I spent a whole year travelling around Scotland meeting amazing outdoor swimmers in all weathers and temperatures. I'm a keen outdoor swimmer myself, and also a photographer and decided to do this personal project. In order to get to know my subjects, I also swam with them, and usually, photographed them from the water to get a good angle.
Everyone I met had a wonderful story to tell, and most come to the water for some sort of healing, they told me stories of grief, depression, anxiety, PTSD, body confidence issues, chronic pain and more and how the water helps so much with these issues. My friend Vicky and I collated these stories and along with input and advice from experts, we have written a book about these amazing people.
We smashed the ice with a sledgehammer on a lochan in the Cairngorms and swam in the hole we created, jumped into waterfalls in Skye and discovered healing pools used for centuries in old Scots folklore. We swam at sunset, sunrise, jumped enormous waves, skinny-dipped, swam in the dark at midwinter, dunked in 40 metre deep quarries, swam all through Christmas, with wild seals & dolphins and met hundreds of amazing people.
Photographing people in the water whilst in the water myself proved to be the biggest challenge. Particularly when the air and water temperature are below zero. I had to work very quickly to get portraits before my hands froze (hard to wear gloves and operate on manual settings) and as I don't wear a wetsuit myself I had to also take into account my body temperature. Sometimes I didn't quite get the shot I wanted as I only had a few seconds to set it up and take it, but it was a great technical challenge, and I do love a challenge!
Our book "Taking The Plunge; The Healing Power of Wild Swimming for Mind, Body & Soul" by Anna Deacon & Vicky Allan is out on November 7th.
More info: Instagram
Uath Lochans, Sledgehammering A Hole
We Call This Shot A** Rock (Normally Bass Rock)
Husband And Wife Swim Team
Chris, 59, Web Developer: "Wild swimming brings me back into connection with myself, the natural world and the people I swim with. I feel joyful and alive!" Jane, 54, Community musician/wellbeing practitioner: "Wild swimming wakes me up and makes me feel truly alive and in the present moment. It connects me to the natural world, the ever-changing seasons and the phases of the moon It provides me with a wonderful group of fun-loving friends to explore various lochs, seas and rivers with. It helps me feel at ease in my body It has inspired me to write and to get engrossed in the design of vintage knitted swim suits."
Loch Morlich, Cairngorms
40 Swimmers Skinny Dip In The Firth Of Forth
Vari, 46, Hotel Subject Matter Expert And Ember, 3, Labrador And Salty Sea Dog
“I have always loved to swim in the sea and lochs. Having a wet suit and joining the wild ones at Wardie Bay has just made it more accessible.
It is my absolutely favourite thing to do. I love the tingling sensation of cold skin, and the way that the sand almost feels like a heated blanket when you walk back to shore. I love that most people think wild swimming is somewhat crazy.
I’ve had amazing swims off Harris and in Loch Ewe where the visibility is amazing and the seaweed and sea life are beautiful. But my favourite was in Applecross on a sunny October day. The family and I had walked over a headland to a white sand beach. It was so beautiful that I couldn’t help myself. My three children, our dog and a nosy seal decided to join me. It was idyllic. We had to run around in our underwear afterwards trying to dry off as we hadn’t bought towels or swimming costumes."
Sunrise On The Crest Of A Wave
Ali, 39, Finance Lawyer
“I have been swimming outdoors for as long as I remember as I grew up swimming in Scottish lochs and rivers in Dumfries & Galloway, then in the lakes of the Lake District with my father, who showed us the secret swimming places he used to go to as a boy when he was growing up around Carlisle in the 1940s. My junior school also had an outdoor (unheated!) swimming pool fed by loch water from the hills above so I always associate cold water swimming with those idyllic summer days. As an adult, I have often stripped off and jumped in rivers and lochs on hot days while hillwalking. Wild swimming in urban environments, and in winter, is something I had never considered but I was inspired to try it last year by Anna Deacon’s boundless enthusiasm and beautiful photos and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It has opened the door to me doing it all year round, and close to home, and that has been a revelation for me.
