By: Blonde Two

Seals in Devon

‘Mind the seal!’ was the instruction called to me last week by my swimming friend ‘A’ as he cycled past me on the prom. I was on my way to the beach, he was returning home. It wasn’t the instruction I wanted to hear as it meant our friendly local seal had returned to my favourite sea swimming spot. As all outdoor swimmers know, the one (and to my mind only) advantage of an indoor swimming pool is that you can see what’s in the water with you. Not so when you’re swimming in open water. For 90% of the time you are staring into opacity as soon as you put your head under water.

Not that I particularly want to see the seal again, not from the water anyway. It (he/she) has appeared a few times over the last months. It focuses mainly on adopting nonchalant poses, and demonstrating water prowess, and has enough curiosity to annihilate any number of cats (not that I’ve ever swum with a cat).

Swimming friends?

After observing this particular seal on several occasions I get the distinct impression it just wants to be friends. Like the newcomer on the edge of a group, it hovers around, every now and again moving in for a smile (or was that a grimace?) Being friends with seals however is not, for many reasons, a good idea.

Which is great news because seals are definitely not on my dinner party guest list. A dinner party, in case you have forgotten, is when more than six people eat the same meal, around the same table (weird I know!) Seals aren’t on my swimming party list either but there you go. I didn’t spot our seal on my way along the prom, so I changed reluctantly, decided to implement my six-point seal plan and entered the water with trepidation. (I have a plan for most things except, apparently, global pandemics).


The seal plan

I almost certainly wouldn’t get into the water if I could actually see a seal, and would definitely get out of it if one came anywhere near close to me. However, the best way to stop fears from growing is to ignore them (within reason) and get on with what you are there to do. I’m not an expert and this definitely isn’t advice about swimming with seals but here’s my personal six-point seal plan.

  1. Familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Boats, buoys, even distant headlands, can all look like seals from water level.
  2. Swim with (but not too near to) someone who is wearing a wetsuit. In other words, someone who looks more like a seal than you do.
  3. Sing loudly upon entry of the water. Opera arias are my favourite for putting off all manner of creatures.
  4. Swim as close to the shore as possible. (Useless really because seals quite like shorelines.)
  5. Alternate swimming on your back (whilst worrying about swimming into a seal), and on your front (whilst worrying about a seal nibbling your toes).
  6. Try to avoid jumping and shrieking at every piece of seaweed you swim into. This can be really off-putting for other people, and you risk making seal-attractive noises.


I have to say at this point that the seal didn’t reappear to any of the five swimmers in the water that morning. He/she probably had far better things to do.