Over the last week in Devon, I've gone surfer blonde (I'm considering bleaching it to complete the Warhol effect: thoughts?) and bought my first wetsuit. As a fan of funny clothes with tricky fastenings, I can't tell you how much I like it. It's even better than my first fencing jacket.
I bought mine - the wetsuit, that is - from a marine shop in Kingsbridge where they lower a sail into the window of the boat showroom to act as a cubicle. I peeled myself in and out of rubber corsets in this tiny swaying tent, completely unable to believe they should actually be that tight. "They should be", said the male teenage assistant who leant in to zip me up, exposing me to passing yacht-fanciers. "In fact I think you should get one even tighter." I tried a boy's suit on by mistake and found out how, interestingly, men really are different before buying a version that hit above the knee and whose rubber breastplate compressed my bosom into a squarish mono-mamo. It made me feel completely heroic and just a bit like Xena Warrior Princess.
This lasted for a couple of minutes. Wearing a wetsuit on shore soon had me feeling like a boil-in-the-bag turkey but the effect in the sea was extraordinary. Having bought the knee-length version I still experienced the wash over my toes so freezing I could feel every bone in my feet; the same icy slash of surf against the shins, the knees... but, wading a little deeper, I waited for the killer frozen crash to the crotch and... IT JUST DIDN'T HAPPEN. This is a beach revolution.
The beach is divided in two: swimmers with wetsuits can stay in the sea for about an hour (this is the UK, folks) and swimmers without, about 50 seconds.
TAGS: BANTHAM, BIGBURY BAY, DEVON, SAINT IVES, CORNWALL, 1950S RETRO BIKINI, PING-PONG, BEACH TENNIS, HILLS, CARROTS