How to get completely out of your depth


Getting into and then out of my depth.


There are all sorts of ways to get out of your depth. You can buy too many things you don’t need on your credit card, teach a class on a subject you know nothing about (ahh, the sweet sound of silence…), or run up to a guy who’s bigger and meaner than you and tell him he stinks. But my personal favourite way to be completely and utterly out of my depth is in the ocean.

I like especially when I can’t see land, just a line of horizon drawn all the way around me. Sometimes it’s fun to have something to aim for – a seabed tens of meters below – so I can swim down to try and touch it. But it’s best when there’s nothing to see at all but blue (with perhaps a lone whale shark wondering past or a shoal of silvery fish to swim through).

I admit that the idea of swimming in bottomless water is scary, especially if your mind is prone to wondering off into the monster-filled depths below. It’s something I didn’t imagine I’d like until I tried it. (And it helps if the water is nice and clear so you at least know there are no monsters right near by).

But my main problem is that getting out of my depth isn’t easy these days because I currently live a long way from the ocean. So for now, my main option is the local outdoor pool. And in that respect, I’m pretty lucky.

Last time I was truly out of my depth I was caught on camera.

There’s been a lido on Jesus Green in Cambridge since 1925, just next to the river near one of the tumbling weirs. And it’s huge. 100 yards long, apparently (I’ve not measured it, but I’ve puffed up and down enough times to be convinced of its grand size). The water feels and smells fresh and chemical-free. Even as I sit here and type, dried off but still tingling and not-yet showered, my skin has none of that clingy chlorine pong you get from indoor pools. Trees dressed in all different greens surround the pool. They drop their leaves and insects in the water and make it feel a little like I’m swimming along the river, only a cleaner version with fewer rowers and barges panting by.

The deepest part of the pool – and the spot where I try to find myself out of my depth – is in the middle. Back in the day the pool was split in two: one end for men, the other for women. Now we’re all allowed to swim where we like, but the changing rooms still reveal the segregation of the past.

I’m half way through re-reading Roger Deakin’s book Waterlog and I’d like to think we can blame him for coaxing so many people back into out-of-doors water. I challenge any of you to read his wonderful words and not feel a tingling urge to find yourself some wild water and leap in. It is deeply sad that Roger is no-longer with us, but I was thrilled to spot him lately, as a character in the Rime of the Modern Mariner (more on that from me in a later post).

Today the water at Jesus Green was 18 degrees C (a little over 64 if you think in Fs not Cs). I was the only wetsuit-clad scardy-cat amidst the half-term crowds of screaming, leaping kids. But I came out triumphantly with pink toes and fingers – not blue or white as they sometimes get – so I was glad for warm reassurance. We’ve just had the hottest April on record and they say June is going to be a warm one too – so I’m looking forward to getting out of my depth many more times this summer.

Read a longer version of this post at Wild Ocean Blue.

One Response to “How to get completely out of your depth”

  1. […] research group at Ningaloo Reef, and in a rendez-vous I shall never forget, found myself swimming way out of my depth alongside the undisputed emperor of the fish […]

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