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This $180 Rashguard Got Me Swimming in a New Ocean with New Friends

Taking the plunge on a new swim suit, a new brand, and a new life.

Tess Harold

At the start of this year, I made the solo move from England to Canada. It was a process I’d started back in August 2019, fresh out of a long-term relationship and looking for a reason to feel like I was moving forwards, not backwards. I'd never been to Canada before.

So I did what any very online person would do and started following Canadian accounts on Instagram.

I don't remember how I found Londre—friend of a friend of an influencer, I suppose—but I became obsessed with the Vancouver-based swimwear brand. There was something about how sexy and confident and outdoorsy the models looked, at a time when I felt none of those things. An unspoken question: Could my bum look that peachy?

Founded by best friends Ainsley Rose and Hannah Todd, its flattering suits were modelled by White women with rolls, Asian women with toned abs, Black women with dimpled thighs, and Indigenous women with flat chests. Every one of them was gorgeous. As for sustainability, its slogan "Keep your Mind Dirty + The Ocean Clean" referred to the fact that each piece was made from recycled plastic bottles.

I wanted in.

So for months before my flight, I debated which suit to buy and planned the wild swimming I'd do in it. (I've since learned that Canadians just call it...swimming.)

For a while I was set on The Minimalist, picturing hot springs and nights out with it worn under denim shorts. (In all my daydreams the swimsuit is supported by a cast of photogenic friends.) But then a new strain of Covid-19 hit and Canada banned all UK flights. Everything seemed uncertain. I held off buying the suit.

Fast forward to February and I'm finally in Vancouver, having isolated myself for 14 days per the quarantine rules. Two weeks of grey days of staring at the country through social media, its alpine lakes and spruce forests feeling even further away than they had back in London.

I was also recently jobless. There's no way I could justify spending $180 on Londre's Bond Rashguard. But I see a post of a woman with her back to the camera, purple mountains against a pink sky. She's walking into water and the caption reads: “Wearing The Bond Rashguard for cold plunges isn’t cheating – it’s called strategy.”

F it, add to cart.

The following week, when my new housemate asked if I want to dip at Kitsilano Beach, I said yes. Because I have this rashguard, you see. The cold doesn't seem so daunting.

I made friends that day. After our swim, we sat smoking on a soggy log and listen to Leon Bridges croon about that Texas sun.

Londre's Bond Rashguard in black.

When I'm far from home / And them cold winds blow

After jumping into the frigid ocean, exploring a new city didn’t seem so daunting.

Stuck out somewhere with folks I don't know /'Cause you keep me nice and you keep me warm

Finding a new job doesn't seem so daunting.

All from a swimsuit which I couldn't afford, but when worn makes me I feel like Charlie’s fourth angel. I’ve gone back to Kits for another dip, and tried the cool, clear waters at Tower Beach, too. I rebrand 'days spent applying for jobs' as 'days in which I can go for a swim'. It makes me feel better about this limbo in my life.

When I hear bad news from home, I slip into my swimsuit and drive down to Locarno Beach. The driving is a milestone, too, but swimming gives me motivation. My housemate next to me gives me courage.

Outside, it’s windier than we expected and the tide stretches out low. We find a large log near the water’s edge for shelter and peel off our clothes, stuffing them into a bag so they don’t blow away.

The silty sand feels like slime between my toes as we walk shivering into the waves. I look at downtown Vancouver glistening, the dark green of Stanley Park beyond. I realise I’ve fallen in love with this city and I don’t want to leave, not yet, not now. But if the news I got turns out to mean I have to, then at least I’ll have spent as much time as I could diving headfirst into uncharted waters.

Wanna feel you on me / Can't wait to get back there again