This weekend consisted of a couple trips to float in Avila. Saturday I did some experimenting with my GoPro in the small waves at Olde Port Beach (aka the Dog Beach). I put together a swim contraption that I needed to test to see if it would work to record a swim in progress. It was made of a lifeguard rescue can and a couple GoPro mounts… I was anticipating having to add some fins as stabilizers to keep it from flipping but needed to check the angles first. I took it out into the water and swam back and for a bit, things went ok. It stayed upright most of the time but did lean pretty hard to the side. If chop or swells of sufficient size hit it sideways the whole thing went over. I deemed it semi-successful. Works in theory but needs some kinks worked out.

I went back to the beach after swimming a bit and moved my GoPro from that mount into a wrist mount that I had ordered up a week ago but hadn’t tried yet. The wrist mount is a little awkward. It points in every direction except the ones you want it to. I bodysurfed and swam with it too see what I’d get from that, and then I took it off and used the strap to just hold it to my hand instead and switched from video to photo. The GoPro takes nice 11 megapixel pictures and has a really cool burst feature that fires off 10 shots in rapid succession which makes catching the right part of an action shot a lot easier. I got cool wave and dog pictures.

On Sunday I was back at in Avila at the main beach around 10am. I brought my swim filming contraption and it promptly fell apart between the truck and the sand. The adhesive on the mounting disc just wasn’t cutting it apparently. I was bummed I wasn’t going to get to try out my GoPro on the swim, luckily I had a new little point and shoot cam in my bag that I could bring with me instead.

Since I was there early I took a chance to return a call to my buddy (and Chesapeake Bay Swim host) Dave in Maryland. Niel and Sylvia showed up on the beach a little later. I went up on the pier with Niel to get the water temp and it wasn’t pretty… 52.5… definitely didn’t match how nice it looked outside. After a little debate and surveying the sea we decided to swim for Fossil Point today. The tide was fairly high and there wasn’t much surf left over from the week’s big swell series so a point swim wouldn’t be too dicey.

Getting in sucked really hard today. My body just wasn’t in the mood at first. The water burned on my feet and didn’t get much better on the way up. Definitely one of those days where you wonder why you think this is fun :) Eventually Niel and his luxuriously thick wetsuit took off and a few waves later I started swimming too. I was feeling it at buoy number one… here I am apparently meditating away the cold, or possibly peeing…

We swam down to the end of the buoy line to regroup again. I felt pretty ok by then, it just took me a while to process the cold through my system and kick in the internal heater. From the buoy line we headed straight towards the point. As we got closer you could feel a lot more water moving underneath us but it wasn’t shallow enough there to break so we were ok. I haven’t been down to the point in a long time so it was cool to get a chance to see in up close and in person again and snap a few pictures.

After a prolonged break we decided on the next part of our route since we only planned up to the point. We decided to swim to the tip of the pier in a straight shot with no stops which is about a 700ish meter leg. Niel and I swam parallel to each other for most of it and even had a mini arm tangling at one point. Half way there I felt something in the water but wasn’t sure what was going on. I popped my head up and spotted a small boat moving incredibly slowly past us. It must have been electric or something because there was zero motor noise. Luckily they were paying attention and going slow because they passed very close to us, a little too close really, but the boat was so quiet Niel didn’t even know it was there until I told him about it later!

Out at the tip of the Pier we decided to extend the swim to the creek buoy before turning in. We made a quick stop at the buoy then turned for the pier. I though we were going to swim to the pier then turn in but Niel kept going under the pier so I chased him under to the other side. We had a small group watching from above and they were on the other side to see us pop out as well. We took a brief moment to soak in the sights and then arced back in towards the beach. Niel had 52 1/2 minutes on his watch which was a perfect compliment to the 52 1/2 degrees we had in the water. Overall we swam about 1.7 miles.

9 Responses to “One Minute per Degree”

  1. Hey superstar, what are the black & yellow goggs? They look nice.

    I was wondering what point in Fahrenheit is it where one can’t swim a minute for every degree, assuming you are already hardened? With the mild winter we’ve having in Ireland we are around 48f now, and haven’t got below 43f at all. I wouldn’t mind but this year I planned to do longer winter swims than other years.

  2. saad says:

    Rob, what about mounting it on the back of your head or on your shoulder?

  3. Rob D says:

    Donal – they’re the Surge Open Water Goggles from Finis, they’re pretty decent… little pricey, but good goggles.

    I think by the degree per minute approach you could work pretty far down if you were conditioned for it. I think 1-5 and 32+ are achievable by the right people. 6-31 probably gets tougher based on time and temps. I wish I had some colder water in the neighborhood so I could try some of this ice swimming business… we’re around 52-54 right now and will probably drop to 49 in spring.

    Saad – I’ve thought of wearing a chest mount backwards but it’d probably be really chafe-y on bare skin. I think what I’m going to do is build a little platform out of a kickboard with some skegs on the bottom and a surf leash connecting me to it.

  4. Lorraine says:

    Totally wowed by your photos (AND, of course, by your swimming.) A beginner’s question: I’ve enjoyed playing with my water camera (a Panasonic Lumix), but haven’t figured out how to take it with me across the lake (aside from putting it in a SwimSafe tube, very inconvenient). I tried tucking it in the neck area of my wet suit but that opens the collar to lots of drag. How do you do it?

  5. Rob D says:

    Lorraine – thank you! and that Panasonic Lumix is a nice camera… I’ve broken 2 of them, whoops :) anyways… I wear a couple swimsuits at a time and tuck my camera in the front off towards my hip. Back when I would occasionally wear a wetsuit what I would do is tie the camera on a fairly long string (it came out of a speedo’s waistband) and attach it to the zipper. I’d tuck the camera in the front of my wetsuit and use the string to pull it back out.

  6. Lorraine says:

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll try out the string-to-zipper method. I’d been thinking of making a sort of net fanny pack. I’ll keep watching your adventures!

  7. Christophe says:

    Just wondering, are you guys using silicone swim caps in that cold water? Wouldn’t neoprene caps keep your head warmer?

  8. Rob D says:

    Christophe – although it would keep me warmer there’s no neoprene for me, just a swim suit, regular cap and goggles. Niel wears a wetsuit and will put on a neoprene cap when it’s cold out though.

  9. Carol Moore says:

    Lorraine, I recommend the “Safe Swimmer Flotation Buoy” from the International Swimming Hall of Fame to carry your camera. It will not only keep your camera handy for those incredible “in-the-water” shots, it will help make you visible to boaters and other water-craft, without creating any significant drag. I swim in Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island where there’s a lot of boat traffic, and I wouldn’t consider swimming without it. (By the way, I LOVE my Panasonic Lumix camera — I regularly chronicle the adventures of the “West Neck Pod” on my blog ( and you’ll see lots of pictures there of me and other Pod-members trailing our orange buoys behind us!)