The Swimmer as Hero – adventures in wild swimming

Wavy water in a swimming pool.

To help me in my journey as a swimmer, I’ve committed to reading as much about swimming as possible. I’m also listening to radio programmes and podcasts about swimming. Like people all around the world, I don’t do much open water swimming or wild swimming these days (or pool swimming!). However, these books and broadcasts make me want to!

The first book that I chose to read was Haunts of the Black Masseur (1992) by Charles Sprawson, which was recommended by Duncan Goodhew. It is a romantic history of swimming as well as a memoir of Sprawson’s adventures in water.

Image of man's feet cooling down in garden koi pond on hot day in the summer, man's hairy legs, feet and toes dipped in cold pond water with koi carp fish swimming nearby, dipping feet into water to cool down on hot day in summer, reflections of garden

Searching for Swimming Pools

On 23rd January 2019, Radio 4 broadcast a programme, Searching for Swimming Pools, about the writer Charles Sprawson. In the programme, he reflects on his life as he copes with advancing vascular dementia.

Now 77, Charles has vascular dementia and lives in a retirement home. But even as he grows increasingly frail, he can still be found wandering the corridors looking for swimming pools, opening doors in the hope of finding shimmering water to plunge into. The programme is a portrait of lifelong obsession, the debilitating effects of dementia and the transformative power of swimming.

BBC Sounds

Cigarette on the Waveney (27:39)

Roger Deakin is seen by many as the father of the modern outdoor or wild swimming movement. He passed away in August 2006. Waterlog – a swimmer’s journey through Britain, describes Deakin’s experiences of wild swimming in Britain’s rivers and lakes. Waterlog inspired an hour-long BBC documentary Wild Swimming that was broadcast in August 2010.

Cigarette on the Waveney is a BBC Radio 4 documentary about Deakin’s summer journey in a canoe (called Cigarette) along his local river. There’s also some swimming in it.

Have you read or heard anything interesting about wild swimming recently?

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