Meet the OSS Swim Champs 2020: an ice swimmer, a zoologist, a firefighter, a farmer, a trail runner, a Channel swimmer, and a fitness coach. Seven remarkable people in and out of the water, whom we know will inspire and cheer us all throughout the year.
John is a father, homebuilder and ice swimmer. Taught to swim by his cousin at age seven in Nova Scotia, he hasn’t stopped since. John is based in Jasper, Alberta, and has been sharing the swim love with us this winter through daily ice dips in his local river – the Peace River – for a full Canadian winter. He was one of the first in our community to win the Zeno’s Swim Club hat.
John’s favourite swimming experience has been with the people who joined him for his ice baths in the Peace River during last winter. “I just completed a challenge to do an ice bath every day throughout a cold Canadian winter,” he says. “There was a period of several weeks that the temperature was below -30 C, with the coldest day being -47. Over the course of the winter, 90 people came out to try an ice bath, most for the first time.
“I loved the experience of watching all the first-timers who came to stand on the edge of the ice, summoning all the courage that they could muster to make the plunge into the cold water. Each one had a distinct moment when it became obvious that they had made up their mind to get in: they would take a deep breath and step into the icy water. They all came out with new confidence and pride in what they had done. I feel honoured to have been a part of each experience.”
His new swimming goal is to complete an ice bath on every continent, and to complete an ice mile.
You can follow John’s adventures on Instagram: @johnmarkearle
‘Jolly, wildlife lover and adventurous’ are the words Deya uses to describe herself. Deya splits her time between Bristol, UK, and Borneo. She regularly swims in Clevedon Marine Lake at sunrise, as well as venturing further afield to Pembrokeshire, Breacon and Northumberland when she can. Deya is a zoologist, wildlife filmmaker and UK correspondent for Orangutan Alliance.
Deya is currently training for the Selkie Challenge: an adventure of 20 miles swimming and 200 miles running between the Scottish islands of the Outer Hebrides, but is also hopefully undertaking the 2020 Mippers Challenge too – a challenge set up by her friend, Annie, consisting of 20 swim-related challenges, such as a fancy dress swim and dipping with a family member.
When not taking part in challenges, Deya is a regular at Clevedon Marine Lake. “Living in Bristol, I swim often early morning with friends at Clevedon Marine Lake – there is something so special about this place,” she says. “Peering over the wall, you never know what it will look like that day; we have swum in hail, snow, crashing waves, infinity pool like calmness – every time is different and I love it for it!
“Early morning swimming also has a stillness that is incomparable to the rest of the day – and I am convinced that when your eye level is down on the water during a swim, the colours of a sunrise are even more vibrant dancing on top on the waves. On weekends and when I have more time I’ve loved to find hidden spots in Pembrokeshire, Northumberland and Brecon.”
With a self-confessed ‘likely addiction to wild swimming’, Deya has begun a hand written swim log of all the places she has dipped. Her most special swim moment has been completing her race for the IWSA (International Winter Swimming Championships) in Slovenia (where she represented Great Britain) and then having her first swim with her mum in Lake Bohinj.
Follow Deya for swimming, travelling, Orangutans and drawings on Instagram: @deyaward
Louise is based in the Scottish Highlands, and is hoping to set out on ‘The Chippy Tea Challenge‘ later this year – a homemade 90km swimming, running and cycling adventure from the North Sea on the East Coast to the Atlantic Sea on the West Coast.
Louise is an operational firefighter based in the Scottish Highlands. Trained in Swift Water Rescue, she is adept at swimming in challenging conditions and dealing with hypothermia and cold water shock.
“I was a very active competition ‘indoor’ swimmer when I lived in North Wales, where I also worked as a lifeguard and swimming teacher,” says Louise. “When I moved to the Lake District, I was introduced to outdoor swimming and was immediately hooked. I swam in Derwent Water each morning before work along with several other hardy ladies and I also took part in the ‘swim the length of Derwent Water’ charity event.
“I now regularly go swimming in the sea, rivers and lochs around the Scottish Highlands. Forever striving for the sense of adventure, I mix hiking around the highlands with dipping in lochs, en-route, that are harder to access. Many of my fellow fire fighters join me in outdoor swimming and we also swim with the Wild Highlanders group, in Loch Ness, and at Lossiemouth, with the ‘Lossie cod heids’ group in the North Sea.”
