Wales

Wild swimming: Swansea man's cold sea challenge 'to get out of bed'

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Media captionWild swimmer Josh Pike has a 1,000 day cold water dip plan

"When the sky is clear and the sun rises, it is beautiful, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world."

For the last year, while most of us were curled up in our warm beds, Josh Pike has got up and driven down to the beach in Swansea.

He has then waded into the sea, and let his body get used to the freezing cold.

"Every single morning is awful, but once you're in, it's great," said Josh, who has been joined by dozens of strangers during his sunrise dips.

The 29-year-old started his cold water swimming challenge on 8 February last year, after becoming his own boss and needing a routine to motivate him to get up out of bed.

Image copyright Josh Pike
Image caption Josh, who started an ethical food company, said he first started swimming to spend time with God

He decided to go down to Rotherslade Bay in Swansea and dip into the water - before setting himself a challenge to do it every morning for 1,000 days.

"I started going down at sunrise, and found an extra three hours in the morning that never existed in my life before," he said, as he marked completing a year of his challenge.

"I often think 'why am I doing this?', Swansea, is grey, it is murky, but some days when the sun rises, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

Even Storm Ciara, which battered parts of Wales with 93mph gales on Sunday, did not stop Josh in his mission, but he admits he moved to a more sheltered bay and only dipped in and out of the sea.

"I had a five minute bob around and then legged it back in between the waves," he said.

Image copyright Josh Pike
Image caption Dozens of people, including strangers, friends and family members have braved the cold and joined Josh on his swims
Image copyright Josh Pike
Image caption Josh Pike said he tried not to think about having to swim in the cold water for 1,000 days - which is three years

In the last few months, hundreds of people have joined Josh on his daily dips, after he posted videos of sunrises in the bay on Instagram.

In the winter the swimmers, from parents with children to pensioners in their 80s, rush into the water and back to the warmth of their cars, but in the summer Josh said it was much more of a party.

"We all hang around, people bring coffee down onto the beach, some bake and bring cakes," said Josh, who said it was not a workout but more floating and messing about.

"On my birthday in June, my wife organised a surprise, we walked down to the beach at about 05:30 in June and there was about 100 people waiting holding balloons," he said.

"There were kids with inflatables, we were all screaming as we got into the water, people in the flats on the headland were looking out wondering what on earth we were all doing."

Image copyright Josh Pike
Image caption Josh said that the swims had brought people closer, due to the cold conditions

He said many who contacted him were struggling with their mental health, including postnatal depression, and had said swimming with the group of strangers in the cold had helped them.

"As soon as you hit the cold water you scream and chat and laugh with other people and the cold water doesn't care about your problems, it just makes you feel good," he said.

Josh said the swimmers had been surrounded by seals, and seen the deadly Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, and sadly a dolphin washed up on the beach.

"A little seal who lives round the headland will come right up to us, he gets super close, some of the guys love swimming with him, but I am petrified," he said.

Josh, who does not think of himself as a great swimmer, first tried wild swimming in Norway when he was living there with his wife Beth.

While the water in the sea off Swansea is nowhere near as cold as the Arctic Circle, he said he still took ages to get into the water and made a "big deal about it" every day.

Image copyright Josh Pike
Image caption Josh first tried wild swimming in Norway

While Josh said that the cold water has changed his life, adding he had not had a cold or cough in a year and had not had any accidents, not everyone is convinced.

"People think they are going to jump in the sea and wake up with a cold the next day, but it is not the case," he said.

"My father in law wouldn't do it for six months, he was sure he was going to have a heart attack, my wife Beth hates it, she comes along to the big ones, but she loves the warm and would rather stay in bed.

"It's quite daunting. No-one really wants to do it. But doing something you really don't want to do, but is good for you, has to be a good thing."

Image copyright Josh Pike
Image caption People of all ages brave the cold sea

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