Women of every shape, size and identity are wild swimming. They are getting outside, throwing off their clothes and plunging into cold water, saying ‘hey I can do this!’
This time last year I was thinking that it was probably too cold to even think about getting in the sea. This year daily sea swimming is a part of my everyday existence. On the rare days that we’ve not been able to swim, Karen and I have both agreed that we feel incomplete without it. The rush of the endorphins may be from the cold saltiness or they may be from the laughter and friendship shared, but which ever it is swimming makes us feel good.
One of the extraordinary and rather wonderful aspects of swimming each day is meeting the array of other women – those just arriving to go in the water, those just coming out or those who stop to chat briefly at a sensible social distance about wanting to go in. Only today on a gloriously sunny morning with clear, flat glistening water we were leaving when we met a new swimmer who was planning to take her first plunge. She had arranged to meet up with another woman swimmer who had reached out to her request on the local open water swimming Facebook page. Two women who don’t know each other agreeing to share a swim. Two women coming together without any complications or expectations, just a supportive gesture by one woman to stand by another woman who wants to give something a go.
It is very noticeable how many unexpected conversations we have had across the year with other women initiated by our swimming. Now I accept it might be that they ultimately want to ask why on earth we’re wearing bright orange flowery hats? (It started as a useful joke combining warmth in cold water alongside visibility in the sea in case you were wondering and has very much stuck!) But in reality it is the desire, especially amongst women, to share their experiences.
Most conversations begin with the “why?” (started as a dare but now almost a year of daily swimming it seems to have gone further than that), “how often?” (every day, yes even Christmas Day… actually especially Christmas Day) “you’re very brave!” (probably more like very daft to be fair). But then all too often this random collection of interacting women who are strangers to one another start chatting and with 2m distances and more….we discuss body confidence. I’ve never been in a situation before where the subject has come up so frequently and with such ease. It’s as though standing on the shores of a vast open water allows the flow of conversation to open up with the seascape. I find myself verbalising thoughts that are usually only discussed with the closest of friends, yet here on a beach they seem to be shared with an openness and honesty with women whom I barely, if at all know. Maybe it’s the vulnerability of standing in a swimsuit drying off your arms and legs that allows the freedom of discussion. There’s little way of hiding physically so we might as well be open in our words too?
For whatever reason women feel encouraged to be so open with one another in this way at the water’s edge I’m not sure but it is enormously welcomed. Karen’s illustration above has captured the sense of variety and togetherness – we are all different and we are all amazing. The camaraderie across women swimmers and aspiring swimmers is genuinely wonderful and hopefully sparks new support networks, friendships and female positivity. And so especially today, let’s reach out to other women with encouragement and care whether they’re on the beach or not. We are stronger together even if we’re doing something daft!
Happy International Women’s Day.