The Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS) is run by a small family of people who give their time and talents to the swimming community.The OSS is free to join and free to use, with the resources and content we provide created by volunteers.
We always welcome keen individuals to the team in any capacity, and we are currently looking for a picture editor and another writer to join our elsewhere team – please contact the Club Secretary, Simon, if you can help.
PLEASE DONATE TO US!
The Outdoor Swimming Society is largely run by people giving their time and talents rather than money. However we do have monthly bills to pay, to keep our website and wheels turning. These are generally met via events, of which there is going to be some disruption in 2020 because of the coronavirus. If you are able to donate something to the society, please do – we appreciate this are hard times for everyone, and our team will be working hard to bring light into dark places, and share warmth and connectivity with swimmers the world over.
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. At the start of 2020 the OSS had over 100,000 members across its channels: the free newsletter elsewhere, OSS Instagram, and a thriving Facebook community. It has taken tens of thousands of swimmers on beautiful long distance swims since it’s inception. Kate is now the Creative Director for the Fundraising arm of The OSS, and runs the society from her little garden office.
Kate grew up swimming in a river in Devon, swam all over the country for her book Wild Swim, and now lives with her husband and children in Somerset. In 2016 she received an award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) for her contributions to recreational swimming.
To talk to Kate’s agent please call Patrick Walsh at PEW Literary.
Follow Kate on Instagram @kate_rew
Follow the OSS @theoutdoorswimmingsociety
He swam around the British Isles – and now he’s joined the OSS Team as an ambassador! Ross Edgley embodies the best of the outdoor swimming community: a maverick, with humour, honesty, integrity, grit, and a love of adventure and joy.
We are delighted to have him on board helping us change more hearts and minds with him.
Follow Ross on @rossedgley
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, 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’.
Follow Rob on @robgmacfarlane
Alastair Humphreys is a British Adventurer, Author and Blogger who joined the OSS as a patron in 2018. Alastair spent over four years cycling round the world, a journey of 46,000 miles through 60 countries and five continents.
More recently Alastair has walked across southern India, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, run six marathons through the Sahara desert, completed a crossing of Iceland, busked through Spain and participated in an expedition in the Arctic, close to the magnetic North Pole. He has trekked 1000 miles across the Empty Quarter desert and 120 miles round the M25 – one of his pioneering microadventures. And he swims on them all – “including in the Empty Quarter when we swam in a puddle after a sudden storm!”
Alastair was named as one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year in 2012. He loves wild swimming and believes it has an important contribution to make to people’s fun, mental and physical health, love and protection of the landscape, and sense of adventure. He sees the role of the OSS is to raise the profile of swimming outdoors in order to help care for wild places and permit legal access to these places. His ambition as a patron of the OSS is to encourage more people to leap into a river for the very first time.
Beth’s first love is sea swimming, based on her childhood along the North East coast of Scotland and an adulthood of spontaneously stripping and dipping whenever the opportunity presented itself. After swimming through her PhD – mainly in chlorine – she decided to be less spontaneous about it. So far that has meant learning not to swim barefoot in sub-zero lochs and finding out which inland swimming spots are reachable by public transport. In short, she now always packs her dookers.
Beth joined the OSS team in 2018 to develop, commission and edit content for its website, drawing on 16 years of her former career in features journalism (one of the highlights of which was swimming around Gourock outdoor pool with dictaphone aloft, interviewing its stalwarts). She is particularly interested in hearing and telling stories about the swimming community in the UK and beyond.
If you have a story, email her at email@example.com
Calum is an obsessive outdoor swimmer, swimming year round in skins – sometimes dipping, sometimes longer distance. ‘The lure of new water is what drives me. I can never settle at having a “regular” swim spot, and living in the Highlands of Scotland, I am spoilt for choice. Hunting out lochs in the hills, or river pools, hidden from roads and crowds: this makes me feel alive; swimming allows me to relax, think and fires my creativity.”
Calum has been a huge contributor to the outdoor swimming community in recent years, with his photography, filming and swimming all combining in some viral films. We were delighted to have him join the team in 2017 as an ambassador. “In 2018 I’ll be sharing more films, photos, swim discoveries and stories with the OSS, and plotting more swims on the map. The more people who are encouraged to dip a toe, or dive into the world of outdoor swimming, the better!”
“People often ask me why I swim in so many places, and how it started. I’m never quite sure but I can trace a jump in my swimming frequency to a solo crossing of the River Derwent in Hobart, Tasmania in 2009. After talking to my father, who it turns out was a young bushwalker, I realise he used to regularly “bag” lakes and rivers in Tasmania with friends – so perhaps the obsession is in the genes!”
