Swimmers embrace the sea to cross the pool and the pandemic blues | Bombay News

MUMBAI: One of the few things the coronavirus couldn’t shut down was the sea, and for swimmers – who haven’t entered a pool since the first lockdown in March last year and the government went is still determined not to reopen them except for competitive athletes – deep sea dives have created a new appreciation for Mumbai’s coastal waters, empowering swimmers to be physically, mentally and socially.
For a sport that has been among the most affected by the pandemic, dedicated swimmers have found a nifty workaround to freestyle and chest petting in the sea at dawn or on full moon nights in Juhu, Khar Danda or Gateway with the help of local fishermen and coconuts. sellers. This robust network of triathletes, endurance coaches, coaches and amateurs who call themselves “Mumbai Sea Swimmers” (MSS) has championed open water sport to swim and has now grown into a community of 500 members.
“After the Covid hit and no one swam for six months without the possibility of entering a pool anytime soon, it gave us the opportunity to start swimming sessions in the sea. In October 2020, we have created a website to reach a wider audience and the response has been overwhelming, ”said Mehul Ved, a computer engineer from Mulund who co-founded MSS with Minesh Babla, a businessman from Khar. “We had swam in the marine waters of Goa and Alibaug, but never in Mumbai, a city with abundant beaches. Minesh suggested that we call on the local fishermen he knew in Khar Danda for our first swim in the sea in 2016. ”
Starting from Khar Danda, the group now sets out to map the waters of Juhu. “We swam Sunk Rock to Gateway and look forward to new routes like the Mayor’s Bungalow to Gateway and Dharamtar Port to Gateway next,” Ved said, describing a “buddy system” that ‘they introduced to encourage seasoned open water swimmers. to help the less experienced. “It created camaraderie in the true sense of community. ”
Poonam Singh, 56 – who felt the call of the sea two years ago when she decided to participate in an open water race in Goa – totally agrees. “I stopped swimming after having children. It was at the beginning of 2020 that I had this desire to go for a swimathon in Goa and I joined MSS for an experience of swimming at sea, ”she says. Until Covid turns the tide. “The event was canceled but I embraced the sea,” Singh said, emphasizing the sense of camaraderie that swimming in the sea brought. “Our common interest and love for the sea make us a family that watches over each other in endless waters. I don’t see myself going back to a swimming pool even after they reopen, ”Singh exclaims.
Swimmers like Shrinath Pandhare, 24, from Borivli, who despite having a jellyfish sting and occasional greasy hair from marine oil spills, enjoy the thrill of a refreshing aquatic world different from the chlorinated experience and less exhilarating to walk up and down a swimming pool lane. “Swimming in the sea made me more athletic, improved my strokes and helped me burn calories. And unlike the calm water in the pool, the unpredictability of the sea sets off a rush that I love, ”he says.
Is it dangerous? It can be, but overcoming fears of swimming in endless space is usually under one’s own control, veterans say. “The fear is fine, you will overcome it. It is panic in the water that must be controlled, ”is the most vital advice that Babla can give.
“In the sea, there is no path to follow or walls to touch,” he warns, adding that skills such as “sight, bilateral breathing and treading” could ensure safe swimming. . But there are also other precautions to take. “Always swim with someone. Respect local feelings and ask for their permission. If there are lifeguards, let them know the area and how far you plan to swim, ”Ved adds.
In addition to monitoring the season, weather, tides, and terrain, light-up caps and towing floats keep them safe and visible at sea, but competing with nature is a strict no-no. “If the weather doesn’t require it, don’t force yourself into the water. Also respect sea creatures. We are entering their house, ”says Ved.
What gives them courage are the local fishermen and coconut vendors who act as “eyes and ears” for the community. If fishermen are carrying swimmers in the sea, row alongside them in an emergency and guide them to litter-free areas; beach coconut vendors help keep their belongings safe and alert on unsuitable days for swimming.
“Their knowledge and ingenuity allow us to venture safely into the sea,” explains Babla, assuring that encounters of a dangerous type are rare, with the exception of meetings with local dolphins. “What we don’t consider dangerous. In fact, we wonder if they came to say hello!

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