Why I Swim - Liam Murphy
I grew up in the seaside town of Porthcawl and by the age of 10 had joined a local surf lifesaving club. Learning to swim and lifeguard gave me a worthwhile job as a teenager, built my confidence and pretty much made me who I am today. Now in my forties, I continue to swim and occasionally compete in surf lifesaving and triathlons.
In 2019 I was diagnosed with PTSD after an incident in my work as a paramedic. Whilst on sick leave I swam in the sea regularly and found that being in the sea and out in nature helped as much - if not more - than the counselling.
The feeling of cold water on skin is invigorating and even healing. The sea was a place to escape from the horrors of flashbacks, stress and noise — and somewhere where I didn’t need an expensive bike, wetsuit or gym membership. I could just simply be myself, swim and escape.
I found the joys of stripping off the wetsuit and skin swimming a few years earlier whilst swimming in Caswel Bay and for a while I’d had the ambition to swim to from there to Pwll Du. During counselling I talked about how swimming helped, mentioned this ambition and eventually I did it. It felt amazing to achieve this and it helped massively with my confidence and self esteem. Then I aimed bigger and started swimming up to 7km along Swansea Beach and even swimming to other beaches I’d never been to before.
It wasn’t about the fitness but more about the adventure and building on my growing confidence and my ever improving mood and well being. I didn’t care if people saw me in Speedos or what I looked like as I was my happiest here. I felt at home in the sea and being closer to nature.
After Pwll du I had a new goal to swim the 13km across Swansea Bay from Mumbles to Aberavon in Port Talbot. Eventually I did this with a friend and raised money for The Ambulance Staff Charity — the charity that helped me with my counselling. After that I continued to skin swim through the autumn and winter with some amazing people. I now have my sights set on other marathon swims that have never been attempted before.
Sadly the lockdown and COVID-19 have stopped these plans this year but sea swimming is more important now than ever before, especially with lockdown preventing decent access to swimming pools.
Now that I have returned to work as a paramedic and see the effects of this virus every day, swimming is a vital way of coping and is even more important to me My new Turtleback (a present from my wife) is a brilliant product that I take with me on every swim. It allows me to carry more clothes and get changed and warmed up faster and closer to the waters edge. I also now have time to sit and take in the scenery instead of running back to the car.
Our Why I Swim project aims to give voice to our untold swim stories and strengthen our fantastic community. If you would like to share your story, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are new to outdoor swimming and feel inspired to give it a go, please ensure you do so safely.
We would strongly advise trying out your first swim with an experienced cold water swimmer until you are completely confident of your own abilities.
And if you have any questions, pop a post in the Swim Feral Facebook page and our fantastic community of swimmers will be sure to help.
Happy swimming xx
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