Michelle Braddock moved to Lanzarote from the UK thirty years ago before meeting husband Tila and setting up Lanzarote Retreats. But it took an autumn visit to Cornwall to introduce her to cold water swimming. Here she explains what got her in the water and why she set up the Lanzarote Bluetits, a branch of The Bluetits Chill Swimmers, which has got hundreds of people into British seas.
This week marked my hundredth day of getting in the sea since 1st November. Every morning at 8.30am: Monday to Friday, you will find me at the pier end of Arrieta’s La Garita Beach. On Saturday I have a lie-in and swim at 10 am and on Sundays, we pick a beach elsewhere on the island.
The sea’s not cold by chill swimmer standards, around 17 degrees, but most locals won’t get in at this time of year without a wetsuit. It’s down to personal choice, I just wear a swimsuit because I love the chill on my skin. When I first started going for a dip in the Cornish sea I wore neoprene gloves and boots to stop them going numb. The temperature there was probably around 10 degrees.
I found myself in Newquay for a few weeks and heard about the local Bluetits group so I thought I’d go along and give it a go as a good social outlet and personal challenge. I was hooked from the start.
Anyone who gets in the water regularly will tell you that they get a lot out of it, the freedom, the thrill of jumping in, and loads of giggles and friendships. I’ve met a great group of people in both places.
The mental health benefits of cold water swimming have been widely publicised but I also think that, in the current climate with so many people working from home, it’s really good for us to get out and about. There are noticeable physical benefits too, it’s great for boosting your immune system and the anti-inflammatory qualities have returned movement to a broken ankle injury that I had been working on rehabilitating for two years.
When I returned to Lanzarote, I was determined to keep up the good habit I’d started and so decided to set up the island’s own branch of The Bluetits at our local beach.
It’s really taken off. We have over 80 followers via our Facebook group (The Lanzarote Bluetits). Some are people we know, some are friends of friends and some are regular guests of Lanzarote Retreats who are waiting to swim with us when they can fly back here again.
Everyone is welcome. It’s not just girls, we have a few other halves turning up too. As well as the Arrieta regulars, it’s also inspired people to swim elsewhere in Lanzarote – there are offshoots in Puerto del Carmen and Costa Teguise.
Anyone interested in giving it a go can follow the Facebook group to see where and when there are swims. We’re observing social distancing and can help pair people up.
Starting Sea Swimming
Sea swimming has never been so popular, and those who do it regularly will vouch for the benefits it brings to mind and body. It’s one of the best all-round exercises there is, and the rejuvenated, exhilarated feeling you get after a dip is addictive.
For beginners, the safest places are sheltered lagoons, such as Playa del Jablillo and Cucharas in Costa Teguise, Playa Chica in Puerto del Carmen and Playa Flamingo and Dorada in Playa Blanca.
Open water beaches on the south coast are usually safe, too, but stay fairly close to shore and keep an eye on currents.
Forget Famara. No matter how strong a swimmer you are, this beach has taken too many lives.
Observe and obey the warning flags.
Try to leave and enter the water from sand or shingle, not rocks.
Any time of year. Autumn offers the warmest waters on Lanzarote. Sea temperatures don’t change much over the day, although shallow water may seem warmer after being under the sun all day.
Avoid high waves and stormy weather conditions, and check tides. Some beaches are better at high tide, others at low tide.
You’ll need to know how to swim. If you don’t, start in a pool and don’t enter the ocean until you can manage a few lengths without trouble.
If you’re inexperienced, or an experienced swimmer in a new place, ALWAYS swim with others. And making swimming a social occasion is a surefire way to ensure you get stripped down and soaking wet, even on cooler days.
It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor before swimming, if you’re out of shape or suffer from heart or respiratory problems.
Watch out for boats and jet-skis. If they’re common in your area, consider buying an inflatable hivis swim buoy that loops around the waist.
You’ll need a costume – keep it simple and sleek – goggles, and maybe a swim cap (which increases your visibility). If you like, you can swim with a mask and snorkel, too, allowing you to enjoy the underwater scenery better.
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