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A lot of lengths: Swimming the Swoosh

swimmer colourful illustration, gliding, full body picture, outline

Today I need to swim 200 lengths of a pool.

Hang on, you will say, no one needs to swim 200 lengths of a swimming pool. That’s your choice, surely. A mad choice, a crazy choice, but a choice nonetheless. If you are thinking this, then I concede that you may have a point.

Yes, I could sit in the sunshine instead. Or, I could do a mere 100 and call it a day. Perhaps I could say I swam 200 lengths but really just spend my time in the steam room, getting hot. But, come the 24 June, as I stand nervously in the dawn sunlight and contemplate the task ahead, I will regret not getting in that pool and grinding out those lengths. For, on the morning of Saturday the 24th, I will be taking part in the Bantham Swoosh and it will be no respecter of missed sessions and half-arsed excuses.

The Bantham what?

The Swoosh. As in, swooooooosh! That feeling you get when you are pulled along by a surge of water and spat out into the sea.

It is a 6km swimming event held annually in South Devon. Organised by the Outdoor Swimming Society, it takes swimmers down a river estuary to the sea, where a combination of the river and the tide creates a surge of water to help sling you out towards the sea. The tides mean that we will be setting off at dawn, with a second wave of swimmers going at dusk. It should be an awesome event.

It’s also a really long way.

6k ain’t all that

Not when you’re running it isn’t, or walking. Sitting in a car, you would barely have time to listen to one song. But when swimming… well, it certainly feels like a long way.

We – my wife and I – have been training for the Swoosh. You would be silly not to. If you have been following my Something Wild experiment over on instagram, or here on this blog, you will have seen several shots of beaches, waves, and the Devon coast. What you may not have appreciated is that many of my sunrise and early morning photos were taken outside the swimming pool, just before or after another of our early-morning training sessions. I feel as though I have seen my fair share of Devon sunrises over the last few months.

And this has what, exactly, to do with your art…

Outdoor swimming has been tied to my new business since the start. I left my previous job on the last day of August 2016. On the morning of Thursday 1 September – the very next day – I found myself in a cottage overlooking the Dart estuary, stuffing swimming hats into envelopes.

We had arranged to help out with the Outdoor Swimming Society’s Dart 10k event: a – yes, you’ve guessed it – 10 kilometre swim down the river Dart. This was us dipping our metaphorical toes into the world of wild swimming, and we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. The OSS team are a great bunch of people and they definitely know how to put on a good event.

Over the next four days, we erected signs, handed out registration packs, marshaled people, coordinated buses, counted people into the water, welcomed people out of the water, and – in a slightly strange turn of events – arranged a holding pen in the local pub. (It is a long story involving a pub, a lot of soggy swimmers, a torrential downpour, and a broken-down bus. The good news was, everyone ended up happy and not as wet as they could have been!)

Our enthusiasm had been well and truly whetted and we resolved to get wet and to get swimming. Buoyed by the encouragement we received from the OSS team, we started our wild swimming adventure with a view to – one day – perhaps, maybe, possibly, y’know if we felt up to it, sort of, probably joining in with one of their events.

And so… here we are.

Nature and all that

As well as sitting neatly alongside the entirety of my time as a self-employed artist and illustrator, wild swimming also chimes with a theme that runs through my work. After all, it is all about being outside and being inspired by the landscapes around us.

My art tries to be reflective of the natural world and it has certainly only been encouraged and enlivened by being out in the wilds of Devon (yes, I do mean Paignton) in search of swimming spots.

hembury woods river dart photo, sunlight through trees, atmospheric, devon
Hembury Woods – One of our favourite Dartmoor swimming spots
Ness beach devon, shaldon, teignmouth, sunshine, cliffs, sea, coast
Ness Beach – Another of our regular swimming locations

Tell me more…

The Swoosh is not our only event of the summer. We have also signed up for the Plymouth Breakwater Swim in August, where we will be dropped out at sea and challenged to swim back to shore. It is not quite as far, but feels even more terrifying!

In a bid to give something back, and to make sure we don’t wimp out, we have opened up this challenge to sponsorship. With huge thanks to the people who have supported us so far, I would like to direct you to our Just Giving page where, among other things, you will be treated to a photo of the two of us looking oh-so-sexy in our swimming hats. You have been warned!

We will also be helping out at the Bantham Swoosh, so please say hello if you see a couple of weary-looking volunteers. It might be us…

Donate with JustGiving

swimmer colourful illustration, gliding, full body picture, outline

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