No one wants to feel the icy chill of water and look like this guy do they? Even though the ocean in KwaZulu-Natal seldom drops below 20 Degrees Celsius, it can still feel rather chilly. Here are some tips to help you get through the winter without missing out on the joys of snorkeling.
I always say that cold is in the mind, look at Lewis Pugh, the human Polar Bear, he swims in just a Speedo in water that is rather close to freezing point...and he survives. But when your teeth are chattering, it's difficult to be convinced that it's all in the mind. Here are some basic tips for keeping warm this winter ....maybe they help, maybe they don't. Cold is definitely relative :)
1) Wear a wetsuit - the obvious
This is the obvious solution, but they can be expensive and for some people they will possibly only ever wear it for a month or two of the year, this could seem a bit of a waste. But either way, a wetsuit is your best friend and a well worthwhile piece of equipment in any ocean lovers' arsenal. For warmer sub tropical waters a 3mm wetsuit will do you pretty well. Still not convinced or simply don't like wetsuits, try a rash vest, even that helps a bit....but this isn't rocket is it, what if you're still cold in a wetsuit?
2) Get on your back & breathe
Most of the time your body just needs a couple of minutes to adjust to the cold water. All those nerves in your face are extremely sensitive and snorkeling face-down in cold water may be making you feel colder than you actually are. Plus, cold water on your face can stimulate your body’s automatic “cold water shock” response
, which is the source of those shallow, almost-panicky breaths you feel like you have no choice but to take.
3) Keep the back of your head dry
It is possible to snorkel and swim around whilst keeping the back of your head quite dry, stay on the surface and avoid diving down often. Humans have a concentration of blood vessels running up the back of our necks which when exposed to cold, can cool down your core even quicker. Yes, we know, this is in direct conflict with number 2. Take your pick and let us know which works best
4) Learn from the legends
Some open water swimming enthusiasts swear that ear plugs not only help them stay warm, but also improve their perception of balance. And, for many years, open water swimmers have protected themselves from the cold by smearing a layer of Vaseline or petroleum jelly on any exposed skin. We are talking about crazies that swim the English channel and folks who swim in Cape Town here, so if it works for them, it's bound to help here in our relatively balmy KZN waters.
5) Have a cuppa
We always take a flask of tea to the beach and it helps. Having a hot drink can help warm your core up a bit before getting in. Just steer clear of the "extra special" variety, as alcohol sends blood to your skin’s surface making you lose more heat.
6) Run Forest Run
Yip, it's incredibly simple, but a few laps up and down the beach does warm you up nicely before getting in the water. It helps. You may look a bit silly, but you'll feel a whole lot warmer than you did before the quick run. And bring some nice warm, dry clothes for when you get out, especially a hoody or something to cover your head.
But don't fear, just a month or two more and the sea will be nice and balmy again, you'll soon forget what you were worried about and be complaining about the heat :)