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Our special correspondent Nic Goddard was one of the brave souls who took part in a New Year ‘loony dook’ and tells of why she loves open water swimming.
I swim most days in Loch Sunart, sometimes alone and sometimes with a group of friends.
It can be a very personal hobby with just you, the sky and the water and whatever birds fly overhead or seals that pop up next to you, or a very communal activity with a whole group of heads bobbing above the water with goggles on their heads and tow floats trailing behind.
For a few months a group of us have been meeting on a Sunday at Strontian jetty for a midday swim.
Sometimes it’s as few as two of us, other times as many as seven or eight. We are a mixed bunch of ages, shapes and sizes and a range of abilities with a couple of triathletes, a swimming coach and several doggy paddlers among our number.
There is a great feeling of support and camaraderie between wild swimmers. Hearing each other swear as we hit the cold water, checking in with each other to ensure we’re all still OK as we strike out for another further marker before turning back, balancing against each others shoulders as we lean over to peel off wetsuits, makes for a very quick sense of being close friends, sometimes before you are even sure of a person’s name.
A New Year’s Day ‘loony dook’, an annual tradition which started back in the 1980s in the Firth of Forth, as a hangover remedy has spread throughout Scotland and there were dips in Salen, Ardgour and Strontian on January 1.
The Strontian jetty regulars were joined by locals and visitors to the area for a swim to welcome in 2020 in style.
Local swimming coach Laura McConnachie piped us in to Scotland the Brave, accompanied by Debra Green on the bodhran drum, playing in their wetsuits before putting down their instruments to get in themselves.
Fourteen hardy swimmers went in, with a crowd of a similar size cheering us on from the jetty including Mollie the dog who got her feet wet but could not be persuaded to take the plunge.
Our group included a couple of triathletes along with a very new swimmer wearing L plates and ranged in age from teens to 60 plus.
After a swim in the loch several of us returned to shore to remove our wetsuits and get back in in swimsuits for the full on loony dook experience.
The loch was measuring a chilly four degrees with some strength to the drift of the tide.
We retired to the nearby Bothy Bar in Strontian where a feast including soup and mulled wine had been put on to help us warm back up and raise funds for Marie Curie.
Several swimmers were taking new Christmas present wetsuits for their first dip and several more were donning new swimming robes post-swim bought by Santa too.
On the day when many people are either a bit hungover or starting to alter their lifestyles according to new year’s resolutions to get fitter a cold water swim seemed to be the perfect blend of both.
With Happy New Year greetings echoing in our ears as we all headed off with wet hair and the taste of salt still on our lips several of us pledged to be back again on Sunday for our next dook.
Our correspondent Nic Goddard emerges from Loch Sunart after the loony dook.
NO F02 Nic Goddard in NY swim