The Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS) is a worldwide collective of swimmers that share the joy, adventure and experience of swimming under an open sky. At it’s helm are an ever changing cast of people who give their time and talents. To join us, for an event or year round, please contact Jamie Cross.
Kate Rew founded The Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS) in 2006, and has been delighted to see it grow into the movement that it is today. The OSS currently has 27,000 members, a growing Instagram thread, and a community of over 18,000 on OSS Facebook. Rew grew up swimming in a river in Devon, swam all over the country for her book Wild Swim, and now mostly paddles about with her two young sons and husband in Somerset.
Kate’s ambitions for the OSS in 2017? Inspiring more swim adventures around the world, through the new OSS website, the relaunched crowd-sourced map wildswim.com, and (fingers crossed) a new OSS event.
‘When we started our core mission was to make it easier for people to find places to swim and people to swim with (once we’d inspired them to swim in the first place). A decade later swimming outdoors has taken off to the extent we could just pack up and go home and the world would keep on swimming, but that desire to share the joy of swimming outdoors hasn’t extinguished. We keep finding new things to do, new creative avenues, new adventure to have – and we’re really excited that our new website and wildswim.com can harness the swimming communities desire to share, their photos, stories, experiences and places.’
To talk to Kate’s agent please call Patrick Walsh at PEW Literary.
Follow Kate on Instagram @kate_rew. Follow the OSS @theoutdoorswimmingsociety
Rob is the author of Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places, and a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge — where outdoor swimming has allegedly been going on since 1692. He is a mountain-climber whose ideal mountain day ends with a plunge in a river or loch or the sea.
He’s been winter swimming in Beijing’s imperial lakes, in the Himalayas, and once went green after diving into a Devon lake on New Year’s Day. He was a good friend and swimming companion of the late Roger Deakin, author of the swimming classic ‘Waterlog’.
Kari, a Devon sculptor and swimmer, is the OSS muse. She was there in a tiny Lake District hotel room with Kate when the idea of the OSS was born in November 2005 fresh from a swim around Crummock in the dark, and has been the inspiration for many of our finest ideas ever since. Where Kari dreams, the rest of us follow – she is behind many things that have become mainstays of the OSS movement, such as Breastrokes (our inland charity swims held in 2006 and 2007), the Dart10k and is currently developing a new school of swimming (more soon, we hope).
Kari is an active swimmer in Devon, where she lives, and is constantly investigating and introducing people to new stretches of the Coast and the Dart. She teaches swimming in Devon and London, specialising in a very gentle kind of instruction and effortless swimming that gets you thinking of your relation to the water, helps overcome deep water fears, and has everyone under her tuition doing butterfly in a light, grunt-free way.
To see her sculpture and work with fish skin: www.karifurre.co.uk.
There when the OSS began, Michael is the king of good ideas, a good time and coming at things from a direction no one else does – the hot tub and the social swim series were some of his early ideas, a guidebook to swimming the Thames in his middling period (he wrote it in a few slow days in the office, and in the following summers groups of swimmers charted it’s length on a weekend by weekend basis).
Michael’s ideas have launched much of the movement – social swims and wild swim facebook groups are part of the landscape for wild swimmers now, and began when the ‘OSS Swim Responsibility Statement’ and the social swim series.
As happy skippering a boat and dealing with tidal flow charts as stoking the hot tub under a full moon, Michael is a natural maverick who’s renegade spirit ensures that the OSS stays true to it’s roots: free wild swimming. He has an exciting campaign for 2016: watch this space….
Oliver was an early convert to the way of the Outdoor Swimming Society and has been up-hill and down-dale on swims – as well as stoking the hot tub, mulling the wine and making the chai – ever since.
Never short of a good idea, and not workshy, Oli is a regular face at OSS Events, as swimmer, compere, chef….. He swam the Dart10k 10 mile course in 2015 and is currently training for a channel relay. Oli looks after the OSS Facebook group, keeping it friendly and ad-free, and his digital experience makes him part of the team rebuilding the OSS website for 2016.
Anna Morell, previously newsletter editor, rejoined the OSS team in spring 2015 as Arts Correspondent. A sea swimmer, Anna has a poetic appreciation for the feel of swimming, and champions swimming as a form of experience over endurance and athleticism any day.
Loved for her ability to bring verve and brains to any piece of copy, she is as accurate, judicious, and open to any water-related exhibitions, book reviews, wild swim operas etc being sent her way. Please contact her via Facebook.
