Wild About Swimming
This is the time of year that sorts the fair-weather swimmers from the serious ones, and who better to introduce us to some very serious ones than damesnet contributor and cold-water swimmer Aileen Cook.
Swimming outdoors may not solve the world’s problems but the joie de vivre it brings generates a sense of personal well-being and inner strength to tackle whatever the world may throw at us. A friend of many years since our university days, commented on my sunrise swims ‘Mad as ever’, to which I replied ‘Trying my best… madness keeps me sane.’
Mad or not, I’ve found the following wild swimmers in Scotland an inspirational bunch – and obviously full of inner strength.
Anna Neubert-Wood set up Wander Woman Scotland as she is ‘keen to connect more women to nature, swim in the sea, breathe the fresh air, and let mother nature help us heal.’ She explains on her website her passion for the outdoors: hiking in beautiful places, finding wonder in nature, the joys of movement on land and in water, and inviting simplicity into life, finding stillness and calm. From her young years on the GDR side of the Berlin Wall she learned to question things, and to look at things from a different perspective. She explains that ‘Growing up in a system with little freedom and lots of political pressure and suppression, my family often took holidays in the wild, spending weeks kayaking wild rivers, nudist bathing, spending summer holidays in the mountains, sleeping in the hay of a remote farm high up in the mountains, or leaving everything behind at Christmas time to spend time in a hut in the snowy woods without electricity or running water – seeking the ultimate escape and freedom from restricted system and screwed politics in nature.’
The Wild Ones are ‘eejits who swim outdoors!’, using Facebook to arrange times and places to swim in and around Edinburgh. The Herald reporter Vicky Allan, in a New Year’s day article on wild swimming mentions one of the Wild Ones, Richard Cox, who has swum every day for a year, clocking up 418 wild swims, in 50 locations with over 100 different people. He is modest about this amazing achievement, stating simply that it was for his own fun (365 days of swimming may be a challenge too far even for the most enthusiastic of us). Other Wild Ones have opted instead for the December Challenge, swimming every day in December for charity.
Joint authors Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan of Wild Swimming Stories are exuberant and passionate about the joy of swimming. Their book Taking the Plunge: The healing power of wild swimming for mind, body and soul was released in November 2019. Over 80 swimmers turned up in full fancy dress for a swim at Portobello for their book launch – a fitting endorsement. As well as practical advice the book covers inspirational stories, which include ice-swims, such as with Alice ‘the Hammer’, queen of ice-smashing and a channel swimmer, sunrise and sunset swims, skinny-dips and beautiful photos taken by photographer Anna.