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 and creative individuals to the team in any capacity, and we are currently looking for 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
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.
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).
Beth joined the OSS in 2018 as a writer and sub-editor of the then-bi-weekly newsletters and has been editor of ‘elsewhere’ since its launch in January 2020. As former features journalist, Beth enjoys the creative challenge of ‘elsewhere’ and the increasing pressure to cover outdoor swimming in fresh and meaningful ways. She became a Director of the OSS in January 2021. In this role, she looks forward to helping internationalise the OSS, while hopefully still being able to vote on t-shirt colours.
Beth’s first swimming love is the sea, having grown up close to the coastline of the north-east of Scotland. This continued into adulthood as an uncontemplated compulsion to strip and dip. Then she began a PhD and, needing somewhere to hide, became far less spontaneous about swimming indoors and out. Now working as an academic in Glasgow, she swims in nearby lochs while persistently craving saltwater and, increasingly, rivers. She has a long-standing hankering to spend a long weekend swimming navigable sections of the Rivers Spey, Findhorn and Lossie, in a Motherland Triple.
If you have previous journalism or publishing experience and would like to join the ‘elsewhere’ team as a writer or editor, get in touch with Beth at email@example.com
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.
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 and books such as The Fascinating World of Oceans and Islands whilst dreaming 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 can be found throughout the year at Parliament Hill Lido, and when open, various bodies of open water around London. One day he will realise his dream of a house with a sea view.
He is happiest when immersed.
Follow Simon on instagram: @mrosssecretary
Interested in joining the OSS Team? Contact Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ali is the first port of call for community initiatives and activities involving The OSS.
She is keen to forge community partnerships for the benefit of swimmers and the swimming community in the UK and internationally.
Ali joined The OSS in 2019 and established our international wild swim group network.
Ali set up the swimming collective Solent Outdoor Swimmers in 2018, so she has first hand experience of the difference swim groups make to the local community and the challenges they face too.
You can contact Ali on email@example.com.
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 67 countries (so far) and has swam off every continent. She is a keen scuba diver and a marine survey volunteer for ORCA.
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 or 07831 411661.
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. Oli was a director until 2020, when he stepped down to focus on his new business, Helves.
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.
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
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
Sus’ love of immersion in cold water was founded from a young age after her parents took her and her siblings on regular sea swims throughout the cold English winters.
Growing up in landlocked Bath, Sus discovered the joy of river swimming in her early teens, although never managed to find many friends willing to brave the water with her. She now swims regularly with the Bath Openwater Beauts and thrives on the community she has met through outdoor swimming.
After 15 years of weaving in and out of the hospitality industry, Sus now owns and runs a vegan cafe in Bath – Cascara.
Contact Sus on email@example.com
Follow Sus on instagram @roughmeasures
Liz can mainly be found in, on, or under water. Growing up on the Gower coast in South Wales meant being spoiled for choice with a range of amazing beaches within walking distance, and ‘secret swimming spots’ in the Brecon Beacons only a short drive away.
Now based in North Carolina, USA, Liz is swimming/paddling her way around the rivers, lakes and state parks of NC and the eastern seaboard with husband and two little girls in tow.
An Oceanographer and scuba instructor by training, Liz worked on Science and Natural History programmes at the BBC, being lucky enough to dive and swim ‘some ridiculously amazing spots’ and get to call it work! Now she gets to swim with the sharks at the North Carolina aquarium and teach children about marine conservation.
Mike is a regular contributor of training and other guides for The OSS, aimed at swimmers of all abilities and ambitions.
His coaching philosophy has been honed by Stoic Zeno cold water dipping and taking part in OSS big swims and other adventures: always believe in the extraordinary things people can do with just the right degree of challenge, expert care and encouragement.
He runs an endurance sports coaching business, ZigZag Alive and Confidence Centred Coaching, a resource for all sports coaches who share an interest in confidence and self-belief in great coaching practice. Mike also supports children with disabilities on their swim journeys, through the charity Level Water.
In his younger days he was a super skinny, zippy runner. He is now dedicated to finding fluency and flow, undertaking new exciting adventures and ‘mindful’ cake and ice cream consumption.
Anna has been wearing different swimming hats for The OSS since 2008.
She has previously helmed our newsletter, as well as worked on our media output and creative projects.
A wild swimmer since toddlerhood, she can be found most often on Kent’s more rural beaches.
As a disabled person, Anna has an interest in the accessibility of locations, clothing and kit.
Lou is a childcare lawyer who would rather be swimming.
Located in Devon, Lou has access to the swimming delights of the River Dart, the South Hams beaches and Dartmoor as well as the many local lidos.
She also loves swimming in the lakes and tarns of the Lake District.
Lou loves long distance swims, has completed the Dart 10k ten times and Windermere twice but is happy to swim or dip anywhere and anytime of the year as long as it is outdoors.
Lance enjoys many forms of swimming but has a particular love of rivers. He is curating a collection of point to point river routes, swimming them with friends and recording them with maps, photos and tales from the adventure. These routes are more than just a dip and as such tend to be more resilient to overcrowding and the accompanying environmental damage, while offering a chance to explore something unknown. He hopes that as more people spend time swimming in rivers, more people will demand improvement in the way we care for our freshwater environments.
Also a keen free diver and underwater photographer, his hope is that we can build a deep cohort of wild swimmers who will both advocate for access to our open water environments and set a positive example in caring for them.
Follow Lance on Instagram:
Niall has been sea swimming all his life. Born metres from the water’s edge in Dún Laoghaire and growing up in Sandycove, Co. Dublin, inevitably meant living a sea-affected life.
As a designer Niall has always been interested in image making. For years he had a subconscious creative itch that needed an outlet. So while he was wondering what his medium of expression might be, he realised that it was already happening during his daily morning swims.
“I make images that reflect my experience in the sea. The sea is doing the creative work. My job is to show up with an inquisitive mind and faithfully record what I see. I have learned that my images communicate best when they are truly of their place – and my images are taken in the Irish Sea.”
He now calls The Cove, in Greystones, Co Wicklow his home water.
Follow Niall on instagram: @niall_verso and @humansofswimrise
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.