It clears my body and mind, and leaves me buzzing. Often this is a combination of the cold water and the company if doing a group swim, but I feel exhilarated and refreshed afterwards. I’m also very familiar with the physiological benefits of cold water immersion from a sports perspective, having played Touch Rugby for Scotland during the past decade, with post-match ice baths being a critical part of our daily schedule at multi-day tournaments to aid recovery, wherever we are in the world and regardless of the air temperature”
Melissa, 45, Marketing Manager
“I loved swimming in rivers and lochs as a child but always in the summer. It was reading ‘Leap In’ by Alexandra Heminsley that encouraged me to give it a go again. I discovered a group of friends who were swimming regularly at Portobello. The beach is less than 5 minutes from my house, so I had no excuse not to get involved. I like to push beyond my comfort zone, especially as I get older. I guess I’m determined not to slip in to comfortable middle age. I love the jolt of the cold water and how cleansing it feels, for mind and body. I’m always invigorated after a swim and of course the friendship and laughs with fellow swimmers is a big part of it, especially on days when you just don’t feel like it.
My best swim might just have been the swim when these photos were taken. The sunrise was astonishing and I felt so lucky to be there, in that moment.”
The Wild Ones Of Portobello
Sunrise On Yellowcraigs Beach
Diving In Skye
The Old Man Of Storr On Skye
Anna, 39, Marketing And Events At Tribe Porty
“I wouldn’t have stuck my toes into the sea until 3 years ago. I had just got back from a trip to the other side of the world, all inspired, and intended to live with the daily mantra “Do something every day that scares you.” My friend Zuzana inspired me at the time with her sea swimming and she took me for a swim in Portobello for a birthday treat, in September. I was immediately hooked and swam every day that first winter, always inviting new swimmers to come along with me.
Wild swimming is like meditation for me. I am not a person to sit still for a meditation. Sitting in an office chair most days I need movement. Going into the sea lets me forget all worries, fears and anxieties that I might encounter in body and mind, during the day. I makes me forget the time, it focusses me on myself, my breath, my human being. I feel humbled by the sea, and come out on top of the world, refocused, clear in mind, and pink in body. I have never done drugs, but imagine it’s better than any class A drug.
I take new people into the sea regularly, and tell them that we are so much stronger than we think. Our body craves extreme conditions. Humanity was born with bodies made to fight the elements, and to deal with hot and cold weathers. We all need to expose ourselves more to nature and the elements. It’s good for us in so many different ways. I also never regret swims. I am not a good swimmer: sea swimming is not about exercise to me. It’s about slowing down”
Gabriella, 30, Journalist And Author Of "The Art Of Coorie"
“I swam as a teenager but not too regularly until a few years ago. Lots of things went really badly wrong all at the same time in my personal life and I was looking for a way to manage my stress. Before that I was floating along, sort of directionless, and taking up swimming anchored me to something solid. It gave me a code to live by- one that forced me to take better care of myself.
I like the shock of the cold water and the way it reboots my brain. The colder and wilder the sea is, the better. It seems to flood me with feel-good chemicals and I love the ceremony of disrobing, jumping in and focusing on pushing forward in the water.
The social aspect also lays a part - finding a new spot with my friends and psyching ourselves up to jump on. It’s taught me lessons about what my body can cope with and how to watch out for the warning signs.
My favourite swim was with my cousin Harry, we swam off Harris last January. We kept getting knocked down by the force of the waves in waist height water. I’ve never experienced the raw power of nature like that. If you have the right kit on it’s warmer than the shore! It’s impossible to come out of the sea without a smile on your face.”
Pick Axeing A Hole To Swim In, Gladhouse
Ice As Thin As Glass
Handstands At Golden Hour
Sunrise In Front Of Bass Rock
Cathy, 55, Self-Employed
“When I'm wild swimming, I feel at one with the water. It's where I belong, and am at my happiest. I often think I was a dolphin in a former life!! Whether for a quick dip or a long swim, I always emerge from the water a better person. Any negative thoughts that may have found there way into my head are left behind. I am re energised and more 'alive' than I could think possible. (Unless I've stayed in a bit too long.....easy to do)! I've also met many people through open water swimming.”
Snow Swimming In Loch Morlich
Nic, 37, Lawyer
“After a gruelling year at work I was starting to feel like I’d lost all my strength. Emotionally, mentally and physically. Anxiety was taking over and my spark had gone. I’ve watched some people very close to me burn out but for some reason I failed to recognise it was happening to me too.
Inspired by my wonderful pal Anna, I was ready to take on a new challenge that was for me.
