folkestone sea sauna – cold sea, warm sauna
Folkestone Sea Sauna is an initiative to set up a permanent sauna next to Folkestone Rowing Club on the coast in Sandgate. Cold water and sea swimming has boomed over the past few years, especially during the pandemic. In Scandinavian countries, the practice of cold water swimming is accompanied by a session in the hot sauna afterwards, or in between dips. This practice could become a reality with the successful campaign from the Folkestone Sea Sauna group. Peter Blach talked to Folkelife about the project.
“I am from Denmark and this is what we do, it’s part of the culture. It’s really good for your health to be immersed in cold water, and then to sit in the sauna to help warm up. This practice is good for your mental as well as physical health.
“At the moment, the closest sauna we have is in Brighton or Margate, and yet we have a huge number of people who enjoy sea swimming here in Folkestone. What we wanted was a permanent place where members could go and enjoy sauna after their swim. We’re working with the Folkestone Rowing Club, so you’ll get your membership through them. Then, once the building is up and running, hopefully by October 2022 if we’re successful with our fundraising, you’ll be able to access it with a key code. There will be space for 12 people, and, importantly, a nice place to change! It’s a bit much changing on the beach especially if it’s cold and windy!”
There’s a team of 6 people behind the project. They’ve been meeting regularly since 2018 and have had various locations in mind for the sauna. The idea is that it will be on at certain times of the day. Usually people swim in the early morning to early afternoon. The sauna will be on a timer, and unmanned. Access will be with a key code given to members signed up with Folkestone Rowing Club.
benefits of sauna
“The sea, obviously, gets very cold in the winter. When you come out from your swim it takes a while to heat up. Some people, if they’ve been in the water for too long, will shake. If there’s a sauna nearby, you can go in and that will help your body warm up quicker. You’ll also have the option of doing what people do in Scandinavia which is go back into the cold water once you’ve warmed up. You can get a rhythm going of cold, hot, cold, hot etc. That’s a lot of fun.
“Healthwise though, exposing your body to cold, such as cold water swimming or cold showers, activates the brown fat in our bodies. We have white fat – which stores energy and too much of which contributes to obesity, and brown fat which breaks down blood sugars and helps maintain body temperature. So going for a cold swim will activate the brown fat, then having a sauna will help you warm up, going back in again is going to activate the brown fat.”
“The cold water swim/hot sauna pattern also helps boost your circulation. There are a lot of our regular sea swimmers who have definitely felt the health benefits from regularly swimming here. And swimming, whether in hot or cold water, isn’t stressful on your joints, so it’s a good exercise for many different people.”
The campaign for raising funds for the Sea Sauna is running until 18th July. If there is enough financial support, the campaign, which is based on SpaceHive is eligible for potentially 50% of match funding. “The more activity and funding we’ve raised in the first few weeks, the more likely it is that we will reach this goal.
“Sauna is definitely a cultural thing. There’s a lot of it in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Germany but not so much here. It’s strange as we’ve got a huge coastline, so it makes sense to have sauna nearby so you can get the benefits after your sea swim. The culture is growing though. And to have a place where you can get warmer quicker, especially in the winter, and a sheltered place to change, is certainly a good thing.”