Follow Calum’s photography (and enjoy his humour) on Instagram: @caldamac, his blog goneoffswimming.com, and in viral videos on BBC The Social on wild swimming, and TV series for the Gaelic channel BBC ALBA – Dhan Uisge (Into the Water).
Kari, a Devon sculptor and swimmer, is the OSS muse. Where Kari dreams, the rest of us follow – she has worked with Kate on many things that have become mainstays of the OSS movement, such as Breastrokes (our inland charity swims held in 2006 and 2007), the Dart10k, the Swoosh and the Hurly Burly.
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.
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 work-shy, Oli moderates the OSS Facebook group and page and is a regular face at OSS Events. He swam the Dart10k 10 mile course in 2015 and did a channel relay in 2016. Oli looks after the OSS Facebook group, keeping it friendly and ad-free.
Dubbed “the Stig of swimming” by the Wild Swimming Brothers, we don’t know ourselves quite who Swimstaman is. Some say he was raised by otters. Others that he has an irrational fear of swans. All we can say for sure is that Swimstaman brings creativity, adventure and fresh water tales from his Alpine hideout in Switzerland.
We are happy to welcome @swimstaman to the team as Special Envoy in 2018, during which he plans to write for us on (among other things) swimming with the Special Forces and crossing the Dardanelles.
In the shadowy past we hear he has been a visionary design award winner, a BBC Worldwide journalist, a Senior Lecturer (at only 26) and the ‘Best swimmer in the school’. He swam for Lancashire (once!), which is once more than the rest of us. He now lives in Switzerland doing stig-like things we can’t know about. We have no expectation of unmasking his true identity.
Follow him on instagram: @swimstaman
Like James Bond’s ‘Q’, Swimstaman is interested in prototypes, new technology and solid, reliable gear. If you have anything swimming/adventure related that you think our team might enjoy testing, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Nathan is a lawyer and his firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 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 BCLP for providing the OSS with a framework that allows us to continue to do so with passion and 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 Facebook – an operation in personal responsibility and freedom which led to the establishment of Facebook wild swimming groups across the land. Nathan also enabled 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 and Wales after experiencing the plentiful swimming lakes and 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 successes 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 and 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.
Imogen likes swimming in rivers. She first did it as a child, but then rediscovered her passion for it in 2012, after reading Roger Deakin’s Waterlog. She set about revisiting places where Roger Deakin had swum, visiting places others swim and finding her own swimming spots for dips or slightly longer swims (these days all through the year).
In discovering outdoor swimming Imogen very soon realised that it is surrounded with issues about access to inland waters and – connected issues – how important it is for better understanding of swimmers by others, especially the authorities, and for swimmers to understand how to swim safely. Without more places to swim, people have fewer opportunities to learn how to do so safely.
So Imogen has now become involved in campaigns and discussions about access through her work as part of the Inland Access Group.
Who tethers the event shelters when the storms come in? Who makes illuminated event signs at the Swoosh and 10ft-high Dart10k signs to welcome the event swimmers in? Who digs the press RIB out of the mud and cockles with his bare hands when someone stayed in the pub a bit too long? Tim does.
The man behind every fixed urn and mended flag pole at events has been working hard behind the scenes since the first Dart10k, and also spends a lot of time travelling the country with Kate and their two young boys in search of great swims.
Not a natural distance swimmer (has a body made to sink) he is however up for any adventure, has always got into water wherever he finds it, and always (always) has all the kit.
Sara is an all-year skins swimmer in lakes, tarns and river pools, mostly in the Lake District, but does stray further afield to the Dorset coast, France, Scotland, Wales and Greece. She records the landscapes she swims in and the people she swims with through written and photographic stories. Marrying the two childhood dreams was the inspiration she needed to overcome a personal physical challenge.
She is passionate about encouraging people to swim outdoors as a way of dealing with a mental, emotional or physical challenge. Sara loves to watch how the water changes people’s facial expression from a frown to a grin. ‘You leave grumpiness and stresses behind in the water’, she believes. ‘Take one swim at a time’.
Sara is a new member to the OSS team and is diligently working her way through content making sure typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are no more. She will also be writing more articles for the Survive section under the expert guidance of Mark Harper.
Lexi joined the OSS team in autumn 2018, contributing one book review a month to the site. Publishers and writers wishing to have their books reviewed, please contact Lexi on email@example.com.
Lexi has swum always, spending her childhood in the sea, rivers, dams and swimming pools around South Africa. She is now learning to swim in cold water and aims to learn how to swim through winter. Her current favourite wild spot is along the River Wye in Derbyshire but a trip to Hathersage Lido is always loved too.
