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Why I Swim - Rachel Carling

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t swim outdoors. As a child our family holidays were spent on the Llyn in North Wales. We would get up at the crack of dawn, pile into the car with slightly too much luggage and the big green picnic box and leave Edinburgh behind. The holiday only began officially when, hours later, with frayed tempers and suffering the consequences of at least one episode of travel sickness, one of us would squeal excitedly ‘I can see the sea!’. Once we arrived at my Granny’s, my sisters and I would pile out of the car and persuade our parents that we needed to head to the beach immediately. We would fling open suitcases at random, frantically searching through them for our towels and swimming costumes, then rush straight to the beach. It would be a mini race to see who could get changed the quickest and be the first to run headlong into the sea. We would shriek and giggle, jump over waves and dive in. Mostly we were lucky with the weather and the summer was full of sunshine and blue skies. Other times it was grey and windy but we would swim anyway. Dad would light a fire on the beach and help us get dry afterwards. Mum would make sure there was ginger cake (albeit sandy) and a hot chocolate.

Rachel as a toddler swimming in the sun in a stripey rubber ring

Our parents would encourage us to swim in rivers and lakes too, not just the sea. It never occurred to me that some people didn’t swim outside. As I grew older, it never occurred to me to stop doing it. My daughter loves it too. For my 40th birthday we climbed Snowdon and swam down it.

We got up at dawn and climbed Snowdon from Pen-y-Pass, reaching the summit about 8am. The weather was shocking. The mountain train was cancelled so our friends who were meant to meet us at the top with our swimming kit were still in Llanberis. We had a cup of coffee and a piece of cake huddled under a survival tent and then started to made our way back down. By the time we were approaching the first lake, Glaslyn, the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to come out. We stripped off and jumped in. It was so cold my skin was stinging but what an endorphin rush. We then made our way further down the mountain and repeated the process at Llyn Llydaw and then again at Llyn Gwynant. A top day out.

One of my best friends thinks no camping holiday with me is complete until I have dragged us all on a longer than expected walk, to find a secret swimming spot. The freedom. The adrenaline. The laughter.

Group of women by the water with the sunset behind them

The reason I joined the local triathlon club was because, as a member, you have access to swim in a local quarry. Since joining the club I have taken part in many organised events; swims, swim-runs and triathlons which have given me the opportunity to swim in some truly fabulous occasions.

However, my favourite swims are still the ones that are simply just for fun. 



If you are new to outdoor swimming and feel inspired to give it a go, please ensure you do so safely. 

Firstly, have a read of our tips for winter swimming here and familiarise yourself with what's useful to have in your wild swim kit.

We would strongly advise trying out your first swim with an experienced cold water swimmer until you are completely confident of your own abilities. 

The Outdoor Swimming Society has a great list of local swimming groups which is well worth checking out and a quick search on Facebook should provide results.

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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