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Competition: Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui

We have five copies of a beautiful new book by Bonnie Tsui to give away. In Why We Swim, Bonnie takes us through her own relationship to swimming and around the globe in a remarkable, all-encompassing account of this watery world.

Below is an extract from the book.

For your chance to win your own copy send us a photo of you – and any obliging swim buddies – with your Swim Feral Turtleback or Terrapin bag. Creative uses welcome! 

 – Email your photo to with the subject 'Competition'
 – The top five photo entries will be picked as winners
 – One official entry per person (but you can send a series of photos if you prefer)
 – By sharing your photo(s) with us you agree for the photo to be used on our website and social media channels. 
 – Deadline: Wednesday 18th August 


Why We Swim
Bonnie Tsui 

Why do I swim? I said that I was a character in my book.

But maybe it’s the opposite: swimming has always played a central role in my life—constant but mercurial, a shape-shifter.

I have written about survival, well-being, community, competition, and flow as separate streams of reasoning. But in truth, they all run together. A swim can take different forms, different moods, and different functions, depending on the time of day, the time of year, the time of life. It can cast light, or filter it, or block it altogether. It can be energizing or enervating. It can pull me to a place of comfort or push me to a place of fear. It can remind me, through ritual, or help me forget, through flow.

Swimming helps me to slow down, and to speed up. I have practiced enough to know how to be calm, and how to generate controlled fury. I can forget myself in a bathtub-warm lake or, in a steam-wisped Icelandic lagoon, be so exquisitely present that every glint and glimmer is seared into my brain forever.

Here is the writer Rebecca Solnit on the color blue: it is, bewitchingly, “the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not.” There is a seductiveness to water. From afar, it gleams and glistens, a shiny liquid jewel. It is inviting.

It swirls, fans, and coalesces, embracing you. It holds you and yet cannot be held by you. When we immerse ourselves, something is awakened. It is as if eyesight has been turned on, or hearing. It is a vital new sense discovered. When I was a teenage lifeguard, I once saved a little girl from drowning.

Those eyes, underwater, big as dinner plates. As I towed her to the side of the diving tank, the tensed muscles of her body made her feel remarkably heavy for such a small, skinny child. She got out of the pool and promptly burst into tears.

When her brothers and sisters ran over, they exclaimed that she didn’t know how to swim. “Why did you jump in if you don’t know how to swim?” I asked her, gently. Her only answer was more tears.

As the girl’s siblings bundled her away in a towel and comforted her, an old awareness surfaced in me, recalling myself on that long-ago day at Jones Beach. Drowning is quiet and quick. Someone might notice—or no one might. It strikes me now that we responders are moved to ask, Why? Why jump in if you can’t swim? Why endanger yourself so illogically?

The little girl couldn’t explain it, just as I couldn’t put into words what I felt when I was her age, tumbling in the surf.

But I know the answer now.

Blue: the color of where you are not.


This is an excerpt from Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui

Published by Rider in Paperback, £9.99




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