Open water swimming, especially the big swims like the English Channel, fosters a family of like-minded people. I completed my solo swim in 2013; it was not something I did alone. When preparing for my Channel swim many people helped me. From the support delivered during my swim to the encouragement received leading up to that day, it all helped make my dream possible.
Living ten minutes from a beach but 3.5 hours from Dover and its famous training group, it seemed obvious to do long training swims on my doorstep. It turned out I was not alone with those thoughts. “Initially it was Marcus’s infectious enthusiasm that lured me to the South coast to train for my Channel swims, but the change of scenery from Dover was most welcome,” said one swimmer in training. “A sandy beach with bikini-clad girls and water that was often clear enough to see fish swimming below me gets my vote every time!” Bournemouth has blue flag beaches, clear water, south coast sunshine, Jurassic coast views and a thriving community of swimmers. Out of the 10 solo swimmers who gathered and trained together at Durley in 2013, nine of us completed our Channel crossings.
My friend Stephen was going to be training for his Channel solo in 2014. Having in mind some long distance swims for myself, knowing there were more swimmers who were up for training, and feeling that I wanted to give something back to the swimming community that had helped me so much, it seemed obvious to continue the Durley swims in 2014. Last year 40 out of 43 of swimmers training for marathon swims were successful. Most were Channel crossings, but the also group contained swimmers who had global plans. One swimmer who trained at Durley in the 2013 season returned to train for and went on to complete the Manhattan Island Marathon swim. Other international long distance swimming successes achieved by swimmers from the Durley group in 2014 included the Catalina Channel swim and Gibraltar Strait crossing. Closer to home some of our swimmers completed Jersey to France and the length of Windermere.
“It feels like you are on a Mediterranean beach. Golden sands, holiday atmosphere and a welcoming and inclusive Durley crew,” said one of last year’s swimmers. “No better place to train”. Durley swimming is based on the combination of Bournemouth’s amenities and a supportive swimming community. Swimmers arriving for the 8am start on Saturday and Sunday can find free parking for the day. Being equipped for beach visitors, Bournemouth has public toilets, showers and a beachside pub for post-swim refuelling. It is also an entertaining location for swimmers’ companions who aren’t planning on swimming all day. “For some reason the family won’t come to Dover, but to Bournemouth no problem!” said one 2014 Durley swimmer. We swim within the area delimited by yellow marker buoys 200m out from the low water mark in which watercraft should not go faster than six knots. The local lifeguard team have been supportive of our training endeavours and we continue to take on board their tips and advice in managing our swimming route in balance with other water users.
People are the most important aspect of the Durley swims. Our volunteers, including previous seasons’ swimmers and current swimmers, keep a register of who is in the water and have feeds ready for swimmers on the hour. There are occasional variations to this. One swimmer emailed to say: “One lasting memory I had of swimming with you guys was seeing the ice-cream boat turn up alongside us. I thought to myself Marcus has thought of everything! It brought a whole new meaning to taking on feeds in the sea! Excellent day.” Durley swimming isn’t just about the physical preparation for successful solo swims. There is also an option for prospective solo swimmers to be matched up with a buddy who has done a successful Channel swim to provide a listening ear and encouragement during their journey. We have a mixture of experienced swimmers and newbies with both being able to support each other. One returning legend revealed: “After doing a six hour swim with the group last year I was asked when was the last time I had done a swim as long as that. My reply was 1993.”The 2015 season is already looking like it’ll be a memorable year with friends who will be at Durley building up to Channel swims, and I will be training for my big swim of the year. I am also looking forwards to welcoming new people to the group, seeing swimmers grow and develop through the sport and supporting them onto new successes. One of last year’s swimmers summarised their thoughts for the upcoming season and previous experience of the Durley combination of swimming and companionship by saying: “Durley, a coping strategy for the 21st century. No matter how busy/stressful work and life in general continues to be, a two to five hour OWS therapy session with my Durley family fixes me for another week. The group is friendly, kind, supportive and totally professional in going about its business. I couldn’t recommend it any more highly as ‘medicine for life’. I cannot wait for May to start my weekly therapy for 2015.”
Run every weekend from May-September entering the water at 8am swimming up to 7 hours.
Friday night fireworks
Companionable venture into night swimming with an hour swim ending at 10pm when the fireworks start. Projected dates from Bournemouth council (to be confirmed) are Fridays from 24 July to 28 August.