I only attend conferences if they happen to be adjacent to some nice body of water suitable for swimming in during my spare time. That statement is not actually true, but coincidentally I was giving a talk at a conference in early October that was ideally set up for swimming, being set right next to the Mediterranean, in the town of Hersonnisos, in Crete. The previous occasion I was asked to give a talk at a conference was in February, also next to a beach, in Western Florida.
I was particularly looking forward to this one. The chance to spend a few hours in the Cretan sea, in 21C waters, with the sun baking down on my shoulders, was an enticing one.
The weather when I arrived on Wednesday night, then, was not quite what I had been expecting: the 28C and blue skies of the previous few days had given way to cool temperatures, rain, and a stiff northerly breeze. By Thursday morning, the sun was still absent, and the breeze had freshened to a steady Force 5. A swim was had regardless, though it was pretty lumpy going heading north across the bay to a small island a mile distant. Round trip of about 1.9 miles in a fraction over an hour, with quite a few stops to admire the view, and enjoy going up and down on some pretty big seas:
Friday it was a similar story weather-wise, but I went for the same swim again. Similar time, similar washing machine feeling for a couple of hours after, having been tossed about in the swell.
The final day (Saturday), the breeze had freshened further to a fairly strong wind. A good Force 6 on shore. There was some umming and aahing about whether to go for a swim at all. The next photo was taken one bay over from where the hotel was, but shows the rather angry sea, and quite a lot of debris from the ongoing high water.
In the end, I elected for a short dip from the hotel beach, out past the breakers and back in. The route of the previous days route to the island just to the north was almost completely white with breaking waves and large swells the whole way. Discretion was the better part of valour.
Getting out past the break was quite good fun, duck diving under the very large breakers out into the relatively calm piece of roller coaster swell 100 yards off shore. Coming back went pretty well too, bodysurfing the waves. Then one particularly heavy wave got me. A classic dump the like of which I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid in Caswell Bay in South Wales. Fully under, goggles ripped off, no idea which way was up, wondering where the next breath was going to come from. Surfacing just in time to catch a quick breath before getting hit by the next one. Fortunately there were only a couple more big waves before I felt my feet on the sand, and I ran out of the surf, exhilarated but also kicking myself that I had put myself at risk.
It’s good to remind yourself occasionally who is boss in the swimmer/sea relationship.
It was pointed out to me after the 2 lumpy, bumpy, swelly 1 hour swims that they were probably each worth the same as the 3 hour swims I might have had under different weather conditions. And they were certainly more fun. I will just stay away from Force 6 in the future.