The thing about wild swimming is that if you love it, it gets addictive. That first swim is exhilarating, you leave the water wanting more. Days later, you’re back. Staying in for longer. Safely pushing the boundaries and getting to know your body. How you cope with the cold, whether you’ll suffer from after drop. Soon, you realise that being in the water is all-consuming. You can’t think of anything else while you’re in there. No phones or technology to distract you. Just you and the water. The feeling after a swim is like nothing else. You feel refreshed, awake and alive.
Exploring the waterways of the UK
After those first few swims, just getting in the water is no longer enough. You read about it, seek out like-minded swimmers. Holidays revolve around it. Finding a local swim group or searching for a new spot on the wild swim map. Some get into events. Races or social gatherings. After just over a year of swimming, I’m realising that it’s time to explore new places.
My starting point will be local. There are swim spots within an hour of home that I’ve never discovered, and it’s about time I did. I’ve joined local wild swimming groups and agreed with friends that we’ll try somewhere new once a month. Anywhere that can be reached within the school day is fair game. I’ve already managed a swim in the Thames near Oxford between school runs.
Next, I need to make the most of the travelling I’m already doing. I’ve started searching for wild swimming groups local to anywhere we’re on holiday. I managed two sea swims in Cornwall and I plan to be in the lake or sea every day when we go away next month. The day before the London Marathon, I swam in Hampstead Ponds which was an incredible experience. It gave me a whole different perspective on the city. Next time I have some free time in London, I’m going to make the trip down to Brighton for a sea swim. I’ve never been there and they’ve got the oldest swimming club in the UK. Better still, you can get the train from East Croydon to Brighton in under an hour.
Whilst I’m not swimming competitively at the moment, ice swimming races do appeal to me. Ice swimmers are a special breed. The sort of people who embrace a challenge. Push their bodies to the limits in cold water, then spend an hour trying to get warm afterwards. To appreciate this sort of swimming, you have to live it. It’s not safe to chuck yourself into freezing cold water without acclimatising. That’s why, instead of discouraging swimming, the sign at Hampstead Ponds suggests swimming a couple of times a week all year round. Watching the recent documentary about the ponds made me happy to see the number of people who heed that advice.
So, the next challenge I’m considering is the Winter Swimming World Championships in Lake Bled. I wouldn’t be there to knock out a fantastic time. I probably wouldn’t even do one of the longest events, so if I went, it’s entirely possible I’d go all the way to Slovenia to be in the water for a few minutes. But somehow, I think it would be worth it. People complain that making friends as an adult is more difficult than it was as a child. I’m not sure I agree. It never takes me long these days to decide whether someone is my sort of person or not. If I go to an ice swimming championships though, it will be a no-brainer. Those are my sort of people.