For those of us frozen in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, bundled deep in wool these days, dreaming of summer helps, a little.
Here are some lovely videos of Kate Rew, recently named one of Monocle’s worldwide heroes, as founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, based in London and author of Wild Swimming, 150 Hidden Dips in the Lakes, Rivers and Waterfalls of Britain.
You must get in with intention — that’s the important thing with outdoor swimming. Don’t just stand there dipping your toes in, wondering if it’s warm enough, because if it’s in Britain, chances are it won’t be. Then, once you’re in, exhale. In 90 seconds’ time you will find your circulation’s kicked in, your skin will be nice and tingly, you’ll be charged up. Getting in is always worth it.
Breaststroke is the best stroke, because you actually want to see around you and look at the clouds. But I do love crawl. Physically it’s a beautiful motion, because you are all stretched out and you’ve got water streaming all the way down the sides of your body. I’m not so much of an exhibitionist that I’m desperate to go skinny-dipping — although obviously it can have its place — and I feel quite restricted in a one-piece, so I wear a bikini.
Swimming has returned me to a lot of the joy I used to have in my childhood. I had a fairly feral childhood in some ways, running around on a farm, and that sense of freedom is hard to duplicate. Swimming is the only thing that makes me feel really calm and liberated at the same time. I am someone who tends to feel things very intensely, so although the joys of life are readily available, its pains are too — and swimming somehow helps reset the body clock to some sort of base level.
As someone who grew up swimming in Lake Ontario — sometimes so cold my feet would cramp — and the clear waters of Northern Ontario lakes, I miss outdoor swimming. When I lived in rural New Hampshire for 18 months, I loved swimming in nearby rivers, taking my dog with me, sunning the afternoon away on a wide, warm, flat rock.
Do you have a favorite river or lake you look forward to diving back into?