Wild swimming makes me feel alive!!!! It’s euphoric. After a few goes last year I’m a relative newbie to wild swimming, but I’m utterly hooked. I struggle to meditate or approach mindfulness in the more traditional ways. The single focus as you enter the water, feel your body react and your mind set free..... that does work for me. The incredibly welcoming group of like-minded people has been so positive.
This whole process has reminded me that our minds and bodies are stronger than we give them credit for”
Elizabeth, 47, Artist
“I have always loved the water and have amazing childhood memories of swimming in our local rivers in Newtonmore where I grew up..even with ice along the edges! I suffer from a muscle condition that very often leaves me feeling fatigued and in pain. When I am in the cold water all of that disappears and I feel strong and completely alive. It’s like the illness falls off me and I become my old self again. Feeling the immense power and natural force of the ocean is incredible. Your viewpoint changes - bringing you quite literally down to sea level and giving you a refreshing and wonderful perspective on the world. I love the colour of the water through blurry eyes as you swim through the waves and having terns and gulls flying right overhead. You become part of the environment - not just a bystander.”
Rosie, 24, Climate Change Engagement
“Since deciding to not wear a wetsuit (which has only been 3 swims so far!), I’ve just found it totally absorbing in such a different way than before. It’s hard to explain the feeling in words, but it’s maybe something about the fact that you’re fully submerged, with no barriers between you and the landscape and environment. There is something incredibly free about the feeling. When you add the coldness into that it takes it to a level where you don’t think about anything because you are so ‘in’ that experience. Everything becomes so simple and natural - it’s like all thoughts just turn off and the movement through the water just happens, you become part of something innate and bigger. I don’t even think about what I’m doing, how far I should swim, if I should do front crawl or go back- it just happens- it’s like your movements are being led by something deeper than the constant stream of conscious thoughts that normally happens, it just happens.
I remember one really bad week this year where I just felt awful and a few rough things had happened and I just wanted to cry and couldn’t get out of that mindset. I decided to go for a swim and as soon as I was in the water it was as if it just lifted. I couldn’t believe the difference it made, it was as if everything had just evaporated, and I was just swimming around smiling, feeling amazed. It was like a physical weight had just disappeared from my head and chest. It has the power to just put everything in hold and let everything ‘breathe’ while you are in there. I find it impossible not to have a huge cheesy grin for the whole time while swimming!”
Sunset Swim At Joppa
Max, 30, Research Scientist In Coastal Physical Oceanography And Modelling At The Scottish Association For Marine Science
“I grew up on the coast and was in and on the water daily – swimming, sailing, windsurfing and surfing. I moved away from the coast during my university studies and started going to swimming pools, but it was not the same; I found it a real effort to count laps back and forth. I discovered outdoor swimming lakes during the summer and then found one outside London that stayed open all winter and just started going every week. Now we live on the Scottish west coast I am back swimming in the sea most days.
It is time in my own head, there is very little noise underwater to distract you. I can concentrate on the weight of the water on my hands and forearms, not rushing and loosing grip, how the water feels as I rotate and glide through it and on doing it better next stroke – like a very satisfying optimisation process, trying to be most efficient. In open water you also have currents and waves that change your stroke and swimming on the Scottish west coast provides plenty of opportunities to explore, both above and below the crystal-clear water. These can be rocky headlands, sandy beaches or castles to circumnavigate.
Open water swimming is very accessible, whether you want to wade in to your waist, float around admiring the view and having a natter, or want to swim competitively. There are members of our local group that span the whole spectrum and the community is fantastic.
The most important thing, however, is safety. Understand the waters you are swimming, including tides, currents, temperature and depth. Find a local group to show you where is safe to swim, avoid swimming alone and not at a new location. I try to check out a location at low tide before I swim there to see how the bed shelves off, where the shallows are and if there are any submerged hazards. Start small and gradually build up; it is fine for the goal of a first swim to be just getting into the water. Wetsuits can be a great aid for getting started; they keep you warm and help you float. Finally, always assess the conditions and risks relative to your ability – what might be safe for one person may not be safe for another.”
Mother And Daughter Team
Sandra, 47, Physiotherapist.
Sandra brought her daughter along while she swam. and I was struck by how amazing this must be for her daughter to watch her Mum swim in the freezing sea when all around are wearing hats and warm coats. We must continue to show our daughters our strength and be positive role models for them. “Wild swimming makes me feel amazing, feel alive. It is a bit like being in the mountains, peace and tranquility, especially when there are big waves, wind. Reconnected with and closer to nature.
