This week’s podcast guest said some really profound things, as we giggled our way through recollections of everything that is funny about wild swimming – including trying to put your wetsuit on inside out and hopping around in car parks trying to get dressed.
The first profound thing she said was “you’ll always find a friend wild swimming.” How true is that? Both in terms of the lifelong friends we find through wild swimming, and the friends for a day we find as they emerge from the lake we are about to get into, or who stand nervously next to us at the start of a mass participation event. Those friends, be they with us for a reason, a season or a lifetime, are a gift of wild swimming.
The second profound thing Beverley said was “wild swimming saved me that year” as she reflected on the mental breakdown she had had. Both the cold water and the small group of friends, known as the Callander Coven, who had regularly accompanied her to swim in it, had acted as the most profound form of therapy. It had been an essential lifeline.
It always feels like a privilege when virtual strangers (or new instant friends as I like to think of them) share such personal experiences with me. It feels like my job, as host of the podcast to stay quiet, to leave the space for the guest to speak. And yet when we move into such emotive, personal and brave territory, staying quiet starts to feel like a small betrayal. Leaving a friend out there alone, exposed. Maybe I’m over thinking it.
We talked about books about wild swimming that explore the healing power of the cold water and the community of wild swimmers who surround us and help to keep us afloat. For Beverley, Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley really resonated. For me, I’ve Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice and The Salt Path by Raynor Winn both touched me and connected with some of my own pain and vulnerability.
Beverley is lucky enough to live in a part of the world where around 7 lochs are within a few miles drive, leaving her spoiled for choice and able to outwit the weather gods! Without really intending to, she cleverly summed up something of the magic of what is created when cold water in a beautiful setting combine with good friends – swimming into rainbows. While this actually happened to her, for me it is a glorious evocation of what wild swimming means to me, and why I do it.
Things we talked about
Aberfoyle, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Helensburgh Pier to Pier swim, Loch Ard, Three Lochs Forest Drive, Loch Venachar, Loch Lubnaig, Great Scottish Swim, Great Manchester Swim, NOWCA, Wild West swimmers, Crannogs, Loch Tay, Rabbie’s Tours, Glen Coe, Loch Leven, Ballachulish, Rhyl Suncentre, Prestatyn, Aphrodite’s pool, Swim Trek, Scottish Open Water Swimming Association, New Cumnock outdoor swimming pool