introduction to Seven Degrees, aka Cold-Town.

WHY would anyone swim in cold water? Trying to answer one of the LEAST asked questions about cold water swimming.

The Reverie of Cold. One of the most personal articles I’ve written on cold water swimming.

Ten Common Myths of Cold Water Swimming.

“Is the water too cold to swim”? Another take on this perennial question.


14 thoughts on “Welcome to Cold Town. Population: Crazy

  1. I’m a morally weak, wetsuit-wearing charlatan (for which there are no meetings). Most of the time. Alternatively I prefer full commando in the local lake. The former allows me to train for a race (damn those triathletes! Though in my defense I must be the only one without rippling abs and enviable biceps. Or a tan. Shit, come to think of it, I don’t even have a noseclip…). The latter allows me to enjoy immersion the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed. I’ve been reading your blog for too long; I’m getting all your allusions without having to dip into the parentheses. And I’m chuckling away here to myself in the office as I sip my tea, looking forward to more skinny-dipping in the warmer months (guilty as charged, Your Honour). And if nothing else, the wetsuit is a great barometer for weight gain. Thanks for brightening up a gloomy, grey Irish morning. I’m pleased, too, no curmudgeonly fucker pulled you on the ‘Sing’ v ‘Sing Street’ issue; that would be very small-minded indeed 🙂
    (P.S. I hear ya on the musical score (sic!) but in their defense, I think they’re passable if you see a good one, live. ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway sticks in my mind. On the telly? Not so much.)


  2. Well over here in Minnesota and the great nation across the sea which I still try to say I’m proud of despite the chump in charge, I feel a bit guilty because we have no cold sea only frozen lakes so I have to wait probably till April to jump in.
    So I have time to recover just read about others swimming in the cold.
    I always thought seeing fit triathletes in wetsuits was rather disgusting and so younger brother I am glad I’m not the only one who thinks a Speedo goggles and cap is the only way to go otherwise go to your 80-degree pool.
    I had my last dip mid-December just before the lake froze and I must say despite the pain I really miss it.
    I love the Irish humor great.
    Coincidentally I feel the same way about musicals


  3. Hahaha! Love your article (as usual). The only thing keeping me going in sub 3c water is knowing how blissfully warm 10c will feel in the Spring! I was a wetsuit swimmer a winter ago, it’s a journey some of us make. Others just dont bother taking the fork in the path!


  4. Not often I disagree but …. I am yet to find the temperature at which the cool water hurts. Sure my fingers drop off, sometimes quickly other times later in the swim, and the cold, like this morning’s 14 minutes in a 4C river, can be tow crunchingly cold but hurt?
    I have had my fingers hurt once after a particularly cold swim (air -3.5C and water sub 3C) as I was recovering with a warm coffee but I maintain a policy of get in, get on and get out. With the requirement that I always get out with a smile and knowing that if I had to I could swim a little further.
    Happy cool water swimming, Spring is coming


    • Did I say hurt? Yes Brynn, I guess I don’t get hurt., the only exception being the possibility of undetected laceration due to numbness. For me though it’s more about the enjoyment, which attenuates in water as the temperature drops. I’m glad you disagree with me though!


      • you have me Donal. I have been cut by unseen and unfelt thin ice, the bloody footprints in the snow gave me away. But even that did not hurt – but it was a nuisance, I bled on my towel 😦


    • I have experienced HURT swanswimmer. Suprisingly it was last winter in a wetsuit. Air temp well below zero and water probably around 3c or so. The pain in my hands and feet were intense when I climbed out. This year, in skins, suprisingly less pain. I have discovered my absolute limit though. 22 minutes in 2c water, 3c air. I had this goal of reaching 1km, should’ve stopped at about 800m! Silly…I suffered through the severe afterdrop..


      • Hi Sean “in skins, suprisingly less pain” why surprise?
        I can recall the numbing sensation of my exposed hands and feet when cool water swimming in a full wetsuit. Once the neoprene is removed and we have overcome the battle with our brains (you want to go in there but it’s freezing) and enter the cool water quickly and purposefully and then get on with the swimming, the exercise helping to keep us warm, our bodies take over and do what they have evolved to do – take care of us.
        I am convinced that part of the acclimatisation process is reassuring our mind that yes it’s cold, but we were OK last time, so crack on, swim – you will be OK this time too.
        22 minutes in 2C is very good going – the recovery process is part of the swim, which is over when the shivering stops and you have finished your warm drink (and cake hopefully).
        Always get out with a smile, knowing you could have swum a little further. Happy swimming


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