My favourite swims are on Harris, early morning before getting the family up for the ferry, 6am, no one on the beach or in the sea. Sunrise has already happened (it doesn’t really get dark in the summer at all) but still fresh, amazing light and white shell beaches”
Matthew, 39, Outdoor Swimming Guide, Sculptor/Artist
“Cold water swimming for me is just a recharge, or emptying of my head. It’s always a massive sense of achievement, the colder the better, the worse the weather the better. If it’s a five hour hike and climb then the swim adds to the achievement. I just have to outdo myself.
My most memorable swim would be Corrie na Grunda, it’s a four-hour hike/scramble. I went on my own in deep snow and should have turned back a few times. I made a hole in the five inch thick ice, got in and realised where I was and that I was on my own. Told myself off, had a bit of a panic, got out of the water and got myself back together. I then got back in. It’s the closest I have come to backing away from an ice swim. My favourite place in the world to swim and I go back time after time is a pool at the north end of Loch Coruisk."
Michelle, 40, Research Data & Information Officer
"Wild swimming gives me a feeling of absolute freedom. When in the water in a new location I feel really connected to the land, so it’s amazing to visit new places as I feel as though I can really experience them so much better. There are so many reasons that people have for not swimming such as fear, embarrassment of their bodies, worries about swimming ability etc and I had all of them at the start. Once you get over the biggest hurdle of getting along to a swim, you realise that nobody cares what you look like or what you can do. People are generally supportive and you start at your own level, when you start to progress, it feels amazing. Just do it, you will never regret it."
Sarah, 43, Psychotherapist
“It’s part of my own personal therapy. At the very least, it’s a mental challenge to overcome, and at it’s best it’s a wonderful form of mindfulness. It can bring you back into yourself.
There is also more information around about the impacts of cold water on inflammation and the vagus nerve, both of which have an impact on physical and mental health. I find that fascinating, as I have always had a strong sense that mental and physical health are incredibly connected.”
Andie, 35, Copywriter And Start-Up Consultant
“I love how getting into the cold water melts away my issues. I’ve been dealing with a bunch of physical health hassles that have become chronic, which frustrates and worries me on a daily basis. And about two years ago, I developed anxiety. I have ADHD and am well-adjusted, but the anxiety caught me unawares and I still don’t know how to deal with it well. Wild swimming helps with that. It’s like I’m shedding all my stress, anxiety and bodily aches the moment I walk into the ocean. I think the acute survival mode that comes with the cold water quiets my constantly running brain. And the exhilaration of it all gives me a nice dose of endorphins to boot. It’s a temporary relief from feeling broken and, fortunately, it always lasts a while after a swim.”
The Wonderful Women Of The Cairngorm Wild Swimmers Club
Calum Maclean, 30, Film-Maker, Broadcaster
“I’ve been swimming since I was young but it became more of a passion and hobby about 10 years ago when I discovered how it always helped put a spring back in my step, and then my natural curiosity for adventure has led me to continue and seek out more swimming. It lifts my mood, fulfils my needs to push my own boundaries and for adventure and fuels my mind to think creatively. My best swim was in Summer 2018, Loch A’an in the Cairngorms. I ran over the mountains, starting about 6.30 and the sun was already out, a beautifully warm day. I’d planned to visit the snow caves high above the loch, with half a mind to drop down and swim if I had time. By the time I reached the loch, I was desperate for a swim. The water is always very cold, but also crystal clear – giving an almost blue tinge when viewed from above, and inside the water. The SW end of the loch has beautiful beaches from which the water drops away into a blue haze. I’d travelled light, with only some spare layers and a small towel but the sun warmed me almost immediately after getting out of the water. I’d forgotten what a magical place it was, and the combination of running, being in the mountains and swimming lent itself to the most fantastic rush of endorphins: this is why I do it!
