Storm bathing at Watergate Bay
(4 minute read)
48mph winds, wild waves, ‘white horses’ in the hot tub and cold rain pummelling bare skin. A recent winter stay at Watergate Bay gave writer Helen Gilchrist a whole new perspective on the word ‘invigoration’…
Photo credit: Mike Carter
Watching huge seas explode onto Cornwall’s cliffs, beaches and coves has become an ever more popular winter pastime in the last decade or so. Rarely a year goes by without images in the national press of gargantuan waves engulfing Porthleven’s clock tower (the poster child of Cornish stormwatching), and a quick search online proffers endless lists of top stormwatching locations.
Be it standing on a cliff, gazing through a rainy windscreen, or rare moments curled up in a well-positioned window seat with a gin and tonic, it’s exhilarating to witness the full force of a ‘howling sou’wester’ close-hand.
The size of the waves, height of the spray, frothing whitewater and shafts of light momentarily illuminating dramatic seascapes make quite a spectacle, so it’s only natural that we think of watching rather than feeling a storm.
Photo credit: Katherine Edwards
Lying in Watergate Bay’s Finnish seaview sauna early one November morning, watching the furious high tide below, rain lashing the glass just a few inches from my face, the visual awe struck me first. In contrast, closing my eyes and feeling the hot, dry 80°+ heat on my skin summoned distant memories of sunbathing on a beach in Panama.
As the sauna heat intensified, I started thinking about getting out for a cold shower. But, seeing the grey veils of another downpour approaching from the horizon, I decided to wait for a natural shower in the rain.
And so, a few minutes later, I found myself standing on the deck in my swimmers, leaning into the 48mph winds with an elemental Atlantic power shower pummelling my skin. The sound of the waves and rain hammering the windows behind me; tiny ‘white horse’ waves breaking on the surface of the hot tub next to me; and contrast of cold air and lingering sauna heat at my core, gave a whole new meaning to the idea of invigoration – making any spa I’d experienced before feel most pedestrian.
In Finland they jump into freezing lakes post-sauna; in Sweden and Canada they love an ice bath. But with its rain, waves and Atlantic hues, this milder, distinctly Cornish experience is one I’d recommend if you’re feeling brave (or foolhardy).
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