Coasteering (Aug 2021)
If you consider yourself to be a sensory seeker, then coasteering is definitely the activity for you.
I am personally more of a sensory avoider, so when my brother said that we would be going coasteering together on the first day of our family holiday, I must admit that I was less than delighted. However, as someone hoping to encourage more autistic people to get active, get outdoors and get adventurous, I could hardly back down from the challenge. That’s how I came to be stood at the top of a rock the size of a two storey house, looking down into the ocean waves below and preparing myself to jump.
We were led by an able team of two, Mark and Zac from Tenby Coasteering, who I found to be attentive and considerate guides. Before setting off they provided us with wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets; this kit all needed to fit snugly for our safety, which meant my body was under compression for the duration of the activity. It’s also important to know that, whilst the kit you wear will have been thoroughly cleaned, traces of sand and salt will remain and these can feel quite irritating to the skin at first.
The time we spent coasteering was divided between jumping from rocks, swimming in the ocean, exploring caves and scrambling along the cliffside. Mark and Zac were prepared with a Plan B for every aspect of the route and explained this to our group before we began. I therefore felt confident to try things that were beyond my comfort zone, knowing that if something became too overwhelming, I wouldn’t be stranded!
Indeed, whilst I felt physically capable of completing the activity, I soon became tired due to the intense sensory inputs that came with being in and around the ocean. The smell and taste of salt invaded my nose and mouth, the barnacles clothing the rocks scratched at my skin, the sunlight glared upon the surface of the water and the waves pounded against my ears. As we reached the end of the route, I knew my energy levels were depleting rapidly and began to panic that I wouldn’t make it back to the shore.
Cue a heroic rescue from my brother, who towed me to the nearest ledge and held us there by one arm, the other wrapped around me, until our guides could reach us. Mark and Zac helped me to calm down and even towed me back to the place where we would end our coasteering adventure to reunite with dry land.
Walking back to the car, I was so proud of myself for taking the leap and trying an activity beyond my comfort zone. I also want to say, for the avoidance of any doubt, that I was in no way embarrassed by what happened towards the end of our route either. Teenage me wouldn’t have even had a go for fear of not being good enough or struggling more than anyone else. Thank goodness my attitude has changed! Now I can look a challenge in the eye, knowing it might get the better of me, and say “bring it on” anyway.