I moved to England’s Sussex coast between lockdowns to be closer to family. My mum’s side of the family was always by the sea, and I guess I’ve inherited that gene. These cold water swims are a recent thing, though. I like outdoor activities that are bracing and stimulating: being against, and leaning into, the elements has always been quite rewarding and meditative. It gives your mind and body the same experience at the same time, which feels like a reset, if just for a few minutes. The only other things that do that are exercise or sex. Or acting, depending on the performer.
So much of enjoying a cold water swim is in the preparation, much like being an actor and approaching a job. The exhilaration is in the thought of it, that sense of invigoration and resuscitation. You take the job, you decide to go for the swim and then the reality of it is always slightly daunting. You gain confidence in knowing you’re going to enjoy it as it becomes routine, but there’s a part of you that knows your breath will be taken away.
You can enjoy the swim, but when you come out, you’re completely exposed. You need to get yourself the hot tea, the dry robe. To me, it feels like the more work you do, and the more exposed you are, the more you need things to insulate you. Especially with something like my role on “Bridgerton”, which is quite complicated — it brings such joy to people, but the actual experience is challenging. If you’re exposed to 82 million people within 24 hours, you can hide away all you want, but it’s not easy.
When you get out of cold water, you have this blissful moment where you feel like the wind doesn’t hit you. But they say that’s the danger moment, because you only have about 30 seconds to a minute before you start getting prickly sensations. It’s like your body tricks you into thinking you’re OK so you can run back somewhere warm. That’s what happens when you finish a job: you go to the wrap party thinking everything’s amazing, but then you’re like, “Hang on a minute. Where even am I? I haven’t done my own hair in months.” You don’t start from scratch, but you have to reconnect.
This past year, I’ve had to look after myself and prioritise things differently. I’ve usually had way more time to be able to be there for friends and family and live with slightly more abandon. I look forward to whatever is next, though. I wonder how many sea swims I’ll have to do to get to that point.