In December of 2010, shortly after the unexpected and shocking death of a very dear friend, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I hadn’t swum regularly for a year or so, and following my initial recovery from bilateral mastectomy in March 2011 I began going to the pool to increase my curtailed shoulder and pectoral mobility and to regain my fitness. I soon became terminally bored, and my mind and emotions continued to churn around in one place like a maelstrom. So I began swimming outdoors, and despite some problematic side-effects and restrictions I did a fairly long swim in May of 2011 which inspired me to continue. Before long I was hooked and wild swimming had become my obsession.
Why did wild swimming, which I’d done off and on all my life and always loved and taken for granted, suddenly become so central to my life and so cathartic?
I think it has to do with being alive, and needing to feel alive. It’s a spiritual experience, sliding through wild water. Initially I wore breast forms in my swimsuit, afraid of feeling wrong as much as I feared looking weird. But soon I stopped caring – my shape has different meanings and a different function in water than in air. Fish and aquatic mammals don’t have dugs that you can see. Unlike in our airified culture where breasts have assumed an inflated cartoon-porn emphasis, what’s fetishised about fish, dolphins and whales is their sleekness, their variousness of form, their graceful movement through the turbulent medium of water regardless of their size, blubber content, conformation or perceived beauty.
My body is at home in water; free, wild, elemental. Worries dissolve, my mind is liberated; thoughts flow and glide and play like dolphins. My soul swims wild.
What Does Wild Swimming Mean to You?