My first open water swim event was so much more than I expected

By Lisa P – Her Spirit community member

Her Spirit Summer Solstice 2022

I want to share my experience, selfishly I want to relive it because it was a game changer for so many reasons and I feel incredibly grateful to have been part of it. 

Ok – it was an early start and I had to smile to myself as I drove through town to head to the lake at 4.30am seeing the trendy party goers from the night before trying to get a taxi or just laughing at themselves as they fumbled down the road. I thought I’m more likely to be one of those revellers than a person who gets up at the crack of dawn for an open water swim, but to my surprise, that was where I was heading. I was feeling nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect. I have done five open water swim sessions in the last three months but this was my first proper swim event and, boy, did I pick a good one. 

I arrived at my friend’s house who was taking on a 5k and I could tell she was nervous, so I tried to quieten the butterflies in my own stomach, be calm and offer words of encouragement. As we pulled in ‘You are the Universe’ by The Brand New Heavies was on the stereo in my car and as the chorus of “There ain’t nothin’ you can’t do, if you conceive it, you can achieve it” hit a crescendo I turned it up and said to my friend “We’ve got this, it is going to be alright”. 

The car park was a hive of activity, car boots open, wetsuits on, flasks of hot coffee, energy drinks, gels, swimmers eating breakfast out of tupperware. The lady in the car next to me couldn’t decide if sun cream was too optimistic or a sensible idea? Was it too early for breakfast? One last trip to the toilet and final checks: goggles, swim cap, safety buoy, feed station snacks and an in-depth discussion of how many Jelly Babies can you have before sunrise! We headed to the main area.

The first thing I remember noticing was how beautiful the lake looked. Spring is my favourite season and I love it when the mornings get lighter. I love the beautiful blossoms, the wonderful colours that appear even in the most unlikely places. I’ve always felt a bit sad at the summer solstice as it means that eventually the nights will draw in but on this morning the light was magnificent. The lake was wonderfully still, the mist just rising off the lake to create, quite frankly, something rather magical – it pretty much took my breath away. I felt grateful to witness it and had a little inner peace moment with myself as I looked up and said ‘hi’ to someone very special to me. I took a breath and return back to the hum of the group. 

By this point groups of women of all ages, sizes and abilities started to appear all wearing their brightly-coloured swim hats. You could feel the excitement and nervousness in the air, the oohs and ahhs as people saw the lake for the first time, you could hear the chatter of friendly ‘hellos’ and words of encouragement from the volunteers and participants, the laughter as we gathered in the holding area eyeing up the brightly coloured dry robes – one lady telling me whilst she did already have three dry robes they were all for different things and she could really do with another one!

Before we knew it, it was time to drop off snacks at the feed station and head over to the start area. There was a wonderful positive vibe, smiling faces, laughter, encouragement. Everyone seemed in good spirits. I didn’t know anyone in my swim group but everyone was so friendly that I chatted all the way down the pontoon as we headed towards Lake 2. As we arrived ‘Here Comes The Sun’ by The Beatles was playing and after a safety briefing with Holly, where we laughed and cheered (she did say we had the loudest cheer but that cheeky glint in her eye had me thinking she said that to every group!) – it was time to begin our adventure.

By the time I arrived at the start point not only was I ready but with a few words of encouragement from the wonderful volunteers, I was brave enough to be the first to start in my group! I don’t know at what point it changed but I didn’t feel nervous anymore. I felt excited and couldn’t wait to get in the water!! As I think about it now – game changer moment – what changed from the car to the pontoon was people and energy – I felt so supported that I just knew it would be ok. There was no pressure, no expectation or judgement, I was doing this for me and that’s a pretty empowering feeling, one which I am going to try and take with me.

The water was warmer than I expected, it felt peaceful. I took a deep breath and off I went. It was an incredible experience from start to finish. About half way through my swim, a moment caught up with me that I think will stay with me for some time or at least I hope I will. I’d found my rhythm, I’d stopped thinking about my breathing, my goggles, what I was doing and I let myself enjoy it, as I turned my head to catch my breath I felt the warmth of the sun on my face, I noticed the beautiful lush nature that surrounded me and for the second time I felt grateful and thankful to be able to enjoy this experience. 

In no time at all I was at the finish point. As I approached it, I was welcomed in by enthusiastic cheers, whoop whoops and applause! The theme tune from Rocky was booming out of the speaker and I had made it! I felt proud of myself, I felt happy and I had a big smile on my face. I didn’t plan to but I ended up staying until the last swimmer was out of the water and it was a privilege to cheer on the other ladies that came in after me and see their wonderful smiling faces as they emerged from the water. Without exception everyone I saw coming out despite wobbly legs or tried arms had a massive smile on their face…isn’t that just brilliant!

It’s so much more than a swim, it’s a chance to be part of a positive, supportive community even if it’s just for one event.  I think as life gets harder for all sorts of reasons, it is people and the desire to help one another that brings the greatest joy and allows us to shine. The opportunity to grab that joy with both hands is here – give it a go. I promise you will not look back. Swimming is accessible. If you don’t feel ready for open water yet sign up to some taster sessions, get confident and jump in. It will give you so much more than you expect and it will open up your world in the most wonderful way. 

For the future if I’m able to I intend to spend every summer solstice going for an open water swim preferably with a group of strong, courageous Her Spiriters who have lifted me up in ways I didn’t know I needed. They have made me believe I can. I will certainly try and encourage as many people as I can to join the open water revolution. If you love it too spread the word. 

My name is Lisa and I love open water swimming!