New book captures all the delights and benefits of sea-swimming

Brighton author Joanna Rees writing as Josie Lloyd enters the world of sea swimming – and all its health benefits – in her latest book Lifesaving for Beginners (HQ paperback, July 21).

Joanna Rees credit Catherine Lloyd
Joanna Rees credit Catherine Lloyd

In the same vein as The Cancer Ladies' Running Club, it's about an eclectic group of women who all find salvation in their friendship and swimming in cold water.

When Maddy receives a call on a Brighton phone number on Christmas Day from her estranged son Jamie who has been missing for the past few years, she decides to go there in an attempt to track him down and repair their relationship. As she strolls on the beach one morning mulling over her next steps, she meets the Sea-Gals – a group of feisty women who are sea swimmers. With the Sea-Gals by her side, Maddy has a group of supportive friends to help her rebuild her life…

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“The book is all about sea- swimming and it is set in Brighton. I wanted to write something about what we have gained during lockdown rather than what we have lost and I think what we gained was very much an increase in our sense of community and a bigger sense of being together.

“I've always swum in Brighton as I live near the sea but I've always been a bit of a fairweather swimmer.

“But in lockdown I ended up swimming all year round. During lockdown I met a group of people and we had a real sense of community as we went to swim. We would go out in ones or twos and it was just a wonderful sense of togetherness, this very different group of people coming together.

“With sea swimming, the long and the short of it is that it invokes in you your superhero. It's freezing and it is dark and you think there's no way on earth ‘I'm going to go into the sea .’ But you get down there and you meet a group of people and everybody is really friendly, but you still don't believe you're going in. You find yourself at the water's edge and is freezing cold and it's dark but you go in and you have this gasp reflex and you still think ‘I can't do this’ but once you get in, it is just a total reset. Once you're in the water you just can't think about anything else. It is just you in nature and it is this incredible feeling, this total reset of you and your mind and your body.”

The principle is that you can't go in for more minutes than there are degrees in the temperature of the water. Clearly you have to be careful: “But what is lovely is that you are with a group of people that are all watching each other’s backs and the interesting thing is that there are people that you don't necessarily know very well and then if you go out with them of an evening you discover who they actually are.

“I have been sea-swimming most days and I really wanted to write about it because it is incredibly good for your health. The health benefits are huge. It is very, very good for your mental health and it is also supposed to lower your blood pressure. It is supposed to regulate your hormones and regulate your wellbeing and it also makes you fitter.

" But it just leaves you feeling great. You can do really sweaty things in the gym or go for a run but for me at my time of life this feels like the perfect thing to me for me to be doing.”