2021 may have been another difficult year, but taking to the water and finding many of the things we couldn’t obtain on land remains a comfort to swimmers. I love reading the reasons why you swim and the joy it brings you, as well as all the things it allows you to leave behind.
Thank you to everyone who’s shared their swims of the year with me. Here’s to another 12 months of dipping, splashing, achieving goals and establishing swim communities. Happy 2022 – I hope it’s a wet one.
Tessa’s swim in a big landscape
We hiked up the ridge of the Carmarthenshire Fans, in the remotest part of the Brecon Beacons, through swirling mist and glimpses of sunshine and looked down on the dark water of Llyn Fan Fach far below. We descended the steep escarpment and I scoped out the safest place, mindful of currents and staying in my depth. Looking up at the magnificent views around me made me feel very small indeed. It was truly memorable.
Tessa can be found on Instagram as @tessa_stuart
Geri’s first time breaking the ice to swim
My swim of the year was on February 10th, shared with my lockdown exercise swim buddy. It wasn’t a long one, and possibly about two minutes too long judging by how I felt later. But it was special because of the extraordinary beauty of the sunrise on the lake that morning and because it’s the first time I’ve ever had to break the ice to get in.
We both felt exhilarated post swim, partly by the ridiculousness of what we had done, but also because of what we had achieved, and came out high on endorphins. A memory to savour.
Follow Geri as @briggsg37 on Twitter
Mary finds a connection in the cold
Some days are just about awe and this was one of them. Easter Sunday; a full tide; a crisp, clear morning; and sunrise at a civilised hour. There were a few more folk on the beach to see the sun come up on a day of symbolism for so many. But regardless of your beliefs, there is something about seeing in a new day that is good for the soul.
This is my church and my particular Sunday service; a place where I feel closer to something bigger than myself. My congregation who feel the connection in the cold, and who share coffee and chocolate eggs on the slipway. This was without doubt my swim of the year.
Check out Mary as @wellderness on Instagram
Sara focuses on the positives in the water
I’ve always been a swimmer, a regular user of the local leisure centre and indoor heated pool. When Covid hit the lidos, sea and lakes opened up before the leisure centres did and I discovered the wonderful world of cold water and wild swimming. Being immersed in the water in nature has been healing for me. My son died in 2019 when he heartbreakingly took his own life.
This loss has changed me and the swimming has given me peace, a purpose and a positive to focus on. The cold water on my skin reminds me I am alive, I am here feeling these things and the water feeds my spirit. My soul resides in the freedom of our wild waters. My newly discovered favourite spots are Beckenham Place Park Lake and Minnis Bay in Kent, as well as Charlton Lido.
Discover Sara’s posts at @be.involved.live.life4billy on Instagram
Helen’s poem inspired by the song of the sea
July 26th, Wales
I paused at waters reach
And the blessing of sea
My bones knowing the time of sand
And skin touching the sky
As the sounds of ocean enveloped me
I smelt water rising as I stepped into her reach
The tide strong, pulling at my balance
The water was thick, dense, strong
Her surface alive, boiling, moving with a strange viscosity.
An excitement like fear came to me
Like an old friend returning with new stories
As she settled my feet on the ocean bed she beckoned me forward.
Each step took me into the darker water
Slowly, bewildered, I let go of the shore
Trusting the song of the sea
Breathing and burning wildly around me
Her strong current clinging to my body in the dawning of this moment
Realising the architecture of this vision
Of the viscosity of shoals of mackerel
Like an ancient slick
Now living deeply in my skin
Read more of Helen’s poetry, as she posts as @artallotment on Instagram
Em sees the snow and changes her plans
I had planned to head to the pool and swim lengths on this particular day, but when I opened the blind in my bedroom that morning the whole world was white. Being the first snowy day of the season, I knew I had to get in the sea. Crunching across the beach and swimming with the snowy hills in the background is always magical and a reminder of the simple beauty of nature.
Feature image by Mary Walsh