Last fall, my friend Lucy Laucht felt impulsive – she had recently lost her father, her mother had Alzheimer’s, and their marriage had failed. “Anything that could happen happened,” she said. “I was on a journey to find out who I was again.” The surprising thing that helped the most? Swimming in very, very cold water …
Her first cold swim was in October 2020 when a friend who lived near her in Cornwall, England suggested wading in the freezing ocean – also known as cold water swimming, winter swimming, or wild swimming. “I was scared,” recalls Lucy. “I made a song like that and danced about it.” But she eventually forced herself to go into the water. When she got out she felt euphoric.
After that, the friends swam every morning – even on the coldest December days. Lucy wears a swimsuit and stays in for 6 or 7 minutes. “Your skin burns. It feels really good. You just feel alive. In this moment of surrender, I literally can’t think of anything but OH MY GOD. It sets you free from everything else. “
More and more women have gathered to swim. “I went there with a group of girls last week and it was just magical. The sun was rising over the horizon and I could see steam rising from our skin in the water. I thought, wow, what an amazing thing to be able to do. “On other days, Lucy prefers to swim alone. “Pulling through the water, lowering my head under the waves – I love the calm of it.”
When I spoke to her on the phone, I kept saying that I couldn’t imagine tolerating the cold water. She laughed, “People are always like this, oh my god, are you crazy? But it’s fun because once you’ve conquered and practiced it, it doesn’t feel immense anymore. Once you do, all the fear will go away. And that’s all in life, isn’t it? “
Would you ever swim in cold water? If you want to get started, go with other people first. “When you get into the water, you can involuntarily gasp for air,” explains Lucy. So go with a partner until you are confident enough to read the water and know your body’s reactions.
And if you can’t swim in the sea, Lucy suggests cold showers, which have a similar effect. “It shocks your body a little,” she says. “Professional tip!”
Thank you, Lucy! Check out their print shop here if you’d like.
PS About luck and the beauty uniform of a polar explorer.
(Photos of Lucy by Victoria Harrison; all other photos by Lucy Laucht.)