Guest blog: Five unexpected joys of wild swimming
Wild swimming is becoming more widely popular these days as people learn the benefits from it. Where better to explore this sport, pastime and way of life, than Cornwall? The lovely people at Wild Swimming Cornwall tell us the joys of wild swimming in our Duchy.
Jaques Cousteau, the prolific French Oceanographer, once said ‘The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever’. This sentence strikes a chord with surfers, swimmers, sailors, and anyone who is drawn to the soothing, meditative state that comes with being in or around water. There’s growing evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, that supports the elusive emotional connection that humans have with the ocean. It appears to stroke the deepest part of our nature, revealing happiness, creativity and a deep sense of belonging.
Writer and Scientist, Wallace J. Nichols, describes the many benefits that being in or around water can have on mental health. In his book, ‘Blue Mind’, Nichols touches on the power of water as a tool to manage emotional well-being, it’s us as a creative elixir, and a steadfast shoulder through times of adversity.
Wild Swimming Cornwall is a collaborative project that aims to increase the accessibility of blue spaces in Cornwall, both by providing the information needed to enter the water in a responsible way, and bringing together groups of people over a shared passion. Below are five joys that we’ve come across in our research and practice into wild swimming.
1. Stress release
Often, when spending time in or around the ocean, people describe a deep sense of belonging. Humans originally evolved as a product of their nature-filled environments, and swimming in the ocean is a perfect excuse to escape artificial human landscapes and reconnect with the natural world.
In the presence of the ocean, life’s worries appear to diminish and become more manageable. Wild swimming provides an ephemeral escape from the business of the modern world, where a swimmer can leave concerns on the shoreline and return to viewing the world through a brighter lens.
2. Presence and productivity
When dipping into the fresh Cornish seawater, the cool temperatures almost force the mind to be present. It’s difficult to overthink things when semi-submerged in water, and the intense surroundings and sensations help the mind focus on the moment.
With this increase in mindfulness, we can notice new things, and the mind becomes sensitive to context and perspective. A morning dip can provide a rush that lasts the rest of the day: productivity, a boost of energy, and an increased sense of awareness.
There’s a beguiling characteristic of water that stirs our curiosity. Often, swimmers reported a rush of creative inspiration after spending time in or around water. The dynamic, fluid nature of water helps to unlock creativity, bringing about a new perspective and creative flow.
Artists flock to St Ives and Newlyn, drawn by the unique quality of light of West Penwith. The clear, blue waters of the North Atlantic have featured in centuries of artistic creations, and continue to inspire artists today.
There’s a growing community of cold water swimmers, regularly gathering and taking swims along the Cornish coastline. In our research into the benefits of wild swimming, we’ve joined many swim groups, and have always been met with warm smiles and new friendships.
Wild swimming offers an opportunity to build friendships around something that’s healthy, and to meet others who share the same passion for the ocean.
5. Protect our seas
Jaques Cousteau also said ‘people protect what they love’. Wild swimming presents one of the easiest and accessible ways to form a connection with the ocean and the natural world. It’s humbling being in the presence of an unimaginably massive body of water. Something so vast, beautiful and alive.
The more mankind feels this emotional connection to water, the more love there will be for our oceans, and the greater the desire will be to protect it.
About Wild Swimming Cornwall
Their goal is to create a resource that can help anyone access the mental and physical benefits of swimming in cool seawater. As well as a blog, they share safety information and interviews with inspiring people, and also have an interactive map listing all the swim groups in Cornwall. See their website here.
This spring, they are self-publishing our first book, ‘A Guide to Wild Swimming in Cornwall’. The book will list 60 of the best swimming locations around the Cornish coastline. Pre-order via their Crowdfunder page here.