john mark earle zeno swim club winner

Zeno’s swim club: Photo of the week

Celebrating winter swimming

Bethanie Earle

Zeno’s winter swim club is about celebrating all aspects of swimming through winter. Based on the Stoic school of philosophy, our online community is where you can share your love of swimming in wind, ice, and stinging rain, but also those sunny, crisp mornings and light only found when shadows are long and winter is in the air. You can read all about the swim club and it’s philosophy here.

Each week the photo that optimises the club best (and includes #thestoics) will win a Zeno’s swim hat, and will be shared on our social media channels, and here, to document our swim club through winter.

Does it count as Stoic if I thoroughly enjoyed it? ‘  – Swimsta Man (who gave Zeno’s it’s name)


Week 1: @_robrichardson

Zeno’s Swim Club was launched on 1st November, and over 600 people from across the world have got involved. From ‘magical misty swims‘ (@letwitteur) to ‘Squelching and sliding up the hill, past ancient beech and oak trees, wide skies above me and the City towers distant behind me‘ (@tessa_stuart), people have been embracing the ‘just get in and enjoy it’ philosophy of the club.

Rob’s photo, taken in Llyn Padarn, Wales, reminded The OSS team that whilst winter swimming is cold and often stormy, part of the beauty in this transitional period between autumn and winter is the fantastic low light shining on crisp autumnal leaves, and the stillness of the water.

Rob is a seasoned winter swimmer, making the most of the llyns and sea around his home in North Wales. Rob has been swimming outdoors since he joined some friends for an autumnal dip two years ago, and swam through winter for the first time last year. Rob says he can’t quite pin down why he likes icy water; ‘ I don’t enjoy getting in that’s for sure. I’m always last in if I’m in a group. But once I’m in, from then on it’s a magical experience. I love the vastness and unknowableness of the Llyns I swim in. The wildness of the mountainscapes around. The oneness with my surroundings. The all-encompassing present moment body awareness. The vulnerability. The peace or playfulness depending on the day. The hot chocolate and the cake. The laughter. The bond. The solitude. The high that lasts for days. The awareness that nothing else that day will be as great a challenge. The resilience. You can follow Rob’s swims on Instagram @_robrichardson.

Other favourites this week were the Silky Serpentine Swim by @team_mermaids_uk, Antonia (aged 83) showing us how to do it (@tonicofthesea) and the low light, building clouds and shining pebbles encapsulated by @runningthroughthecloud‘s photo.


Week 2: @swimstinieswim

Temperature, both water and air have started to drop, but people are still jumping, sliding and tentatively dippping a toe into cold water. Over 500 people joining Zeno’s swim club this week (and counting).


‘ If you ever have the need to feel alive, jump in some cold water. It’s one of the most horrifying and brilliant experiences. Especially for a Monday morning’ – @mortensolemsli

Christine’s photo (@swimstinieswim) won this week for that skyline, and for jumping in whole heartily into cold water. Christine, a photographer based in Rotterdam, is just starting out on her cold water journey (her Zeno’s Swim Club hat will be her first swim hat, which will arrive just in time for her birthday!).

Despite only just coming back to swimming this summer after a 34 , she has become a very regular dipper in Kralingse Lake, near Rotterdam. Christine shared with us how she feels about rekindling her love of swimming: ‘I enjoy it so much that I kept swimming even when it got colder. At first I was not sure if I could do it but it makes me feel so good about myself that it’s worth it. It helps me with self confidence. Clarity of my mind. Inner power. While swimming I forget everything else. Nothing else matters’.

It was a very tough week to choose a winner, with some spectacular winter shots. Other favourites of The OSS team were The Suffolk Zenos discussing temperatures (@whitt), @mortensolemsli‘s foray into cold water swimming at Brockwell Lido, and @ellentayto‘s classic wooly hat and cossie shot.

Week 3: @harvmania

This week saw the first UK-wide flurries of snow, but #thestoics were still out in force, scrapping ice of cars to get to the water, donning bobble hats, gloves, socks, cossies, wetsuits, or just none of the above.


‘When you’re standing on the edge of a cold mountain lake in winter, swimming can seem as crazy as a pig flying — it feels other-dimension ridiculous and inaccessible. And when you strip off, the crazy levels rise as cold water edges tensely up your thigh and your feet struggle blindly with slippery surfaces. It’s not till I commit fully to the water that I suddenly feel in my element, like I could swim and swim’ – @sarah_stirling.

Becca’s (@harvmania) photo won this week Zeno’ swim hat, for not only braving the ice-strewn banks  as she got in, but for showing what Zeno’s is all about – that cold water is made better with people. Becca started cold water swimming a couple of years ago to help manage her post traumatic stress, and since then has gone to strength to strength because of the wonderfully  supportive outdoor swimming community.

Beeca says ‘Cold water makes me feel strong. From accepting the cold mentally to pushing myself physically to achieve my goals. Through consistently getting in I’ve developed a knowledge of my body and what it can withstand. Especially this year training for my ice mile, I need to accept the cold, relax in my stroke and remember that the pain is temporary and will pass. This mindset now helps me everyday, in and out of the water and that’s why I love it’.

Other favourites of The OSS team this week were @happypear and friends staring down waves in Ireland, @relativelywild swimming within the autumnal vegetation at Taw Marsh and our very own swimp champ, @outdooralex, taking it all in surrounded by snow dusted mountains.