The loch sits at the head of a long glen, hemmed in on both sides by incredible mountains and rocks and is certainly worth the effort of reaching. All this all set me up perfectly for the full day of work I had ahead of me”
Calum’s top tips for someone new to outdoor swimming - “Do it! If nervous, go and try it with some experienced swimmers first of all – don’t be shy in asking local groups as they will almost always help you out with suggestions. Find somewhere that you can get in and out easily and warm up quickly. Start in summer, then keep at it and you’ll find that winter is not such a big deal”
Jacky, 48, Retired - Former Occupational Therapist
"I was seeking to find something to find me. Cold water swimming has given me something, and a community. It gives me peace, it gives me confidence and serenity. It gives me “me”. We have our fears, and some seem insurmountable, but with like minded people we can overcome. I’m still scared of deep water, dark water, weedy things.... but with my swim pals, I love it!" Jacky is a huge inspiration to us, we met at Loch Lubnaig after reading about Jacky on the Outdoor Swimming Society page. She only has 2% sight, and swims with a kayak guide, or a friend. It puts into perspective any excuses any of us have for not giving it a go. Jacky makes the whole thing look ever so easy and faces everything with an absolutely gorgeous huge smile.
Stacey, 32 Director & Outdoor Guide At Wayoutside & Community Sports Hub Officer For Live Argyll
“I tried open water swimming before, but like how triathletes do it, and I hated it. I hated it more than the pool! The wetsuit felt such a burden and I felt slow and insecure around the fast, focused triathletes. I was afraid of the weeds and of putting my face in the water. Then I saw on the Facebook Adventure Queens group women swimming in the Hampstead ponds in the winter in their swim suits. I never had the imagination for such a thing! One December dawn before work I went to the pond with a friend. The water was 4degrees, I got in and instantly out again! I ordered neoprene socks and gloves that very night. I did not try wild swimming again until the following September. Since then, I have not stopped and swam every weekend.
I have suffered quite a lot from anxiety, in its most extreme I have had panic attacks and intrusive thoughts. The thoughts are in image form that appear suddenly and vividly in my mind, at times they intrude mid-dream and wake me up. My anxiety has stopped me from being able to drive and can make normal life hard. I take the anxiety for granted, that it is there and that other people do not have it or do not have it ever present. I overcompensate with over excited-ness sometimes to distract from it. I run most days and running does help, but running only muffles it. On bad days getting into cold water turns the anxiety off. When I am in the water it is quietened and my mind clears.
The high you get from getting in the water is a bit like a runner’s high, but for absolutely no work. You do not even need to swim, most of us just float about! My advice would be to start in late summer and find other swimmers to swim with. You will learn a lot from others and the community is a real positive part of outdoor swimming”
One Thing I Love And Hate About Swimming Outdoors Is The Unpredictability Of The Weather
Sunrise Swim At Portobello
Karin, 57, Housewife
“I started wild swimming after discussing it with a friend who swam outdoors. She told me of an article on TV about the health benefits.
I have suffered from severe depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia and struggled to exercise in the conventional way. I had become very socially isolated and suffered from and still do suffer from extreme social anxiety. Swimming in the cold water seems not to affect my muscles in the same way walking or running or even swimming in a heated pool. The group I swim with has no expectations of what I can or should be doing. They are the most welcoming and encouraging bunch of nutters I have ever met. I have managed to stay off antidepressants for the first time in 20 odd years and have come off most pains medication too. My GP and consultant both see wild swimming as part of my ongoing treatment and we have agreed that I should try to get in the water 3 times a week even if just for a few minutes.
My greatest achievement to date was taking part in the Starman Triathlon as the swimmer in the relay. I had NEVER done anything like this before and I wasn't even last!!!! What a buzz you get especially in temperatures like it is now (sub 5c) and the chat, cuppa and cake afterwards is always fab. Give it a go, it's not for everyone but you do get hooked very quickly”
Niko, 24, Performance Artist And A Seal Boat Tour Operator At Dunvegan Castle
"Swimming was a childhood love. I thought I was a mermaid, but then I stopped because my relationship with my body shifted, through puberty, sickness and disability, queerness and gender dysphoria. Getting back into the water has been a way of reclaiming my body. It's so empowering, knowing I am strong enough to swim outdoors. And I am never misgendered by the water. Now I've realised I'm a selkie not a mermaid; a trans selkie. Scotland has been a big part of getting me swimming again, the landscape (and the seals) called me into lochs and rivers and the sea - especially on Skye where I live now.
It makes me feel alive. It washes away anxiety and depression. It reminds me that my recovering, trans body has strength and makes me feel present in it. As a trans person, it's so easy to drift out of, or disassociate from, your body. I'm a performance maker, and my body is what I use to make my work, so I want to stay with it - swimming really helps me do that. It also makes the connectedness of my body and the ecologies of the planet feel close - particularly now that I swim with harbour seals, and much other wild life, most days in Loch Dunvegan.
