Rough water

Every year I attempt a swim between the island of Lipari and the island of Salina. The idea was hatched several years ago with a good friend while enjoying a boozy lunch on the terrace of his family restaurant on Salina. I was staring across the 4.5 kilometre straight toward Lipari thinking it didn’t look that far. I could see people on the far shore. In retrospect I suspect they were large boats.

Gessi is the friend at the genesis of this little misadventure. He was pouring the wine as confidence grew on that fateful day. He conveniently leaves the swimming to me, but Gessi does drive my boat alongside. Thanks to him I never get run over by the hydrofoils travelling at 35 knots through the straight.

This year we set off toward Lipari (where I jump in and swim back toward Salina) at 7:30am. The ride over gives you a feel for the conditions and a chance to stiffen the spine. The one thing you really don’t want to see is whitecaps. You know, when wind is whipping up the waves so much that they crest in the middle of the sea. Could someone please remind me to check the marine forecast next year.

Reaching the coast of Lipari, Gessi looked over, and in a great moment of understatement, said ‘it’s really rough today’. Uh huh.

One of the marvellous things about this swim in the two previous years was entering the mental universe that comes from spending so much time in the water with no distraction. Your mind goes to all sorts of places as the physical monotony puts you in a trance.

Not this year.

Pulling my left arm out of the water was an effort as the waves crested. It was like a constant, unwelcome slap. Despite my best efforts to keep salt water out of my mouth by angling my head skyward, I ingested enough to sink a ship. There were constant course adjustments as the wind encouraged me to visit any island other than Salina. It was just a really hard day.

Don’t tell anyone. I loved it.

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