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Wild dookers enjoy fun of swimming in the sea

By Chris Saunderson

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DOOK, or douk in traditional Scots, means to dip, plunge or go bathing.

There are a group of women in Burghead who have taken that to new depths of fun.

The Drag Dook was great fun. Picture: Perspective Photography
The Drag Dook was great fun. Picture: Perspective Photography

The Broch Selkies wild dookers have been taking to the chilly Moray Firth during lockdown in its various guises over the last year.

And that culminated in a hilarous drag dook recently in a nod to some of the members’ love for Rupaul’s Drag Race TV show.

Adele Wright, aka Dolphin Del, one of the founders of the group is a huge fan of the show.

“We were always talking about the show and decided to get dressed up and have some fun,” said Adele (40), a dolphin spotter and massage therapist.

Louise Foy (left) and Sarah Roger have fun at Christmas.
Louise Foy (left) and Sarah Roger have fun at Christmas.

“I started dooking after my sister recommended it to me when she was doing it in Lossiemouth.

“I do it for my mental health and to help with chronic pain from endometriosis.

“You can see people’s physical demeanour change as soon as they get in the water and you can see the fun and laughter, and that rubs off on everybody.”

With the ups and downs of the pandemic, Adele says the wild swimming helps people focus and everyone comes out feeling better.

Life is far from a drag for these ladies. Picture: Perspective Photography
Life is far from a drag for these ladies. Picture: Perspective Photography

Sarah Roger (36), a primary school teacher, said: “It felt like a party (distanced) and people turned up to watch from the shore. It was the most laughter we’ve shared in a long time.”

The Facebook group was launched after a plea on the Burghead Bulls page for anyone who was a wild swimmer. It now has over 80 members.

There is a core group of about 8 or 10 who dook at least twice a week and they have formed valuable friendships.

Sarah takes to the sea in her swimsuit, surf boots and gloves. She started swimming last August with Adele and Louise Foy.

“That sharp sting of cold you first feel when you walk in - even in December and January - is electric and wakes you up, but then it gives way to a fuzzy tingling sensation and you end up feeling comfortable. Your skin tingles for hours afterwards. It’s amazing.

“The benefits for me are social, personal achievement ( I never thought I would do this in my life!) and total peace from any stress from work or such when I look into the horizon and realise that I am in that landscape.

“I’m not a strong, athletic swimmer - I attended adult swimming lessons just a couple of years ago - but I stay shallow and I swim properly on calm days and on rough days I just jump about in the waves.”

Some of the group have been on sea swimming safety courses and pass on vital knowledge to the rest, such as how long to stay in certain temperatures, which tides to avoid and so on.

“We really respect the sea and its strength. I make sure I can always touch the ground and never swim alone.

Liz Davidson (57) is a regular dooker after initially going in to support her sister Isobel Taylor, but quickly realising the positive impact it was having on her.

“It is a release going in the water and feels magic,” said Liz.

“Sometimes we all need a wee lift and we get that from the swimming.

“I can finish work in the kitchen at Gordonstoun at 4pm and can’t wait to get in the water. We are always well distanced when we are in the water.”

All weathers the ladies are in the sea at every opportunity.
All weathers the ladies are in the sea at every opportunity.

Isobel (62) said she wasn’t brave enough to go swimming on her own, that’s why she put a shout out on the Burghead Bulls page.

“My reason for doing it was a different way of relieving chronic joint pain in knees and hands.”

Isobel, who had tried acupunture and traditional pain-relief drugs, has gained so much more than just pain relief from the sea swimming.

“I have been a swimmer all my life but never really throught about cold water swimming; I thought that was for nutters.”

Isobel, a cleaner at Burghead Primary, said: “I have only missed a few days in the last year, but we have been out in the snow and the rain, and even a twilight swim. It has been absolutely fantastic.

“We have a good laugh and it is just magic. They are a fantastic bunch of quines.

“The drag dook was Adele and Sarah’s idea and we had so much fun, and we were all socially distanced.

“I would say we are 99 per cent dookers, rather than swimmers. The coldest temperature when we have been in has been about three degrees.

“I never realised wild water swimming was so popular. I’m from Glasgow originally but there is no way I would go swimming in the Clyde,” added Isobel, who has lived in Moray for 40 years.

Kate Middleton said: “When you’re swimming in the sea, all you think about is swimming in the sea. It’s never the same as the last time. Sometimes calming, sometimes a buzz. It’s not a competition; you do it your way.

“Wetsuit, no wetsuit; buddies, no buddies. Just give it a go and find your own preferences.”

The sun is shining, the water is cold - perfect.
The sun is shining, the water is cold - perfect.

Kate (63), has been pool swimming for over 20 years but was getting fed up of waiting for pools to open last summer. She was invited to swim by another member and has been sea swimming two or three times a week ever since.

Claire McManus said: “Wild swimming be it in the sea, river or Loch allows us to be free at one with nature. Its invigorating and makes you feel alive.”

She doubts she would have ever tried it were it not for “this group of lovely ladies”.

“Its certainly reignited my love for the water and swimming.”

And Shona Radojkovic said: “I had been wanting to go for a wild dook for a while as I had heard it has great health benefits and can boost the immune system. Not sure I would have got there without this lovely group who are very supportive and full of fun. It’s great for mental and physical health!”

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