Fiona joined the OSS in 2016 to support the sister site, wildswim.com, as map editor, helping the swim community by curating collections on the map, and sharing them with the OSS site. Her first major task was the festive swim list – a list of over 100 Christmas and Boxing Day swims.
A keen swimmer at Vobster Quay in Somerset where she lives, Fiona likes the 10k distance and travels the country doing longer swims as part of events, and under her own steam.
You can contact Fiona about the map via email.
Have a question about cold water or the effect of swimming on your body? Pose it to the OSS Expert Adviser, Dr Mark Harper.
Dr Mark Harper is a consultant anaesthetist at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals who, accidentally and via quite unrelated routes, has developed an interest in the negative effects of getting cold during surgical operations and the positive effects of cold water swimming. He therefore spends much of his professional life researching ways to keep patients warm and his personal life enjoying swimming in a cold sea.
Mark answers swimmers queries on cold water via email. Send your questions to Mark here. We are currently looking for someone to turn these Q&As into stories in the Survive section of this site. If you can take this project on, please contact Jamie Cross.
Peter has been swimming since he was 4 years old, sometimes competitively, but mostly just for fun. He grew up in the rivers, lakes and waterfalls of inland New South Wales and Far North Queensland. At 6 years old, he found a freshwater mussel in the soft mud of the Bogan River. It was huge- almost the size of his forearm, and seemed content to live in water so filled with suspended silt that it blocked out all light. Since then, he’s spent his spare time swimming after fish, searching under logs, and swimming his way through a PhD and into a job as an aquatic ecologist.
Having swum in thousands of places in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other locations around the world, Peter believes that it is the infinite variety and beauty of outdoor swimming that keeps him searching for the next place to dive in. He’s swum every day for the past 3 years, mostly in Dumaresq Dam, a beautiful small lake near Armidale in New South Wales. In 2015 swum in 333 different places because so many rivers, lakes and oceans got in his way.
Peter loves swimming in all kinds of water, in all types of weather, and in any frame of mind. He’s interested in the cultural aspects too- poetry, literature and the visual arts, history and science. He complements his swimming with other water-related activities that include scuba diving, free diving, body surfing, and rock skipping. This makes him the life of any party. Well it would if he showed up instead of slinking off somewhere for a swim.
Susanne Masters joined the OSS team in 2013 and writes about equipment and wildlife for the OSS.
She grew up spending childhood summers swimming in Swiss lakes. She now swims everywhere while travelling to work on botanicals: product development for distilleries and spas, wild orchids and conservation. She loves swim adventures with friends.
Artist Vivienne Rickman-Poole joined the OSS Team in 2014, contributing images to the newsletter, and is now an ambassador. In 2016 Viv was one of the most active members of the content team, working behind the scenes of our Instagram feed, OSS newsletter, and involved in all design and artistic decisions. She is currently in Finland on an artists residency.
‘I have always been a swimmer, getting my love of water from my Mum, a hardy swimmer from the Orkneys.’
Growing up on the sunny South Coast Vivienne spent her youth in the sea before discovering she was really at home in freshwater lakes of Snowdonia where she now lives. Seeing swimming very much as a creative experience, Vivienne is swimming her way through a project ‘#swimsnowdonia’. Her mission is to explore/swim/document the permanent bodies of water in Snowdonia, Recently listed as one of the ’10 most inspiring adventures of 2016′ in The Guardian her project has attracted much attention, having been the subject of several short films, been on national TV and in the National and International press. Have a look at her work viviennerickmanpoole.co.uk.
Vivienne’s aspirations for the OSS in 2017 include growing the great community spirit we have worldwide. She says “I love chatting to swimmers across the globe from the azur waters of Miami to the ice holes of Finland, the stolen swims in Paris canals to training days in chilly Polish lakes, exchanging information about the water, weather, even little drawings and written words. “
Will has been the OSS Event Manager since 2013, looking after every aspect of the events from water safety to how many kilo’s of hot chocolate you need for 1600 swimmers.
Will’s background is in adventure sports and outdoor education. Alongside rock climbing, canoeing and mountain walking, Will actively leads adventure activities in the Peak District and manages outdoor pursuit and challenge events around the country.
Swimming for Will involves the lakes and tarns of the national parks, the Cornish sea visiting family, and the occasional unplanned kayaking accident.
Jamie took on the role of OSS Team Manager in 2012 to help the society expand and continue its fantastic work, since which time our volunteer team has gone from strength to strength. Jamie currently recruits and looks after the volunteer team for events, and is always on the look out for more willing people. He is also the first port of call for people wanting to contribute to the OSS in other ways – for example, as a photographic contributor on this website or volunteer map editor. You can contact Jamie by email.
