Written by Marie Yates, Digital Editor
It was a matter of a few short weeks after the most incredible British summer that I was invited to join a member of Team Selkie for an open water swim. Of course, October is the perfect time to dip a toe in a Shropshire lake.
Katia Vastiau, my guide for the day, assured me that the conditions were perfect, as she pulled on her wetsuit rather than opting for skins. My wetsuit was already on, that was non-negotiable.
Taking in the view before edging towards the water wasn’t just a tactic to delay the inevitable. We were at Carding Mill Valley in the Shropshire Hills. The ten-minute walk from the car park was more than enough time to alleviate any nerves and simply absorb the beauty of our surroundings. For the first time, I understood that this wasn’t simply about swimming.
That’s what Selkie Swim Co is all about. Yes, they are a swimwear brand selling great kit for open water swimmers, but they’re also a community. They want swimmers of all abilities to move outside of their comfort zone, to challenge themselves and learn more about what they’re really capable of.
I wouldn’t describe myself as an open water swimmer. I spent many hours swimming in circles at Swan Pool in Sandwell Valley as part of triathlon training, but it was a means to an end, not an experience in its own right. Katia explained that that’s one of the things that motivates her to encourage more people to swim for the sheer joy of being in open water.
Joy? Ok. I was ready to dip a toe in the water.
While I was still contemplating paddling, ankle deep, on a perfectly positioned rock shelf, Katia slid into the water like a seasoned pro.
She was smiling, so it can’t be that cold, can it?
I had forgotten that magical feeling of water cascading down the back of the wetsuit.
Yes, it was cold but that paled into insignificance when I looked around. There wasn’t any pressure to start swimming; I didn’t have a set number of laps that I needed to tick off before racing to get out of the water. It was liberating.
There has been a lot of news coverage about the positive effects of swimming in cold water for people experiencing challenges with their mental health. At that moment, I could understand the benefits that each and every one of us can experience from the natural therapy of being in the water, being in nature.
Being with Katia meant that I felt safe, I felt able to simply enjoy the experience. Learning from experienced swimmers is a must if you’re just starting out. We chatted in the water, discussing how lucky we were to be floating in a lake on a Thursday morning.
‘Shall we swim?’
I had forgotten that we were planning to swim. I was having such a great time watching my feet turn a whiter shade of pale.
One length of the lake was more than enough for me experience ‘ice cream nose’. I think that is the technical term. Other than that, it felt amazing to swim for the love of it.
Luckily for me, Katia reached the edge before I did. I heard a scream.
I had a minor panic, firstly wondering if there was a creature that I needed to escape from and secondly wondering if Katia was in trouble. I understand that my responses came in the wrong order!
She had put her feet down and felt what could only be described as sludge. I opted to tread water.
We swam, we chatted, we high fived and we celebrated with tea and cake, which is another reason I am now 100% sold on social swimming.
If you’re tempted to take yourself for a dip in open water, please put your safety first. The advice from Carding Mill Valley is a great reminder. You can see this in the gallery, below.
If you’re wondering kit you might need, head over to Selkie Swim Co. They have thought of everything and they really do cater for every body. They live their message of inclusivity through their brand and also have an environmental focus. The swimwear is made of Econyl and all the T-shirts are made of organic cotton. The fabric and garments are made in Europe and the quantities are limited as to not over stock and waste. All the packaging is recyclable or reusable too. [Link]. In order to discourage the ‘throw away culture’ that we are immersed in; their clothing is really nice and high quality so you wear it and keep it. If you’re involved in any outdoor activities, check out the kit as their hoodies are perfect for an autumn walk up a Shropshire Hill.
I promised Katia that I would keep swimming and become a regular in the local lakes so I could officially call myself a ‘wild swimmer’.
She smiled saying ‘you’re here, swimming. You’re already a wild swimmer.’
Selkie isn’t just another brand, it’s a movement!
Picture Credit: Katia Vastiau