How do you feel about jumping in the ice cold Atlantic ocean off the Irish coast just for the fun of it? How in the world I thought the answer to that question was anything but “reluctant” is beyond me. However, at the beginning of the semester, instead I answered, “sounds great!” and signed up to go to the Forty Foot.
The Forty Foot, a beach in Sandycove, has been a place Irish people have been swimming at for hundreds of years. I had an image in my head of a cliff, forty feet high, looking over the Irish Sea. Of course “foot” in the American sense of the word was not what the Forty Foot meant, the phrase probably referring to forty British soldiers stationed there. Nevertheless, I found myself standing in a bathing suit on a cold September day looking at a beach closer to forty feet in width, framed by jagged rocks and oscillating waves. At that point there was no turning back. I didn’t feel the water beforehand – a mistake others made. After staring at the ocean for a few minutes mentally preparing myself (along with everyone else), I took a deep breath, ran along the jetty, and dove in head first. Those few milliseconds that exist between jumping and hitting the water seemed to take longer than normal, either due to the anticipation of the cold or because my brain was taking the time to tell me: “Hey idiot, what the hell are you doing?!” The moment passed, and I was in. I’m not going to lie, it was quite cold at first. But then I surfaced and realized that the cold water was surprisingly bearable. Not only was the swim bearable, it was exhilarating. The cold water numbed my body, but, in a way, enhanced my other senses. I can vividly remember the salty smell and taste of the Irish Sea and the sounds of waves crashing on the rocks- not to mention the sight of my FIE peers wrestling with idea of jumping just as I did, and then making the same icy plunge.