Actually my best swim was probably a city swim! In a lake just outside Stockholm last summer. I was working and performing a lot at the time and feeling very far away from wild places. I was performing a piece about selkies and cities and dysphoria over there, and I stayed with a trans friend. They invited me to swim with a group of their friends. We were all young trans folk, there was five or six of us, and I remember thinking how joyful it was to think of our group of little heads bobbing around in this beautiful lake, all feeling so present and alive and not ashamed of our bodies. I wondered if anything like that would ever be possible in the UK. Now I live on Skye I have had lots of trans people to visit me, and they swim with me sometimes, or at least come to be by the water when I am swimming. I am making space for trans people to swim, that's a life project, making this space for us and making trans swimming people swimming visible, so it feels possible. It’s hard to be what you can’t see”
Huge Fun, Belly Laughs And Scraped Legs At Gladhouse
“Wild swimming makes me feel truly alive and lets me get away from ‘it all’. Between a big job and a big family and a lot of demands, it is my only thing I really do just for me. I love that it is both social and solitary – I meet new people and do something collective, but once you are in the water it is also easy to be on your own. In Edinburgh it has been a delight to go swimming with groups of people who have become friends. For many years I have studied a peace process and met leaders from Bougainville, an island in Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific. This summer I got the chance to go there and work, and in my only two hour break during a very intense two weeks of meetings felt the pull of the sea. I got some boatsmen to take me into the South Pacific where I bathed off a small island called White Island. It was the perfect ‘desert island’ of discs fame. I swam out into the ocean, as if it was a great lake. I looked back at the blue, the islands, the mountains and the clouds, and could not believe I was there, it was the stuff of fantasy. A bit warmer than Scotland or Ireland too. It was stunning, and soon families and kids joined me – all local – it is not really a place for tourism. Floating in that tranquil place with such friendly people it was hard to remember that a savage conflict killed an estimated 20 000 people over 10 years until a successful peace agreement in 2001. I wish the people of Bougainville the peace they deserve in such a beautiful place. Imagine if I could give you a pill that within 10 minutes would banish all your cares and troubles for an entire day at least and make you feel truly alive and sleep well that evening. Cold water swimming is the pill.”
Margaret, 45, Professional Photographer
“A friend who swims daily ( without a wetsuit ) persuaded me to go in the sea at Ackergill Tower in Wick about 7 years ago. It was dark as we were having a bonfire by the beach. I will never forget the feeling afterwards of coming out and warming up by the fire. Since that day, I began to discover that the cold water eased the pain of my migraines I was suffering with. They were chronic for many years so I was in continuous pain but was searching for a cure that was non-pharmecutical. I just don’t believe pills are an answer to issues like mine.
I am well again now after years of persisting with alternative treatments, mainly Ayurvedic treatment which I sought out in India. But I still need to look after myself, practise self-care, taking time out doing things that fulfil me, spend time within nature to keep stress levels in check and swimming still helps any pain I might have occasionally. Mostly I don’t swim distances, its about the experience and soaking up the incredible feeling of being immersed in water in a beautiful landscape.
My photographic work all revolves around water. I am currently working on a project shooting landscapes from the water - exploring underwater and half / half images. So the outdoor swimming skills come in very handy with this side of my work.
My best swims are always the ones where I am alone, usually at sunrise, and the loch is flat calm. I remember a particular swim where the mist was rising from the water, the water was like floating silk patterns around me and the clouds hung really low to the mountains. The stillness and quiet is overwhelmingly peaceful. Sometimes I wonder why I am the only person there, doing this amazing thing and I feel like I want to share it with others. Maybe thats part of the reason I shoot the images that I do”
Kirsten, 42, Police Officer
“I was brought up in the Cairngorms and embrace everything outdoors.
All you need to do is look at the scenery we are so blessed to have around us to realise why we wild swim, not forgetting the camaraderie, screams and shrieks of how cold it is and the cake afterwards.
I took to swimming at a challenging time in my life, words do not start to describe the rush of endorphins while swimming, it is such a calming and mindful experience, you just feel so alive.”
Sparkling Loch Swim
T Is Pretty Much Impossible To Go Cold Water Swimming Without A Massive Grin On Your Face
Portobello Beach With Seabirds
Midwinter Night Swim
Louise, 53, Office Administrator & HGV Driver
"I started on my wild swimming journey to overcome my fear of open water, I have always loved the water, the sea, and enjoyed swimming, but I was always afraid of not knowing what was in the water, how deep it was..fear can bring with it a vivid imagination.