This year, Louise plans to swim, run and cycle from the North Sea across the Scottish Highlands to the Atlantic Ocean in 24hrs. This homemade quest has been christened the ‘The Chippy Tea Challenge’ as the goal is to complete the 90km route from Dingwall to Ullapool in time for her tea at the chip shop, before it closes. The 90km route involves swimming across 5 lochs, running and cycling to travel from one to the next. She is completing this challenge to help raise awareness of mental health and the positive impact outdoor swimming has on mind, body and soul.
You can follow Louise on her adventures on Instagram: @lulublueberry
Joanna works on her family farm in The Peak District, Derbyshire and runs a campsite. Her passion is to promote outdoor activity and connecting with nature to help cope with everyday stress, tension and anxiety. In her spare time she is a self confessed ‘van-adventurer’ – swimming and exploring her way around the UK. Highlights of swimming for Joanna have been swimming skins on a winter road trip through Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia, and making new friends through the online swimming community.
“I want to encourage others to embrace the possibilities that a love of water can provide,” says Joanna. “Swimming has helped me cope with stress, improve my self confidence and my social skills. The possibilities are endless and I want to show others that they can do the same.
“I have documented my struggles with mental health on Instagram. The focus is how I was able to turn things around for myself after a long spell of depression, low self-esteem and self-medicating (unsuccessfully) with drugs and alcohol. I’m not the best or the strongest swimmer, I don’t have tons of knowledge, but I have lots of energy and passion for nature and outdoor swimming with other people.”
Traditionally a river swimmer, Joanna also loves lakes and the allure of the sea. “Water gives me a sense of freedom and exploring via water has been a wonderful journey full of adventures, new friends and fantastic places discovered,” she says.
Follow Joanna’s swimming and farming adventures on Instagram: @joannashimwell
Rory is a Lancashire-based champion of after-work adventures and unique swim projects. He believes adventurous swims don’t need to be just kept to weekends and holidays.
Rory loves inventing his own projects, crafting lists of swim spots and making his swim adventures personal and purposeful. These have included 27 swims for his 27th birthday in Snowdonia (swimming in 27 different swim spots in a single 15-hour push in North Wales) and the #deepwatersproject (swimming the length of all the Lake District Tarns deeper than 10m).
“Outdoor sport has always been my meditation and what I love,” he says. “I’ve focused on combining multiple disciplines in the mountains over the past few years and swimming has fallen into that nicely, with my after-work night time swim-runs in the mountains of the Lake District. I just want to be out swimming in the mountains all the time, and darkness or Winter doesn’t stop that, I’ll just don a head torch and wetsuit and enjoy the peace and concentration found from swimming in the mountain tarns”.
Follow Rory’s adventures on Instagram: @rorysouthworth
Bournemouth-based Naomi is studying for an an MSc in Statistics with Application in Medicine at Southampton and has tried almost every kind of swimming. “I’ve been a pool swimmer, sea swimmer, distance swimmer, cold water swimmer, swimming lover, swimming hater, and everything in between,” she says. “I was national champion in the 100/200m breaststroke aged 11/12 and did club swimming throughout school and university. After two Channel relays at university, I swam the Channel solo aged 22, and since then have been finding ways to keep swimming in my life in less, let’s say, intense ways.
“I think a lot of pool swimmers quit as some point in their teens (especially women) and end on a bad note – struggling with high expectations, body image issues and more. I want to champion learning to love swimming in different ways, especially for women in their 20s, and finding the balance between being ambitious and joyful.
Now, Naomi swims whenever she can in lakes, lidos, rivers and the sea, and often takes to the water with her dad and sister. Naomi’s sister Nadya has a rare condition, Rett Syndrome, and Naomi loves to swim with her. “I’m deeply committed to disability awareness and finding new ways for Nadya to access outdoor activities,” says Naomi.
Follow Naomi on Instagram: @naomividz
Ornagh is a strength and flexibility coach in Dublin, Ireland, and has run a number of campaigns promoting the outdoors – from ‘Rise To The Outdoors’, timed around sunrise where she brought people together in rain, sun or snow to embrace nature, to ‘More Than Just A Friday Feeling’ which promoted a feel good challenge every week.
“I swim wherever there is a body of water and the colder the better,” says Ornagh. “The water draws me in. It is like breathing. It is the freedom from pressures. I began swimming as a personal mental health challenge a couple of years ago and began posting my morning swims on social media for accountability. Little did I know this would go on to create The Swim Tribe I have today, all joining together for those moments where everything is stripped away and life seems like anything is possible.”
Follow Ornagh on Instagram @ornagh_morechalk