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A Swim Into The Wild

© Mark Griffiths

Ever since the late Roger Deakin swam through Britain by river, lake and sea the term ‘wild swimming’ has been used to describe the age-old practise of swimming in natural waters – river swimming and other outdoor swimming. Wild swimming has a long and fascinating history stretching back through the centuries. Nordic kings and earls of Orkney were famed for their heroic swimming feats and welsh mercenaries took to the waters in a bid to win the hearts of the women they admired. Water has a healing quality; ancient Egyptians practised bathing rituals in hopes of curing ailments.

Outdoor or wild swimming is one of the fastest adventure growing sports in the U.K. More and more people are realising the benefits of swimming in cold or natural flowing water. This series follows wild swimmers throughout the year; from the hot and dry summer months to the unpredictable cold winter season with water temperatures barely above freezing. The images bear witness to the swimmers and their affiliation with the water and the varying reasons for why they swim outdoors. Immersing myself in the culture of wild swimming, I spent a year documenting a number of groups, clubs and individuals across the country in order to delve deep into the personalities of these intrepid souls.

Unlike the more traditional pool swimmers, wild swimmers are less interested in the competitive nature of swimming and more in the varying benefits and attributes of open water and its nourishing qualities. Being in water can improve emotional health and mental well-being including decreasing anxiety and depression and improve mood according to research. From mental illness to PTSD, the water allows the swimmers in this series to completely detach from the mental or physical anguish in their lives.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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