Call to join in South Shields Sea Swimmers as lockdown's easing allows group to swell in numbers
Swimmers are being welcomed back in numbers to a sea session which was inspired by the lockdown to give people a place to find an escape and make friends.
South Shields Sea Swimmers was launched during the restrictions, with a cap put on numbers as members stuck to the Government’s rules.
Now most of the restrictions have eased, people are able to gather in groups again, with dozens of people joining in the 9am social session on Saturdays at Littlehaven Beach and planning many other dips through the Facebook group set up to bring swimmers together.
Since it the page was launched in May last year, more than 700 people have signed up as followers.
Inspired by other groups along the coast, including the Roker Bathing Club, the group has gone from strength to strength since its early days, offering a wellbeing boost, camaraderie, a chance to forge new friendships and support as people head into the cold waters.
One of its founders is Sarah Thorell, who said: “If you want to come down you don’t need much – towel, swimwear, lots of layered clothing for after, hat, car park money, flask of hot drink.
"Let us know your coming, especially if you’re new to going in the sea.
"When you arrive come and say hi and we will make sure you enter the water with others of a similar swimming ability.”
Getting involved is at the risk of each swimmer, but those more experienced offer those new to sea swimming a friendly guide to keeping safe.
Sarah added: “Joining the Facebook group is a great way to find info and ask questions before hitting the beach.
"We are still advising social distancing too so we’d ask people to be mindful of this.”
Fellow founder Kate Bull added: “For many people it’s their first time wild swimming so going with a group is encouraging.
"Since lockdown many people have began open water swimming, so being able to do so in a group environment is reassuring.
“Wild swimming is safest when you do it with others so that’s what group swims are especially important.”
She added: “For me it’s the mental health aspect, how the cold water is brilliant for your mental health.”