If I had to sum up wild swimming in one word, it would be 'awareness'. You become acutely aware of yourself, the sound and feel of the water, how your body initially, and subsequently reacts to the temperature of the water. You are aware of your environment, the scenery, your surroundings.
There is of course a sense of personal achievement, that you have managed to step into the open water and swim. I find wild swimming a very personal experience, even as part of a group there will be a time during the conversation and laughter when a person has a moment of time to themselves, to put everything into perspective and simply enjoy the moment. Swimming outside in the fresh air, where the only boundaries are the ones you set yourself is a wonderful, life affirming experience, and the people who swim outside want to savour the mindfulness and serenity that experience brings.
It isn't a competition, or a fashion show, you are not expected to keep up with anyone else, whether you are in the water for 5 minutes or 5 hours, the level of respect shown by other swimmers is the same. There is also the camaraderie, the people i have met are a joy, its not a case of being a particular type of person, people from all walks of life swim, but there is an affinity, a common bond between those who swim and the overwhelming feeling I get when I swim with them is one of happiness."
“Wild Swimming makes me feel like I’m alive, like I’m living life to the fullest. Being out in the sea makes you feel connected to the environment, and enjoy every bit of sunshine or even rain and storms. The feeling of the cold on your skin, having to really pay attention to what your body is telling you, and who doesn’t love a splash in the waves!
I started swimming after my mum passed away, and although I wouldn’t say there is a direct link, I do think that if you dig deep enough everyone who is out there swimming has a story. You don’t throw yourself into freezing cold water unless there is a part of you that maybe needs a little mending.
We had an evening swim with a Super Harvest Moon and it was absolutely magical. The tide was so far out we practically walked to Fife! Had a cracking bonfire on the beach as well, and plenty of tea and biscuits. Doesn’t get any better.”
Beautiful Easter Sunday Swim
Alex, 25, PhD Student – Orthopaedic Medicine
“I’ve been in water for as long as I can remember. I swam competitively through school but fell out of love with it when I went to university – I think it was the early mornings and monotony of a pool that put me off!Last summer I decided I wanted to do a triathlon so I got my friend to take me out sea swimming with him. I fell in love instantly (with open water swimming… not him!). Anyway, the triathlon came and went… I decided the running wasn’t for me and I’d stick to cycling for transport but the swimming was too addictive so that’s the only bit I’ve kept up. It gets me out of my comfort zone! It’s also a big stress reliever. I often experience sudden bouts of anxiety and self-doubt but cold water keeps that all at bay. It’s pretty hard to think about your problems when all you can focus on is breathing and how cold your extremities are!”
Jojo, 36, Author, Podcaster And Motivational Speaker
“I love swimming outdoors, it’s much easier to be mindful and something about being in water under the sky is so calming and soothing. It makes me grateful to be alive and all the stresses of life feel a lot smaller. In terms of our mental health - sometimes it can be hard to get out of bed never-mind leave the house. Being outdoors is so good for us and often the times we lack energy and struggle is when we need it the most.
I loved being in the water today. Overall I felt really calm and it was a beautiful day which helped. I think the hardest part was the initial sting when the water hit my chest. I actually found the tingles in my legs fairly satisfying and the burning sensation reminded me of how amazing our bodies are. The burning sensation, as you kindly reminded me, was my bodies way of trying to heat me up. After the swim I felt rejuvenated and my legs have felt amazing all afternoon. The power of nature is a beautiful thing. I have people write to me to tell me that being in the cold water really helps them with depression as it’s a great distraction”
Liz, 43, Does Public Health Intelligence For The Nhs, And Is A Triathlete
“I've always loved the sea but have rarely been bold enough to swim without a wetsuit. I'm a cold water swimming newbie: I started in Nov 2018 after reading it can help with depression, and might help people come off anti-depressants. I'm certainly experiencing the short term benefits: the euphoric buzz is really addictive. I'm hooked! I'm also loving this new way to enjoy the sea - my happy place - all year round. As for the longer term benefits I'll have to wait and see. Favourite swim? I've loved them all so far! To encourage people to try it I tell them how much I love it, and say I didn't think I could do it at first. The sense of achievement is great when you realise you can do it, especially when you realise you can enjoy it too!”