Week 4: @sea_shell.444

This week #thestoics showcased the best of winter swimming through sharing their wonderful weather shots, from stormy seas, to glassy tidal pools and mist strewn lake.  Zeno’s swim club been finding their way to atmospheric and spectacular spots across the country, and with the shortest day approaching much of the dipping and swimming is done in dusky light.


‘Swimming at sunrise or sunset takes wild swims to the next level. I’t all about the light and atmosphere at those times of day that somehow make it a more visceral experience’ – @wiltshirewildswim

Shelly Anne (@sea_shell.444) photo won this week because her photo really captures why so many of us love winter swimming – the light, the calmness, immersing ourselves in the outdoors when everyone else is embracing their sofa. Shello Anne starting swimming in Summer 2018 in the North Sea, Tynmouth, solo and in a wetsuit. After a few weeks she was found her local group of swimmers and was astounded they didn’t wear wetsuits, but she sooned joined them, venturing into the sea every morning through winter without one.

Shelly Anne says ‘I have become fitter, more disciplined and more connected to nature since I began wild swimming. Cold water swimming wakes me up, stirs my senses and connects me with my body. It allows me to feel like my body and mind can overcome anything in my life’.

Other favourites this week were the misty Llyn Cwellyn, captured by the @woolyhattersnorthgwyr, @nittyswimswild‘s birthday swim in Zürichsee and @emmajoyfulford‘s imaginative way to get in cold water.

December winner: @woollyhattersnorthgwynedd (photo by @theshutterninja)

December was the month that Zeno’s Swim Club gained a wonderfully huge amount of members. At temperatures of around 6 °C some stoics braved the water regularly, whilst others took the plunge in celebration of the season. However, the foundations of what Zeno’s was built on were definitely confirmed – cold water is better with friends.


The Woolly Hatters of North Gwynedd took the prize for the best photo in December, with a spectacular shot taken by @theshutterninja of them braving Llyn Idwal, North Wales, at Sunrise. The swim was arranged by @that_hiking_karate_girl and brought a group of people together that didn’t all know each other. “We laughed and squealed a lot, and then enjoyed a hot chocolate and biscuits together afterwards”.

Other December favourites were the photos of Festive swims, such as those at Budleigh (@rosieloisking) and Bridlington (@hollylinklater).

January winner: @johnmarkearle (photo by @billiejoy)

It gets cold in January. The water temperature is dropping, it’s dark outside, and our enthusiasm for open water begins to wane. Luckily we have Zeno’s Swim Club, with members all around the world encouraging and inspiring one another to get out there and to go swimming. As this month’s winner found, it was the support from friends and family that helped him achieve his own personal winter swimming challenge.

john mark earle zeno swim club winner Bethanie Earle

John Mark Earle from Canada won January’s picture of the month with this fantastic shot taken by @billiejoy.

John explained the challenge of swimming in Canada in winter: ‘I am a building contractor in Northern Alberta, Canada. In the past, winter has been a dark time for me. It gets extremely cold with only a short amount of light each day. This year I decided that instead of hiding in the dark binging on reruns from old tv shows, that I would experience winter just as it is. I started to swim in our river in December, until it froze solid. Then I started cutting a hole in the ice to get into the water. When I decided to do it everyday throughout winter, I didn’t know if it was possible. I knew that every year we have at least one period during winter that drops down to nearly -50 Celsius. When that happened in January, I was afraid. I would stress all day long thinking about how I was going to dip in the river.

‘I had three moments of panic when different horrific scenarios flashed through my mind. Could I get pulled under the ice? Would I get frostbite? How much would it hurt waiting for my feet and hands to warm up? What if the ice shifted and I got trapped? I didn’t know the answers to any of those questions. I just kept going and I went everyday and have continued.’

John’s photo shows him celebrating 50 consecutive days of winter swimming. ‘I have been so moved by the support and the sense of community that I have felt as I am completing this challenge. Each member of my family except for my two year old has gone into the water with me, and many friends. It is amazing that our limits are often just arbitrarily set. We can do what we haven’t even imagined yet. We just need to decide and then follow through.’


To join Zeno’s swim club use the hashtags #thestoics and #outdoorswimmingsociety in your social media posts. A winner will be picked every week in November, then once a month until April, and each winner will receive a Zeno’s swim hat. 

You can also show off your membership of #thestoics by getting yourself a Zeno’s Swim Club hoodie, tee or swim cap.




Swimming in the cold holds risk. These cold risks include, but are not limited to, cold shock and cold incapacitationafterdrop, hypothermia and death. Conditions such as asthma and high blood pressure can cause problems with sudden immersion in cold.

Please use the resources available (such as the Cold section of this website and the other swimmers within The Outdoor Swimming Society community on FB) to educate yourself before getting in, and swim safe. If you decide that you are fit and ready for winter swimming, seek the advice of the more experienced, consider swimming in a group (either a wild swim group or a winter lido) and go gently – think 10 strokes not 10 minutes.

Responsibility for safety lies with individual swimmers and is not assumed by The Outdoor Swimming Society or any of it’s volunteers or staff in providing this free community group (please see the terms of our OSS Swim Responsibility Statement).