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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wild Swimming

I've been an armchair fan of the idea of wild swimming for a while, encouraged a bit by the recent movement (Kate Rew, Daniel Start, Waterlog, OSS etc).

Therefore delighted to see mention in a recent OSS mailing of a spontaneous swim in my local river. Somewhere I've had a small splash in the past.

I therfore hooked up with the three or so participants on Facebook (strangers before today!) and a time and place was arranged. A time starting with a zero it has to be emphasised!

I had an experimental plunge in the very same stretch of water during last weekend's long run, and rather than getting out as soon as I felt cold, persisted for a few minutes. It felt better after a while, and I was in for about 10 minutes. Certainly more endurable than last time. Got spotted by a few people on the bank who may or may not have noticed my lack of trunks. Certainly got spotted just as I jumped out, right in front of a couple of walkers! No discernable change of expression, so hard to say if they were Disgusted of Surrey, or uncaring.

Back to the case in point. I was concerned about three or so things:
  • Not getting up in time.
  • Horrifying people with my nude swimming, especially potential friends.
  • Swimming slowly, falling behind (someone had mentioned a route that seemed to be about a mile and half, and back!).
  • Getting freezing cold, and having to get out.

Having mulled things over, I decided to mitigate the risks of the last two by practicing an extended period of swimming in the pool on Sunday (mostly crawl for a change - not my favourite stroke) and packing a nice cup of cocoa. I decided not to care about the second one, and set the alarm to counter the first risk.

The others seemed very nice on meeting (one bloke and two women, all my age, ish). Locked the bike, and took bag of stuff down to the water. Suggested a slightly more discreet entry point, away from the boat house. Mounted the cycle bag on the fence. Others left towels, put on their neoprene shoes and got in. Hmm, the nude angle, do I or don't I. Pretended to get "changed", whilst the others (in various degrees of wetsuits or swimming costumes) were already in. That is, I took what I had on, off, and boldly got in.

"Ahh - we've got a NATURIST!"

"Oh, excellent!"

"ooh er"

These were the initial comments, all in a very, I thought, friendly style. Either they really didn't mind, or were just being nice.

One of the women, let's say C, then started talking about did I know Charlie somebody. I said I didn't know many people in the naturist scene, being more of a free range nudie. Between mouthfuls of cold water.

We settled down and swam along, at less than walking pace downstream. It got less cold after a few minutes, and positively enjoyable after 10 more minutes. Ducks regarded us suspiciously. There were occassional walkers and cyclists, but no other river users. It started raining after a bit, which was fine. Conversation was mostly about swimming, lidos, next weekend's Big Jump. The bloke, A, moaned about his wetsuit vest, and I said that my costume was just fine.

C explained to me properly, that in the past she'd worked as a model, and had done work for Charlie Simonds, he of naturist publishing reknown, if not actual fame.

We turned back after 20 or so minutes in the water, and headed back upstream. Although the current was light (harldy any rain for weeks) the going was harder this way, and more determined swimming was required. It turned out we'd covered about 1000 m altogether.

Jumped out near the entry point, and walked back to the clothes. To various titters. And a friendly good morning to a passing cyclist.

Discussion sort of turned to my naturism. C said that in warm conditions, she actually preferred a zero costume. Woman J mentioned seeing the latest London WNBR, with some amusement I think. We briefly discussed, inter alia, the laws regarding nudity. That is, to my understanding BEING naked isn't an offence, but ACTING offensively can be. Which is as it should be, to my mind, since how can anyone be culpable for being anything? Whereas doing something implies some act of will.

We went our ways back to the unreal world. I promised to wear my blue comedy wig for the next outing, probably in a week's time. I'm also encouraged to note that my FB friend requests to the swimmers haven't been rejected.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yep, you're right Matt, I am amused by the naturism, but good naturedly amused, and admit to being very prudish & British about it!! It's something I have never understood, so how great is it that I had my first close encounter, totally unpredictably in the river this morning! That's two surprising nude experiences in less than a month, how fantastic as there must be a lesson here for me. It's not every day in Surrey you come across a naked man swimming in the river. Swimming in ther iver is rare enough, naked's even more rare. Brilliant, and you will have to excuse my giggles, I'm sure I'll get more mature over such trifles one day. Lovely to swim with you all earlier, here's to a few more.