Barely a day goes but I read a new article about wild swimming, outdoor swimming, or swimming outside. There seem to be more and more TV programmes about it, too. Whatever you call it, it’s just swimming, surely?
A conversation on an online forum prompted me to have a good old think about this. I appreciate why TV, newspaper supplements and magazines have gone wild for outdoor swimming in the past few years. It’s a growing trend, and there’s a lot of hype about it. If I didn’t understand why various media are documenting the hype, I’d be a pretty useless journalist 😉
But. Is it really anything new? Does it really need a label? Isn’t it just, well, swimming?
I come from a coastal town (big up da Folkestone massive) where I learned to swim in a pool, swam for a local squad but also swam in the sea. I called all of these things “going swimming”. In Folkestone, there was more than one hardy octogenarian famed throughout the Shire for swimming in the sea 365 days of the year and then, of course, there was the annual New Year’s Day Dip. And Folkestone’s not alone: go to any seaside community and it won’t take you long to locate the old-timer who swears by his (or her) daily dip in the briney.
I daresay towns with a river or lake in them are the same. The bottom line is, people have been swimming outside for a lot longer than they’ve been swimming in indoor pools. There was a time (sigh) when most major towns – and a lot of small ones – would have some sort of outdoor swimming pool. The oldest swimming clubs in the country include the South London Swimming Club (founded in 1906 and based at the beautiful Tooting Bec Lido) and Farleigh and District SC (a river swimming club, founded in the 1930s).
Do you swim outside? How do you refer to it? Do you feel the need for the activity to have a label, or is it just swimming, as it’s always been?