The Guardian has declared Wild Swimming dead. Oh noes!

The Guardian has declared Wild Swimming dead. Oh noes!

After a few years of championing cold water swimming as a mystical healing treatment able to cure;

  • mental health issues
  • mental illness
  • disability
  • infertility
  • erectile dysfunction
  • noisy neighbours
  • that sound you occasionally hear
  • Daddy issues from never getting that pony. Why daddy, why?
  • The gender pay gap

The Guardian has declared open water swimming dead. It’s over folks. You can hand your dry robes over to the nearest tank driving performative Wimhoffing wellness wally and go back to being happily depressed while the world burns around you. Woo! Yay?

Their argument is that the water is now basically sewage, and who wants to swim in that? A fair point. But not everywhere is sewage and not all the time. There are apps to check if it’s safe to swim, and we should absolutely keep pushing back against the companies who pollute the world. The last thing you want when screaming for joy about the cold water is for the school hamster’s corpse to float by. #GoodVibesOnly.

Their other point is that the cold water swimming can be harmful due to swimming-induced pulmonary oedema. According to the American National Library of Medicine;

Swimming-induced pulmonary edema occurs when fluid accumulates in the lungs in the absence of water aspiration during swimming and produces acute shortness of breath and a cough with blood-tinged sputum.

SIPE is an unusual complication that can occur during heavy exercise in water. It is often misdiagnosed and can rapidly deteriorate into life-threatening situations.

It is a serious condition that could result in death and a good reason why you should never swim alone. There’s no way to know if today’s the day it will affect you or not. People have been discussing the issue for a few years now. There have been articles in Outdoor Swimming (2020), the American College of Cardiology (2018), and Frontiers Journal (2017). It’s not new, but it is good to see mainstream media make people aware of a potentially fatal condition. Swim in groups, folks.

What is strangely refreshing is seeing someone make a case for cold water swimming being a casual trend that may have never really been a miracle cure for everything. Magazines kept pushing articles about how some new trend is good for you. Such articles have constantly caused me to be depressed because I was never cured by swimming, running, screaming into pillows or massaging my head with Biscoff ice-cream. I know that it isn’t the magazine’s fault, more mine for comparing myself to others, but what I would give to go for a run or a swim and feel depression lift or anxiety cease.

I’ve often wondered if there are elements of open water swimming that are intrinsic to many activities. Is it the act of getting in cold water that is good for your mental health, or is it being out in nature and having safe fun with friends that’s wonderful for your mental health? Could applying nipple clamps on a beach with consenting friends as the sun comes up also have a similar effect?

Maybe what our mental health needs is to be in a safe space with friends, having your existence valued and acknowledged without shame or judgement? Throw in a bit of a rush to get the blood going. It could be board games, video games, skydiving, shark jumping, life drawing, undead drawing / escaping, running, and perhaps even swimming.

Is open water swimming dead? No. How can it be? Human’s start life in a swimming pool, of sorts. People have been swimming for centuries. Loads of people happily swam in that shark documentary, Jaws. Chief Brody was happy at the end of the film, too. He had fun. Closer to home, I saw a group this morning swimming in green hats for St Patrick’s Day. The group I’m in also had a dip this morning, and I will tomorrow. It isn’t dead. Less of a trend? Maybe, and that may be a good thing to stop all the trendy folk buying gear that eventually ends up in landfill or worse, sea pollution.

See you, out there.

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