From Flounder to Dolphin with the Guru of Wild Swimming
I’m Devon born and bred, and learned to swim at an early age. I spent much of my youth in rivers and in the Atlantic surf; one summer my mum had to cut my long hair off owing to a mole-sized salt-water matt. For as long as I can remember, I was able to swim through big rollers, go under to avoid a breaker and stay there, get out of a rip, and float through pretty much anything. If riled, I could do a couple of hundred meters of front crawl fairly quickly for an amateur. When I took up wild swimming in earnest and began to do longer swims, however, my previously satisfactory swimming style was rapidly exposed.
I swam with Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimmers from Aveton Gifford to Bantham, and found myself gasping and out-of-breath, various concoctions of sea and river water with microscopic flora and fauna filled my sinuses and ran down the back of my throat, and my neck cramped from looking towards the far horizon in search of the other swimmers (bless you Mother Duck Pauline for staying back with we Ducklings). I met an impressive swimmer who’d done a Total Immersion course, so I watched a video and bought the book. I still didn’t get far, and googled my nasal water problem. Apparently I had an anatomical anomaly that prevented my nose from closing off properly, so I bought some horribly uncomfortable nose-clips. Then I went to a couple of taster lessons with the local Queen of wild swimming, Kari Furre. I can only describe what happened next as an aquatic epiphany.
Kari has trained in both the Total Immersion and the Shaw Methods of swimming, so rather than thrashing through the water you begin by finding your balance and developing mindfulness; put simply, you live in the moment and experience the feel of your body floating in water, rather than fighting it. It’s all very Yogic, and your relationship with the water starts to change. Once you’ve got the hang of that, you start learning to glide and to slow your stroke down. You roll from side to side as you swim front crawl, and breathe by humming a controlled stream of bubbles underwater, then allowing your head to go to the side with your body as it rolls, where you inhale calmly and slowly. This might seem odd, but as everything comes together you swim faster by using fewer strokes. After a single, two-hour lesson, I was able to swim front-crawl in heavy swell throughout a circumnavigation of Burgh Island. Barely any water went into my throat. Either my anatomical anomaly had been miraculously cured by Kari’s Yogic vibes, or my poor breathing technique had been to blame…
Since then, I’ve had five more lessons and my swimming buddies have been as stunned as I have by the transformation in my swimming. I’ve watched under-confident swimmers blossom and undertake their first wild swims. I’ve even learned to swim butterfly! Shoals of swimmers of all abilities and experience are now joining the new Swim Clinics run by Kari – who I can best describe as a Guru – and her ‘organiser’ Louise; I’ve attached the link here for those of you who live close enough. For those who don’t, it’s really worth looking for a TI or Shaw teacher in your area.