The Arse of Winter

Donal swiming in rough Newtown Cove in February 2017

Don’t be fooled by the sunshine. 6.5 degrees in February in very rough water. Pic by Dee. Yes, I know about my right wrist.

It gets better from Down Here.

Down Here it’s the coldest and the shortest swims.

Down Here is where we separate ourselves from the newbies, the dippers, the triathletes, the fakes, the Christmas Day and mystic swimmers.

Down Here is where we differentiate ourselves, even from ourselves.

Down Here is the bottom of the bathtub curve. Behind us and before us the walls of temperature rise ineluctably upward.

Down Here no amount of expensive warm-up clothes will instantaneously remove the deep cold from your core.

Down Here snowdrops and daffodils are blooming but the water is the coldest and we can touch the eventual Heat Death of the Universe. Down Here, entropy is king.

Down Here north-east winds are sharper than ceramic scalpels.


Down Here we know that post-swim hot chocolate and cake are merely band-aids applied after an amputation.

Down Here our only coherent discussions are with ourselves. Because no-one else is listening or understands.

Down Here our only justifiable excuses are to ourselves.

Down Here is where, when the guy with the wetsuit asks if you will be wearing one, your instantaneous unrehearsed “oh god no” response crushes him, and he and you know:

Down Here is a different thing for both of you.


Down Here is where you get a reputation. For being crazy. For being iron.

Down Here those reputations are wrong.

Down Here is where you learn more about yourself.

Down Here it’s the month of February.
Down Here it’s the second half of February.
Down Here it’s the third week of February.
Down here it’s the weekend of the third week of February.

Down Here no other word suffices.
Down Here, you know that the rest don’t understand what it truly means.
Down Here it’s the arse of the year, the arse of winter.
Down Here it’s cold.

Down Here are Cold Water Swimmers.

It gets better from Down Here.

21 thoughts on “The Arse of Winter

  1. I feel for you. In the San Francisco Bay it only got down to 9.4 Celsius, with an air temp of 4.4. It’s already warming up though. 11 celsius feels like bliss in comparison.


  2. If that weekend was the Arse, then Saturday morning was the Eye of the storm, so to speak. I was out running a long race that morning, and it was bitter. My hands froze walking back from registration to the car. The Trans-Siberian Express blew in that weekend. I suspect TAOW is a moveable feast in much the same way the mandarins calculate Easter. But I’d hazard a guess it never strays far from the back end of February. You’re on to something here for sure.
    Kudos on a great piece. I’d be willing to bet Suibhne mac Colmain was a cold water swimmer…


  3. We just passed the “arse of winter’ and are climbing….although with all the rain it may come back to bite us in the butt again in May…


  4. I love your posts – up here in Scotland we swam in my coldest water yet – 1.5′ on Saturday, in the snow and the wind. Water actually felt warmer than the air – just a quick 10 min swim though before we got too cold!


  5. Splendid younger brother simply splendid!!
    over here there is no ocean in Minnesota just ice still 16 inches thick in the lake which melts around the edges and refreezes over here.
    over here when I’m at the doctor yesterday having some cancer scraped off my ear
    because when my grandmother Mary came over here she didn’t give to me enough melanin for the sun

    over here

    the nurse said to me no swimming in The Lakes for 3 weeks now
    as if she somehow knew that swimming in an open body of water was something that I wanted, no, needed, to do.

    over here

    Because there is no ocean

    Over here.

    Cheers y’all

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Really like your posts breaks down cold water swimming to a level that I understand and should leave anyone who doesn’t in no uncertain terms what to expect


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