(soundtrack: Frank Sinatra, "New York, New York")
1. pick a good beach, broad and long and golden-sanded. Rhossili Bay in the Gower is an excellent choice.
2. go early. you'll only share the beach with the occasional surfer or dog-walker. if you've picked the right beach, there'll be enough of a gap between their comings-and-goings to allow for a leisurely stroll to the water, in just your skin.
3. bring with you in a bag the following: long underwear, a fluffy towel, a blanket, a ground sheet. A flask of hot tea wouldn't go amiss, if you have one to hand.
4. lay your ground sheet high up the beach on dry sand.
5. wait for a suitable window of opportunity, then take off your clothes.
6. stroll down the beach, relishing the wind and sun on your skin. hum along with Sinatra as you do so. bring your towel with you as close to the water as you dare (you'll want it when you get out).
7. enter the water. if it is early in the year (the beginning of May perhaps), note first the bone-chilling pain that will shoot up your legs from your suddenly unresponsive feet. repeat to yourself the mantra: "pain means I am alive, pain means I am alive".
8. continue into the water. total immersion is your goal. if it is early in the year, note how each wave that hits you knocks the breath out of you with an icy sweep.
9. duck down, allow the water to touch the top of your head in a chill blessing. your hair must be wet to carry this away with you.
10. if you have made it this far, you can now make your way out of the water. you may start to feel warm. this is deceptive. you are not warm. you are entering a state of hypothermia.
11. embrace your towel as you embrace dry land. you may feel like laughing. do so, unreservedly. you are standing naked on a beach in broad daylight and you are alive.
12. dry yourself thoroughly and put on all your clothing. do not neglect the long underwear. wrap yourself in your blanket. sit on your groundsheet. look at the ocean. try to stop shaking. this may take a while, but pay it no heed: the water is worth it.