Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Immersed in the wild ocean

Here's an excerpt from a great article on open water swimming. I can relate, since I'm a bit of a wild water swimmer too.

Immersed in the Wild
by Edwin Dobb
Like any deeply enjoyable activity, distance swimming readily becomes addicting. The high is real. But swimming entails another kind of attraction as well, one whose locus is the medium itself. Since boyhood, I've been drawn to water, especially open water -- rivers, lakes, seas, and in a visceral way. Mere contemplation won't do. The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, I was seized by a desire to taste it, to feel it on my skin, to surrender to it. Exultation is the going, as Emily Dickinson wrote, Of an inland soul to sea. Though the poem refers to sailors, I know well the going it celebrates. I also know well the hunger for going that haunts some land-born souls.
Immersion doesn't entirely satisfy this hunger, which then moves outward, fixing on the horizon, an undulating, ever-receding border between endless sea and endless sky. Past the houses, past the headlands, Into deep eternity! Playing it safe during my birthday escapade, I looked -- rather than swam -- across the cove, toward the opening that connects it to the bay as a whole, where sailboats and ferries, tugs and container ships were visible. After I've increased my stamina and grown accustomed to longer stays, I'll trace successive mile-long circuits, swimming along the interior perimeter. I especially enjoy passing through the opening into the zone where the smaller chop inside the cove mixes with the larger, more energetic chop outside. There I pause and tread water for a spell. Sometimes I tremble slightly, not in response to the cold but in recognition of the wildness of the place, its power, immensity, and indifference to my interests or well-being, which is exhilarating, surprisingly enough, but also scary. I gaze at the Bay Bridge; Treasure, Alcatraz and Angel islands; the Golden Gate Bridge and, beyond that, the Marin Headlands. A crazy yet almost irresistible urge takes hold, the same urge that arises whenever I'm in the ocean, with nothing but water in front of me -- to swim farther out, and farther still....
Click the link at the top for much more, including a great set of links at the end on open water swimming.

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