Morgan Gibson joined the team in 2015 to lead the OSS Adventure Series project, a series of free adventurous and 10k swims led by swimmers.
She now organises the OSS Castle to Castle swim on the River Teifi, West Wales, which runs as part of Cardigan’s River and Food Festival and will be in its third year in 2017. Morgan has swum the length of Windermere and completed an Ironman, but also loves pottering about in beautiful watery spots.
Currently she is working hard to finish her Ph.D. Her plans for 2017? ‘A summer of swimming to celebrate completing my thesis. I dream of setting up a yoga and wild swimming retreat in West Wales but is, for now, I am sticking to being a glaciologist and have set myself the goal of overcoming my dislike of cold water in 2017.’
The Castle to Castle swim is advertised on the OSS site a month or two before it happens.
Nathan is a lawyer and his firm Berwin Leighton Paisner and has been providing legal advice to the Outdoor Swimming Society on a pro bono basis since 2008. Their advice to the OSS covers many issues including access rights for swimmers, intellectual property and legal liability issues.
Swimming outdoors is potentially a risky business and so we are profoundly thankful to BLP for providing the OSS with a framework that allows us to continue to do so with passion, common sense.
It was as a result of Nathan’s loyal support that we were able to operate free ‘social swims’ under the terms of the Swim Responsibility Statement in the early days of FB – an operation in personal responsibility and freedom which led to the establishment of FB wild swimming groups across the land. Nathan also enables us to make a deposition to the Welsh Assembly on Inland Access, and countless other smaller victories along the way.
Whenever he can escape his desk, Nathan heads for the water. His favourite swimming holes are London Fields Lido and St. Ives bay in Cornwall. He is always on the lookout for new and fun swimming challenges and has particularly enjoyed swimming the Solent and Hellespont.
Robert became interested in trying to increase outdoor swimming facilities in England & Wales after experiencing the plentiful swimming lakes & reservoirs in countries such as Germany, France and Switzerland.
He and Chris Dalton set up the OSS Inland Access Group in 2012 in order to help members work together, discuss, and share advice to increase access to inland water for swimming. It is managed via a Facebook Group which welcomes new members and includes helpful guides and information to help with increasing access.
The group has had several high profile success’s opening up new bathing areas such as Rutland Water Bathing Beach, and Swan Pool near Birmingham, and is making good progress on similar projects with members across England & Wales.
Chris broke free from the confines of the swimming pool on a beautiful June evening in 2010 when he went on an OSS Full Moon swim in the Nene. Since then he has been more often spotted splashing his way down the Thames than up and down a pool. He is currently working with the Canal and River Trust in an attempt to secure greater access to their waterways.
Even if you didn’t know Lynne chances are that your swimming world has been influenced by her, that a ripple she set off has touched your shores. Lynne was a vibrant member of the swimming community and key contributor to the Outdoor Swimming Society over many years. She had a unique take on the world and a voice within swimming which was much loved and is sorely missed. She died from a brain tumour on Saturday 13th August, 2016, age 55.
Lynne Roper’s love of water was cemented during her Devon childhood, and it never left her. She went from art college to the RAF, seeing duty in the first Gulf War, and completed tours in Germany, the Falklands, Canada, the US and Cyprus.
In 1998 she completed a degree in film and media studies at Stirling University, undertook at PGCE at Wolverhampton University the following year, and taught in Stirling for a few years before returning to Devon and settling on Dartmoor.
Later she became a paramedic.
Lynne turned to wild swimming to regain her physical and emotional health after a double mastectomy. She immersed herself in rivers, the sea, and the friendships formed through water. For her, wild swimming was never about how far or fast you swam, or how cold the water. It was always about the experience itself, and the connection with the environment. She fitted wild swimming around her shift patterns, saying that water washed away the stresses of the job.
She gave many people the confidence to start wild swimming; her infectious smile, her ability to listen and her calm patience never faltered. She readily shared her ability to read water, her knowledge and her judgment.
Lynne worked alongside Kate for a few years with the two of them providing all the content for the OSS website and newsletters, doing book reviews and stories and handling media queries. She went on to develop the ideas and content behind write most of what is now the ‘Survive’ section of the OSS website. She also acted as the best press officer we have ever, developing safety advice and liaising with the media to ensure the joy of wild swimming was not lost to stories of danger. She was not afraid to go on the Jeremy Vine show (for example) or speak to the media after a tragic death – she knew it was important to communicate how to swim safely at these times, and her paramedic background made her confident to do this without upsetting the bereaved. All of this was a gift from her to the community for something she believed in.