She writes at www.lexislettuces.blog
Owen is a swimming access campaigner, living and swimming in the middle of what was once known as “Sheffield Lakeland”, an area dominated by large majestic functioning reservoir lakes.
Along with many others in the wider Yorkshire area and beyond, Owen is working to bring swimmers together, to collectively challenge social stigmas and the widespread prohibition of free outdoor swimming in inland waters.
Follow Owen on instagram: @owainhaeman
Ali joined the OSS in March 2019 as our new Wild Swim Group Coordinator.
Her role includes creating resources and an online network for community swimming groups. Ali is the first port of call for group leaders and new groups seeking advice from the OSS. She also maintains our website’s Wild Swim Group list. Ali set up Emsworth Sea Swimmers last year and has belonged to two other south coast groups so she has first hand experience of the difference groups make in the local community and the challenges they face too.
You can contact Ali on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ali’s career is in communications. She spent nine years working for the House of Lords and 15 years working in the charity and education sectors. She grew up in Portsmouth, where her passion for swimming and travelling began. She has backpacked through 61 countries (so far) and has swam off every continent. She is a keen scuba diver and a marine survey volunteer for ORCA.
Karen found outdoor swimming via triathlon in 2016. She discovered that she was most definitely not a triathlete – but fell in LOVE with swimming in Lakes and Lidos. Every spare moment she has is spent at her local lido, if not swimming chatting and eating cake. She swam the Dart 10k in 2018, is swimming Coniston in 2019 and has a Windermere one way in her sights for 2020. She finds tidal pools places of wonder and magic.
Karen is really excited to be the Swim Champs Coordinator for The OSS, helping the Champs to beam the swim Love all over the world!
Please email email@example.com to get in touch with Karen.
David’s connection with water began at a very early age through days spent swimming on holiday. Later in life, he developed a passion for both sailing and surfing. He enjoys the connection to nature, whether that be through its power and the exhilaration it can bring or conversely, the calming grounding effects it induces. His favourite thing to do is to sit on his surfboard at sunrise.
David has a BSc in Marine Resource Management. Whilst in Tenerife gathering data for his thesis on whale-watching, he inadvertently swam with hammerhead sharks. He has always dipped wherever he has travelled, notably in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean whilst racing a yacht to the Caribbean. Other memorable swim spots include fjords in Norway, waterfalls in New Zealand and a river in Russia whilst participating in The Mongol Rally.
Born and raised in Northumberland, David now lives on the edge of the Lake District. In 2019 he dipped 150 times after quickly completing his initial challenge of the 16 lakes. He would like to start swimming for longer but acknowledges that he needs a wetsuit!
David enjoys photography, design and the written word so jumped at the chance when invited to become Instagram Editor/Curator.
Follow David on Instagram @davpye
Gillian has loved swimming since she was a baby. She has been passionate about outdoor swimming in particular for many years, which in turn ignited her enthusiasm for triathlon. The swimming element is still easily her favourite of the three disciplines.
Gillian’s swimming regime at her local Lido is part and parcel of her daily life. Her favourite outdoor location is in the wild and beautiful waters of East Lothian in her native Scotland. On land, Gillian is Managing Director of Fuel PR, an award-winning boutique communications agency based in South-West London.
She attributes her boundless energy to the joy and relaxation she finds from swimming in all weathers, combined with her natural competitive edge. Gillian thrives on setting personal challenges, so she competes in local and national events when she can find time in her busy diary.
Please contact Gilly on firstname.lastname@example.org
Growing up in the north east of England Justine learnt to swim in various Victorian baths with the occasional dip in the bracing North Sea. As an adult, she rekindled her passion for outdoor swimming in London’s lidos and ponds and has become evangelical about the benefits of cold water swimming.
Justine is responsible for the news stories on the OSS website and newsletter. Get in touch with your events, films, lido updates or stories of amazing swimming achievements at email@example.com
Follow Justine on instagram: @justinefharvey
Aptly born under the sign of the fish, Simon spent an inordinate amount of his childhood spellbound by TV shows The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and The Man From Atlantis whilst poring over giant books like The Fascinating World of Oceans and Islands and dreamed of a life spent underwater. Competitive swimming gave way to scuba diving in his 20’s and he now indulges himself with both diving and OW distance swimming.
He has swum in all the various OSS events and intends to do so for as long as possible and can be found throughout the year at Parliament Hill Lido, and when open, various bodies of open water around London.
He is happiest when immersed.
