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Cold Water Swimming

Article by Lise Day

As we grow older and realise that, in certain ways, we are turning into our parents, we may view this as a positive or a negative. My mother was not gracious about accepting help in her old age, so I am determined to accept help when it is offered. But there is another inheritance from my mother that I am embracing gladly. She was Danish, of Viking stock, and all through the freezing Orange Free State winters, she would swim ten laps of her pool every morning. Now at seventy-eight, I find myself in the Camps Bay tidal pool two mornings a week and have been through this winter. Apart from the well-documented effects of swimming in cold water, this pool is in such a beautiful setting that it is good for the soul as well as the body. The Twelve Apostles rise majestically in the North; Signal Hill is in the East, and the pool lies, an emerald jewel between the boulders and the ocean. I love it because it has a flat sandy bottom, you enter from the beach so there are no slippery rocks to negotiate.

It is important to keep moving in cold water. We “water blommetjies” have an aqua-aerobics instructor, the delightful Florence Poretti, who keeps us active with vigorous exercises. At the end of every class, she lines us up for a photograph in the style of a synchronised swimming team, sometimes with our noodles balanced on our heads, or whirling them around like a circus act. On Freedom Day, she brought rainbow-coloured umbrellas to support our nation. The pool itself is so varied according to the weather. Some mornings we are shrouded in mist which swirls around us, making the rest of the world disappear. On bright sunny days, the pool sparkles so clear, and we can see tiny fish and anemones below. The seagulls, cormorants and oyster catchers accept us as fellow wild things as they perch on the sea wall. One morning the pool was full of foam; we watched an Egyptian goose chasing her chicks out of the water as they looked as though they were going to get lost in the white billows. When I posted pictures of us swimming in the foam, some of my friends thought it was ice and snow and were really impressed!

It is much easier to do this in an encouraging group. There is a lot of laughter. We bob around in the middle of the pool while the serious swimmers training to swim to Robben Island, or such like, do smooth laps around the circumference. Although I have a wet suit top with a zip down the front, I have never worn it. It was made for me by Coral Wetsuits after a vaguely humiliating shop at the surf stores in Muizenberg that don’t really cater for large seventy-eight-year-old swimmers. Also, by the time you have got into a wet suit and contorted yourself to pull up a back zip, you will be far too exhausted to swim at all. I have a “scratch vest” to keep the sun off in summer and a “shark skin” top to wear in winter. The important thing in winter is to get warm after the swim. We have had gowns made with a secret pocket for car keys, long front zips and large enough to wriggle out of a wet costume underneath. Then I drive home with the car heater on high, and fine music playing loudly on the radio; it’s really exhilarating.


Frozen Blue Daiquiri


  • Fresh seawater at 9 degrees
  • (preferably high tide, but any tide will do)
  • Nine maidens, well-aged
  • A South-easter
  • Noodles
  • Bubbles
  • Madness
  • Mixologist


  • Shell the maidens, peel back towelling.
  • Add the maidens to the sea quickly
  • Add the noodles
  • Listen to mixologist tending the bar
  • Balance the maidens on the noodles
  • Whip to a frenzy with the South-easter
  • Bubbles of laughter will rise to the top
  • Add a dollop of madness.
  • Beat for 30 minutes
  • Remove sluiced maidens
  • Wrap well
  • Enjoy!

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