Lynne was hugely enjoyed, admired and learnt from. She was a free-spirited, no-nonsense thinker who fought for what she thought was right. She was funny and ballsy and not afraid to scrap on Facebook. Her kind, infectious and full-colour personality made her a brilliant friend to many. She was direct, intelligent, opinion-rich and spirited. She hated bloody tow floats.
Lynne regularly arranged wild swims for local swimmers and visiting OSS members from further afield, she ran the warming tent at the Dart 10k and the Swoosh looking after chilly swimmers and she founded two local swimming groups (Devon & Cornwall Wild Swimmers, and later, Into The Fish Dimension).
Lynne wrote a blog, Wild Woman Swimming blog ( https://wildwomanswimming.wordpress.com/). She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in February 2016, which she named ‘Hunt’ and wrote passionately and painfully honest accounts about in her blog Out Of My Brains. (https://outofmybrains.org/). Always an advocate of the NHS, when she learned she was terminally ill, she stepped up her efforts to highlight the impact of funding restraint on acute frontline health services and social care through this blog, and she was fearless in relating that directly to her own situation. Her writing was sensitive, frank, funny and clever. As was she.
She died peacefully with her mother Jenny at her side in the early hours of Saturday, 13th August, 2016 after her battle with cancer fought with gumption and spirit only Lynne could have summoned. She was buried at Sharpham Natural Burial Grounds, surrounded by friends, family and her OSS friends. Her funeral wreath was taken to the Dart10k the next day and strapped around one of the swimmers photo frames, crowning the glory of finishers. Her influence was huge – when she passed away, many paid tributes to her who hadn’t ever had the chance to meet her.
Lynne’s biggest legacy, which will live on in the communities she has created and influenced, is the way she connected people together. Either through her love of the water, politics, her writing, her work and sense of adventure – she brought like minded spirits together, “one of life’s troubadours” says friend and swimmer Gilly Robinson.
We feel lucky to have known her.
Everyone has their good days. Days when they are at their best; full of energy and confidence, open to the world around them, its people and possibilities. Days when kindness and enthusiasm aren’t hard and creativity comes naturally.
For most people these days come once in a while. Tiredness, stress, hassle and worry all chip away at that version of self. After all, it’s fucking hard work to be open, energetic and kind all the time, to take risks and encourage others, to laugh even when knackered, cold and wet.
After his death JJ’s long term friend and business partner Bob Thomson from Storm ID wrote these words, and said ‘Of all the people I have been lucky enough to meet, Jonathan had the most good days. He had an incredible capacity to be at his best, regardless of any external or internal circumstance. Whip smart and charming, through sheer force of will JJ consistently won the battle to energise those around him rather than need energy from them, to look for the hard positive over the easy negative, to be the one saying “Why not?” rather than “Why?”. Without fail JJ would apply logic and intelligence to matters at hand while injecting his surroundings with humour, playfulness and warmth.”
This was the JJ that the team in the OSS – and the Devon wild swimming scene – came to know and love when he moved to Ashburton Devon in 2011.
JJ was an adventurous wild swimmer and challenge swimmer whose love for people and water was unsurpassed. He gave many gifts to all who were lucky enough to have met him and known him. One of them was to build wildswim.com with Kate Rew and his company Storm ID for our community of swimmers.
‘I had advertised for a volunteer map editor,’ says Kate, ‘for an online crowd sourced swim map that I had been touting around London for years to try and get funding to build. A man called JJ rang me and said “I won’t be your map editor, your map is crap, but I will build you a new one…”. I sent him my dream brief and it was that simple: a few months later, wildswim.com was born.’ This act typifies many of the attributes his friends and the wider community loved about JJ: generous, clever, open, bold, funny. It exemplifies his nature of exploration, discovery and sharing. And his competitiveness: other similar products came on to the market around and after wildswim.com was launched, but JJ absolutely relished the challenge: wildswim.com was going to be the best in the world.
JJ died suddenly, on 15th June 2013, age 41, while out swimming with a friend in Beesands, Devon. His swimming family were thrown into shock by the sudden death of a man they all loved. He and his swimming partner weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary, just training, ploughing up and down parallel to the shore, only 25 metres from the beach, when something happened and Jonathan lost consciousness, and later died. We still don’t know why.
We swim on with him in our hearts.