Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Wool for Swimming?

Wool Drying
We are staying on the North Shore for a while, and the weather is unbelievable. Yesterday began with a thick, frigid fog, giving way to blinding sunshine and oppressive heat, followed by a sudden darkening of the skies and a mini-redux of the previous day's violent downpour with a temperature drop of at least 20F - all in rapid succession and repeated every several hours. It was as hilarious as it was frustrating, as we kept scrambling to start one thing after another, only for our plans to be thwarted by the elements. Food was rained on, warm clothing was shed no sooner than it was donned, camera equipment was hastily put away no sooner than it was set up, several pairs of shoes now needed drying, and my hair was a hopeless rat's nest of a mess. Others might have given up at this point, resigned to spend the day under a blanket with a bottle of rum. But we are stubborn - and also perversely delighted by the irony of finally being able to get away in August like normal people (instead of September as in previous years), only to be greeted by Autumnal weather as usual. Maybe freezing, stormy holidays are just "us" and we shouldn't fight it. Also, the closest town is a dry town (!) and there is no rum.

Anyhow, just when I thought the day was shot, something wonderful happened: I went swimming in the ocean. Not the type of tentative Northern New England "swimming" where you stoically spend five minutes in the water before your limbs start to go numb. No, I swam with abandon in the warmest salt water I've experienced around these parts. After yet another storm, the sun came out again at about 5pm and we happened to be near a beach. I took my shoes off to walk in the shallow water, and was taken aback when it did not feel like ice.  I waded further in and it just kept getting warmer and warmer. Maybe the storm brought forth some rare tropical current? Just an hour earlier it had been cold out and I was wearing layers upon layers of wool, including Ibex long-johns and an I/O Bio Merino sportsbra. Deciding that these were decent enough to pass for swimwear, I removed everything else, went right in the water and swam until the late afternoon sun lost its warmth.

Wool Drying
While I'd thought my improvised wool swimsuit would be bulky and uncomfortable, it turned out to be anything but. The fabric clung to my body as well as my synthetic swimsuits and kept me warm not only in the water, but also once I got out and air-dried without a towel in the cooling evening air. Pretty amazing. I liked it so much compared to wearing my normal bathing suit, that I think I'll just keep wearing this if I ever get a chance to swim here again. The beaches are not especially glamorous around these parts, so I don't think anyone cares. But this makes me wonder whether anybody actually makes contemporary wool bathing suits. I don't mean nostalgic/retro 1920's style garments, but a normal, "athletic coverage" type of swimsuit that's a mix of wool and spandex. A preliminary search has not yielded anything promising (though the Ibex website shows young ladies frolicking on a boat in their wool underwear), but I will keep looking. Has anybody else tried swimming in wool?


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