Follow Simon on instagram: @mrosssecretary
Interested in joining the OSS Team? Contact Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org
Morgan became a member of The OSS in 2014 as a long distance swimmer, having completed Windermere One Way and an Ironman. She then became a volunteer for The OSS in 2015, coordinating the Castle to Castle swim on the River Teifi, fitting swimming in her now home, West Wales, around completing a PhD in Himalayan Glaciology and running expeditions for Brathay Exploration Group.
In 2018 Morgan took on the role of Executive Assistant to The OSS, with a brief foray into event management for the Hurly Burly 2018. After a short stint back in academia, Morgan became Event Manager in Summer 2019. She is now the Operations Manager for The OSS, working from her home office in West Wales, overseeing the day-to-day running of events, merchandise and anything else that needs doing. Morgan makes up one half of the permanent event staff, alongside Jon, for The OSS.
Morgan still likes to get in the water whenever she can, and has dreams of swimming the length of Loch Lomond. Her all time favourite swim is the Hurly Burly, and in the winter of 2019/2020 she will be aiming to join Zeno’s Swim Club as she swims through winter for the first time.
Jon first became aware of the OSS in 2016 when he volunteered at that year’s Dart 10k. That event kick started a love of outdoor swimming and has led to him dunking himself in cold water everywhere from the south coast of England to the north west tip of Scotland.
He has been involved with the OSS ever since: assisting at events, swimming the Swoosh and then stepping up to Headland Manager at the Swoosh before being asked to take on the role of Event Manager for the 2019 Dart 10k.
Jon is now one half of the permanent event staff for The OSS, managing and organising events from his home office in Devon three days a week.
Iain has worked as a weekend Site Manager at events for The OSS for around five years, and is now an extremely important cog in the weekend event management team. You’ll find him at the start of the Swoosh, the end of the Dart and flitting between the beach and coaches at the Hurly Burly.
When Iain isn’t site managing at an OSS event, he is a freelance outdoor instructor. He can also be found swimming around the north of England, and always takes on the difficult but necessary task of testing the hot tubs at the Dart 10k.
Liz has worked as a weekend as a weekend Site Manager at events for The OSS since 2015, and is now a very important part of all OSS events. You’ll find Liz at the end of the Swoosh, start of the Dart 10k, and at various roles at the Hurly Burly.
Based in the North West Liz is a freelance events, marketing and outdoor professional, and since working with The OSS has taking on various roles within the team, from event assistant to site manager, and helped launch the first Hurly Burly in 2017.
Liz loves the outdoors, especially climbing mountains, canoeing and skiing, but puts herself in the a fair weather dipper category when it comes to outdoor swimming.
Anna has been part of the OSS since November 2012. She manages the day-to-day running of the online shop, answers merchandise enquiries and is responsible for getting all the orders sent out to you.
Anna also loves spending time at the coast and swimming in the sea.
You can contact Anna about shop merchandise via email@example.com
John is a Father, homebuilder and Ice-man. Taught to swim by his cousin at age seven in Nova Scotia, he hasn’t stopped since. A wild swimmer and polar dipper, 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 – “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, then they would take a deep breath and just 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 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. 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 90 km swimming, running and cycling adventure from the North Sea on the East Coast to the Atlantic Sea on the West Coast.
When not traversing lochs and mountains by any means necessary, Louise is an operational firefighter trained in Swift Water Rescue. She is adept at swimming in challenging conditions and dealing with hypothermia and cold water shock.
This year she is going to be swimming, running and cycling 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. 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. Traditionally a river swimmer, she also loves lakes and the allure of the sea. She is currently dreaming of exploring new places and finding new, wild swim locations.
Joanna’s passion is to promote outdoor activity and connecting with nature to help cope with everyday stress, tension and anxiety.
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).
Rory says, “Outdoor sport has always been my meditation and what I love. 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 for out(in)door adventures on Instagram: @rorysouthworth
Bournemouth based Naomi is studying for an MSc 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. 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”.
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 – she is deeply committed to body positivity, disability awareness and pride, kindness and open-mindedness.
Follow Naomi on Instagram: @naomividz
For Ornagh, swimming is about freedom – she started as a personal mental health challenge a couple of years ago. She began posting her morning swims on social media for accountability, but now she swims wherever there is a body of water and the colder the better.
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. The thing that connects her challenges is the belief in the kindness of people and wanting to spread that joy. She is also REALLY good at the splits.
Follow Ornagh on Instagram @ornagh_morechalk
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.
A book of her blog ‘Wild Woman Swimming’ was published in September 2018, and is available in the OSS shop.
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 judgement.
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 most of what is now the ‘Survive’ section of the OSS website. She also acted as the best press officer we have ever had, 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 it 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.