‘Urchins and Slugs’ swim year round

IGNORE THE COLD: Swimmers say the best way to get into the water is not to think about how cold it is.

Elsie Adamo

IT MAY be a cold and windy morning in Beachport with strong waves and freezing waters, but if you are out at the right time you will still see the ‘Sea Urchins and Slugs’ getting into the water.

A group of committed swimmers in Beachport get up to swim every morning, meeting at the town’s rotunda no matter the weather.

The ‘Sea Urchins and Slugs’ as they call themselves are ready by 7.30am sharp for a bell to ring that signals the start of their swim, some only venturing to a pontoon and back, while others swim the entire length of the Beachport jetty.

Pam Cook swims at least 400 metres in the water every morning and has been part of the group for 10 years.

“I swim because I love it, and it is a great way to start the day,” Ms Cook said.

“I did not swim before because I always thought it would be too cold in the ocean, but I started in the Salt Lake and went from there.

“It is just great exercise, and I have had some heart issues as well, and it is great for your heart.”

Water temperatures in Beachport are estimated by the Bureau of Meteorology to be between 11 and 17 degrees, and swimming in them can be tough for the body.

Royal Life Saving Australia warns that anything below 15 degrees can cause cold water shock to the body, and for that reason the group recommends any newcomers start gently, acclimatising before extended swims.

Ms Cook rarely misses a swim and said the key to getting into the water in winter is to not over-think it.

“I get in by putting one foot in front of the other,” she said.

“You just keep going, and not think about the cold.”

While in summer you may see up to 50 people in the water, only around 10 to 15 will still be seen heading into winter waters.

Sally Ellis, one of the core group members who swim year-round, said even in winter the experience is enjoyable.

“I love it, it is like being in the wild,” Ms Ellis said.

“It may be six degrees outside, but you still want to go for your swim, even if it feels icy.”

The group will often stay after the swim for a coffee and a catch up after their feat.

Ms Ellis who has been swimming in the group for over eight years, says there is more to it than just swimming.

“There are social, mental and physical elements to the swim, it is very addictive even in the winter,” she said.