November 11, 2020 4 min read
Here at Meander, we’re always looking for our next adventure and in recent months we’ve been hearing more and more about the world of wild swimming. Before we took the plunge we decided to chat with wild swimming expert and photographer, Anna Deacon, for some top tips for newbies looking to try it out!
I don't remember the first time I went wild swimming as I spent a lot of time around the water growing up and swimming in lochs. I lived in London for 20 years and didn't really swim then until I moved up to Edinburgh and started meeting my cousin regularly for dips, then I joined a local sea swimming group and started swimming a couple of times a week and haven't really stopped!
I love the sense of leaving all your stress on the shore and embracing the cold, letting it take over and calm your mind but also wake up all your senses. There is a tremendous rush of endorphins after a swim and it can stay with you for hours afterwards. I also find it a really mindful experience, the fact that it is so cold means you can't really think about much else and really must concentrate on how you are feeling mentally and physically and what is in your immediate surroundings in order to stay safe, it pushes all other thoughts and anxieties away for that time and allows you to just be utterly in the moment.
It’s so hard to say where my favourite place to swim is as there are so many places that I love, but I always come back to Loch Insh. I've been swimming there since I can remember and it is a very special place for my whole family. The water is so clear, the location is stunning and the sunsets are magical, plus the restaurant on the shore does great hot food and drinks to warm up by the fire afterwards.
So many people get into outdoor swimming over the summer months, and there is a sort of carefree aspect to jumping in a loch or the sea without any prior planning, but I definitely prefer the autumn and winter months. It is at this time that the experience becomes a lot more visceral, the cold can be shocking but I believe it also gives the most benefits. You really don’t need to stay more than a couple of minutes to get the post-swim glow, the endorphin rush and the huge smile that you will definitely have on your face afterwards. However, it is not without risk, so you must plan well and be extra cautious.
So many people ask what kit they need to get started and I would suggest you don’t need anything more than a swimsuit/trunks and a towel and just see how you get on. You can always add more kit later if you want, perhaps neoprene gloves or boots, maybe a bobble hat!
Find someone to swim with, ideally someone who is used to outdoor swimming and can help you get started, there are lots of local online groups for this.
Make sure you know where you are swimming, outdoor swimming carries many risks including riptides, hypothermia, currents, hidden objects underwater etc. Ensure you have a safe entry and exit point and have someone with you.
Keep it short, allow your body to adjust to the water and always get out before you think you should, listen carefully to your own body as you may not be able to tolerate as much as the next person.
Lay your dry clothes out ready for when you get out of the water, if you are super well organised you can bring a hot water bottle and wrap your clothes around it for extra heat.
Get warm quickly after your swim. Your body can continue to lose heat for around 30 minutes after a cold swim, this is known as after drop, and can be dangerous. Bring a hot drink to warm up from the inside out, and get your wet things off quickly and put on as many layers as you can. Loose baggy clothes are always easiest when fingers are cold and numb.
Anna has been working as a photographer for the last 11 years since moving on from her previous career in the music industry when she started a family, it’s a little less rock and roll these days but she loves it! Anna and her family relocated to Edinburgh a couple of years ago, but still travel back to London often and also to the Highlands.
You can find our more about Anna on her website.
How Anna Met Co-Author Vicky:
We were introduced by a mutual friend who had heard about my photography project interviewing and photographing swimmers I was meeting, Vicky is a journalist and our friend suggested we should meet and even came up with the idea of doing a book, so it was there in the conversation from the very start. We totally hit it off as we both love adventure, meeting people and hearing their stories, so we got a fabulous agent together and a book deal, and within a year of knowing each other Taking The Plunge was published. Our new book For The Love Of Trees has also just been published and we are working on plans for another book.
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