A year of wild swimming + raising money for Surfers Against Sewage
At the beginning of this year I made a commitment to myself to get in the water more. Spurred by the beautiful documentary ‘My Octopus Teacher and the photos from Laura Evans, aka the St Ives Mermaid , I was determined to face my fear of diving into the water.
Years ago as a teenager on holiday in Malta my parents paid for a scuba diving session which didn’t turn out to be the experience that I hoped for. I remember getting all kitted up and got in the water, but before I knew it I was sinking to the bottom and my ventilator was snaking uncontrollably out of my reach.
I don’t think I panicked too much - I just accepted what was happening and had faith that the instructor would come to my rescue - which he did - but I didn’t feel comfortable with the thought of diving after that. While my sister happily got her PADI certification and posted pictures underwater with stingrays - I felt that was a world that was always going to be out of reach for me.
I’ve always been pretty happy in the water though and have spent many a year surfing and enjoying life on the surface, but still there was a piece of the puzzle that was missing for me.
I loved the idea of wild swimming and knew that that would be good for me but it was when I watched the documentary ‘One breath’that it finally clicked into place for me - I didn’t need to learn how to scuba dive, I didn’t even need to try to breathe with a snorkel - I could just hold my breath.
And so that is the journey I have gone on this year, from tentatively putting my face into the water with a mask on, to diving to the bottom of the ocean and discovering sea stars and secretive fishes.
It’s hard to describe the freedom that I find in these moments - you literally enter another world and your senses are subject to something entirely new. Of course the cold is part of it, but when you swim underwater it feels as though you are flying in a dream.
There are brief moments when this doesn’t feel like an alien experience - I forget that breathing is necessary as I glide through the kelp forests and see the light transformed as it passes through the water. My body feels strong and there is nothing else other than the experience of weightless freedom.
Storms shook me out of this bliss temporarily. The bad weather also meant that the storm sewers were dumping unfiltered sewage into the ocean at the same time I was looking for calmer waters on the south coast. Pollution alerts from Surfers Against Sewage suddenly filled me with anxiety.
I learned a lot about the situation through Surfers Against Sewage who were shouting about the sewage crisis amongst other environmental concerns. Basically the water companies were happily giving shareholders billions of pounds but failing to invest in much needed repairs.
Population increase has put more stress on the Victorian Sewage system than it was ever designed for and the situation needs addressing urgently.
Thankfully there has been some positive news which means that water companies are legally obliged to address this issue, but I think that it’s really important that they are held accountable and not protected by woolly legal jargon.
I created Rockpool Dreams earlier this year when I was dreaming of getting in the water and inspired by Laura Evans dreamlike underwater photography. Laura let me use an image of hers as reference and so it seemed natural for me to offer the profits from this image to SAS. It feels as though the ocean has gifted me so much and I want to be able to do what I can to give back.
I’m not too sure what the winter will bring. I don’t know if I will be brave enough to keep getting in when the wind starts biting my hands and all I want to do is sit by the fire drinking tea.
I do know that I have been massively inspired by the local community that does swim through the winter and have made me think it might be possible!
Wish me luck! And if you like my Rockpool Dreams image then please purchase a copy and help me to support Surfers Against Sewage