Bathing in equal light – the start of spring

William Thomson tells us why this time of year is a great time to begin outdoor swimming

© William Thomson

Author and Illustrator William Thomson has created two books about the tides. The World of Tides came out this year and William is now hosting tide walks which offer discovery and practical knowledge about the tides, why currents flow along the coast and how to survive a rip. For William and many swimmers, things can only get better after the Spring Equinox.

For me the year starts at the beginning of Spring. Not the first day of March as imposed by the government, but that moment in nature when the sun is directly aligned with the equator so the north and south poles are bathed in equal light; the Spring Equinox. From here we’re on the up and things can only get better – or warmer, when it comes to water in the northern hemisphere. For the next six months sea temperatures will steadily rise, so don’t waste a minute – dive in now! When you think you can’t do it, that the water’s too cold, here is something to motivate you; if you can brave British waters today you’ve got the fortitude to be that person everyone is in awe of – the year round swimmer. People will stop in their tracks to watch you, astounded by your strength and courage.

outdoor-swimming-society-william-thomson-spring-tides-2 © William Thomson

Although Spring Tides have nothing to do with spring, they share its qualities of invigorating, cleansing and resetting of systems [high water for your local beach is 50 minutes later every day, returning to the same time every Spring Tide]. While the season happens just once a year, Springs occur once a fortnight just after the New and Full Moon when the earth, sun and moon are aligned. During this time the combined gravitational pull on our oceans is greater and we experience higher highs, lower lows and faster currents. This is where the name comes from; springing forth with more energy. I love swimming at Spring Tides because you can go 25% faster and further without expending any more energy. You don’t even need to be a strong swimmer to cover miles of coastline; if you time the tides right you just need to float and the current will do the hard work.

outdoor-swimming-society-william-thomson-spring-tides-3 © William Thomson

While the exact moment of spring equinox is difficult to appreciate without imagining you’re looking at earth from space, changing our clocks on the last Sunday of March is a defining action of spring. While this has ruined my sextant training schedule [local noon, when you measure the sun’s altitude, has suddenly jumped from 11:52 to 12:52] it does have advantages for wild swimming. In the winter when I stop work at 6pm it’s dark and usually raining. But now when I look up from my laptop it’s light, albeit still raining. So ignore the rain – you’re going to get wet anyway – and make the most of the light evenings by taking the plunge. There’s no point waiting for summer. You’ve got to go now because before you know it the September Equinox will arrive with a long six months till spring. It’s here now, so get out there and bask in the glory of Spring Tides.


William’s first Tide Walk takes place this weekend, but you can also join him on the following dates:

  • Saturday, 7th April – 12pm, Deal, Kent.
  • Saturday, 14th April – 12pm, Deal, Kent.
  • Saturday, 21st April – 12pm, Brighton, Kent.

For tickets visit: www.tidalcompass.com/walks

To learn more about the tides, visit William’s shop to purchase his books.

Words : William Thomson
Images : William Thomson