Wild swimming milestone

Published at September 10, 2023

About a year and a half ago one of my friends and I started swimming every week in an attempt to learn how to do it properly. At the time I could just about swim a single length of a pool doing front-crawl, but would be completely out-of-breath when I reached the other side.

I seemingly didn’t progress at all for months, despite watching lots of videos and feeling like I understood what to do. One day a random guy in the pool told me my legs were bent and I should hardly be kicking at all, and also to “scoop” more with my arms. Upon focusing more on using my legs less (very zen), rather than kicking harder, gliding, my swimming improved over the next few weeks exponentially. Since then it has gone back and forth until now I feel as though I can jump in the pool and swim quite happily even after taking a length of time off.

But even when I was first learning, I’d take the occasional “dip” outdoors, but never swim properly. That is, until earlier this year. The idea slowly emerged that I would swim a whole lap of a local reservoir, going the entire way around. I realised I had become strong enough at swimming to consider swimming properly outdoors, and on a warm day in June I swam down one side of a local reservoir and back. Then, the weather got worse, but the idea had been planted in my mind that going the whole way would be possible.

Yesterday evening, at the peak of a heatwave in the UK, I rolled up to the water to see some friends. I of course had to get in and have a little swim. Feeling the warmth of the water and the stillness of the evening, my friends watched as I set off. I didn’t look back. As I started making progress, I realised today was the day. Even if I failed, so what? I would just have to walk back around the water’s edge in my boxer shorts for a bit (I’d forgotten my trunks). Resolve and commitment gathered in my mind, and I breast-stroked and front-crawled my way around, arriving back to my friends around 40 minutes later, the ~1.3km swim complete. At one point, I briefly became beached, as I had veered off-course while front-crawling. Except that minor mishap, it was a successful swim and felt grand to have completed a goal that had sat in my mind for so long.

reservoir. Redmires reservoir at sunset.