Staring at the icy and imposing Atlantic waves roll into the jagged rocks, it is probably natural to be somewhat nervous, or at the very least apprehensive. And gazing across the beach while guiltily devouring the warmth of a takeaway hot chocolate, it slowly dawned upon me that I would soon be thrown head first into the wind and waves of this rugged coastline.
On a jagged outcrop of the Pembrokeshire National Park in Wales, nine courageous individuals and I were about to go coasteering – essentially a combination of swimming, climbing and jumping off cliffs.
Wrapping ourselves in layer after layer of neoprene, a wetsuit, gloves, socks and beanie, before adding a life jacket and helmet, it was time to get serious. And with a quick safety briefing concluded, we were ready to hit the waves.
Experiencing the sea’s raw energy for the first time in such a situation, the words of our enthusiastic guide rang out pertinently.
“When you approach the rocks, remember to go feet first! Your legs have much more capacity to cope with a collision then your head.”
Indeed. After exploring the coastline for slightly under an hour, we headed for a spot named the ‘Washing Machine.’ What looked like a simple rocky inlet suddenly became a mess of flailing limbs as the waves surged through, tossing around anyone silly enough to remain there in a blur of spray.
Having conquered the waves and for the most part emerged intact, it was time to face another common fear – height. Precariously climbing up the cliff face, we reached a small ledge facing the sea. Without looking down we pushed ourselves away from the rocks and plunged into the chilly depths.
For the final act, we swam into a now-submerged slate quarry, where the Red Bull Free Diving championship had taken place only days earlier. Slightly daunted by the diving platform suspended 30 metres above the water, we were considerably relieved to hear the professional equipment would not be featuring in our dives.
Instead we entertained ourselves running down a diagonal rock face as our guides prepared for the concluding dives from a thirteen metre high sheer cliff. With preliminary pin drop jumps done, the more adventurous proceeded to try front flips and other such shenanigans. Several face plants later however and we were forced to haul ourselves from the wet and let the adrenaline subside.
With more hot chocolate and a long bus ride home beckoning, we shed our neoprene layers and reflected on an incredible two hours.
“Did that really just happen?” And, “when can I get back in?”