throwing myself in the deep end

The only way I can think to describe coasteering is as everything your parents told you not to do on the beach as a child, but under the expert guidance of someone who not only ignored that advice but also went on to make a career out of it.  

It’s something that I’ve intended to try for a few years but a mix of circumstance and fear - but mostly fear dressed up as circumstance - has stopped me. I should confess, now, that I am not keen on open water swimming. I love being ON water – paddle boarding, wake boarding, surfing – these all give me a sense of calm and freedom that I can achieve from little else, but being IN it is a different kettle of fish altogether.

And that’s one of my fears – fish and sea-life in general swarming under my feet and not being able to see what’s going on. It scares me. 

However, this summer I’ve been on a bit of a personal mission to challenge myself, conquer some fears and start exploring what my limits are both physically and mentally.

If solo paddle boarding the length of England didn’t put me through my paces enough, then a short break to the Isles of Scilly – dubbed as the UK’s adventure mecca – to tackle my fear of the open water by coasteering ought to do it. 

So off I went to this tiny archipelago sitting quietly off the edge of the Cornish Peninsula. It’s also where the Atlantic Ocean meets land for the first time in over 3000 miles. Based on that fact alone coasteering along its rugged coastline was bound to be eventful. 

And it was.  

Coasteering is basically climbing around rocks and when you can climb no more you either jump in or swim until you are met with more rocks to clamber round. That’s really all there is to it. 

So take this, and pepper in choppy waters, jagged rock faces and strong winds and you’ll be getting close to the conditions I experienced on the day I did it.

I worked my way from Peninnis Head on St Mary’s (Google it, it's beautiful) for about two miles. The views were impressive but I wasn’t there to marvel and I certainly didn't want to get distracted. 

About six minutes into this adventure was my first opportunity to jump in. It was a rock standing at about 5ft from the water and the advice was to pencil jump. I, of course, was terrified at the prospect but kept a cool exterior as I plunged into the abyss.  Despite being just 5ft, it was exhilarating. 

So when we approached the 10ft, 15ft and 20ft jumps I barely gave myself a moment to think before I hurled myself off the rocks into the waters below. I was teetering on the edge of my comfort zone – and as much as I was trying to convince myself I wasn’t enjoying it, I was getting addicted to the thrill of the jumps and floating in the open waters towards the next set of rocks.

More climbing, swimming and jumping ensued and I was really starting to find my pace. Yes, I'd swallowed more salt water than I'd have liked, my hands were bleeding and grazed from the barnacles and jellyfish were testing my nerve but I was so full of adrenaline that I simply did not care. 

However, as the session drew to a close and the final jump - a whopping 30 ft - was offered up, it was then I knew my upper threshold had been hit. No amount of self-coaxing or internal conflict was going to get me to fling myself off that rock.

So back I went to the safety of flat, vertical ground feeling really rather pleased with what I had achieved that day. 

It was an experience that I not only enjoyed but also genuinely helped me on my journey to overcoming my fear of the open water. 

Would I do it again? Undoubtedly, but I’d make sure I did the 30ft rock next time.
 

Notes:

Coasting on Isles of Scilly with Kernow Coasteering

Tourist information for Isles of Scilly with Isles of Scilly Tourism

Photos: Adventure Scilly