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Reflections and intentions for 2023

We asked the Outdoor Swimmer team, contributors and our community to share reflections on 2022 and their open water intentions for the year ahead.

Your reflections and intentions were heartwarming, enlightening and inspirational. They spoke of strength, sisterhood and solidarity; reviving long-distance ambitions; improved representation; and a desire to reconnect. Scroll down to be inspired, then share your own #swimintentions2023 with us – we would love to hear from you!

Swimming for the love

“I started 2022 with ambitious swimming goals. I had lots of swimming to do to ensure I was ready for my upcoming challenge in July [to swim the length of Lake Bala, Lake Windermere and Loch Awe, on top of running to the summits of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis and cycling between each stage]. Part way into the year, I found that I was starting to lose my drive and was having to force myself to get into the water and train. I stopped to reflect on what was going wrong and I realised that I had become caught up in swimming for speed and swimming for distance. Everything had a goal or a time; I was constantly competing with myself. That day I decided I would take my watch off and just swim. It was the best decision I had ever made. It was just me and the water, no time to beat, no distance to attain. I was swimming for the love of it. So as we approach 2023, I am setting myself one goal and one goal only: to swim for the love. Me and the ocean.”

Andrea Mason, adventurer & advocate for menstrual health @sea_to_summit_extreme (photo Olly Bowman Photography)

Strength, sisterhood and solidarity

“2022 was filled with water-related adventures, from the tropical waters of Panama’s jungle to the ice-cold lakes of the world’s end in Chile; I have had no shortage of opportunities to swim. My biggest takeaway, however, has more to do with the swimmers I met along the way. Having spent the better part of this year working on my documentary project ‘Schools of Women’, I have met, documented and organised groups of women swimmers in different bodies of water in Latin America. In them I have found strength, sisterhood and solidarity. Their spirit and energy have been contagious and I feel extremely lucky to have met and swam alongside them. I hope that sharing their stories helps bring more women in the water and I’m excited to continue finding new ‘schools’ of women in the upcoming year.”

Ana Elisa Sotelo van Oordt, documentary photographer

To revive long-distance swimming ambitions

“As this year ends, I am feeling more reflective than usual. In 2023 I will be saying goodbye to my 30s! It is such a huge cliché, but 40 is a scary age for me. When I turned 30, I marked my 30th year by swimming 30 memorable swims and as 40 rolls around it is tempting to throw myself into a similar challenge. However, another ten years has given me some wisdom and in-hindsight I can see my 30-year project was major avoidance! I don’t need to hide away in the water to mark another decade, but I am choosing to spend it swimming. I would like to revive my long-distance swimming in 2023 and enter swim events like I once did. So, if you see me at the start line, give me a nudge and wish me luck!”

Ella Foote, Outdoor Swimmer Editor 

Cheering on our plus size community

“As a community [Every Body Outdoors], we’re massively varied in how we like to swim. Some of us are very happy in skins with an ice pick in our hand (like Emily, our resident loch swimmer). Others, like me, are proud fair-weather swimmers – looking ahead impatiently towards springtime. The one thing we have in common is we’re all plus size. This coming year, we’ll keep shouting for better kit and representation for people like us in the outdoors. No matter what the goal – whether it’s dipping for the first time or pushing for longer distances – Every Body Outdoors will be there, cheering on our plus size community.”

Sara, Every Body Outdoors

Swimming for mental health and chronic pain

“I have been wild swimming for the past few years; I began 2022 swimming in order to help with my mental health and also chronic pain in my neck and shoulder. However, I also started working remotely this year and found the solitude hard. After discovering a community down at my local lake, outdoor swimming has become a tool to help connect me with others and get out in nature in the morning before long days sitting at home. I am going into 2023 with the intention to keep swimming multiple times a week as well as training to swim further distances.”

Hannah Wilcock, @feather39

More epic long swims 

“My year should get off to an awesome start with the World Winter Swimming Championships in Lake Bled in January – a whole week of cold water swimming events. The rest of the year is always a balance between my own open water coaching, guiding (Ullswater Swim Place) and organising events (I’m both on the board of the IWSA and Swim Director for Swim Serpentine), but I always have my own swim goals each year.  I’m hoping to do some epic long swims in my beloved Ullswater and will be back out to Finland for a fabulous 24km down river swim race.”

Colin Hill, British ice swimmer & Vice President of the International Winter Swimming Association 

To re-evaluate my relationship with swimming

“Lingering effects from the pandemic have pushed behaviour changes onto many of us. A big one for me has been a reduction in easy access to pool training. While the situation is improving, I’ve gotten out of the habit of doing regular long-distance pool training and have experienced a consequential decline in long-distance swimming performance. While initially frustrated by this, I’ve taken it as an opportunity to re-evaluate my relationship with swimming and my overall health and fitness. My swimming intentions for 2023 therefore look something like this: Use swimming primarily to support my overall health and general fitness rather than training for long-distances. Replace some of the time I used to spend swimming with other fitness activities such as running and land-based strength and condition exercises. Focus attention on some different events such as short pool-based sprint races (50m and 100m) across all competitive swimming strokes.”

Simon Griffiths, Outdoor Swimmer Founder & Publisher

To help save the Wye

“My intention for 2023 is to do more to help save the River Wye. The Wye is my home river and my go-to place for swimming, but in recent years the river’s health has severely declined because of run-off from local chicken farms and sewage pollution. It’s been heartbreaking to witness and write about, but it’s also been so inspiring to witness the campaigns of local volunteers and activists who regularly test the water quality, organise protests and raise awareness about the poor state of the river. I’m determined to join them in their efforts from now on because actions speak louder than words. We need to bring the Wye back from the brink.” 

Abigail Whyte, Outdoor Swimmer Digital Journalist

A truly memorable year

“At the start of 2022, I was beginning to get used to the fact that people in the open water swimming world knew who I was. I’d given a talk at the Kendal Mountain Festival and knew I had some exciting projects ahead. What I didn’t expect was to become an ambassador for Arctic One and Swim Secure, and an affiliate of Tri Wetsuit Hire! I also wasn’t expecting to be asked to write extracts for two books on outdoor swimming, be approached for interviews and podcasts, be part of an international workshop on outdoor swimming with a disability, and to give the first ever talk on accessibility in swimming outdoors at the 2022 STA Conference. And of course, I could also never have dreamt that I would be approached by Outdoor Swimmer magazine to become one of their monthly contributors, either!

All that doesn’t even begin to cover the actual swimming I did in 2022. Fifteen years after attempting a Channel relay, I was part of a team that succeeded; I took part in the BLDSA Champion of Champions; did the unlimited Henley Swim relay with Jonty Warneken; joined the Rutland Night swim; plus plenty of social swims and coaching, too. What an incredible year! I feel so fortunate to be in the position I am, to have the support I do, and to have been given the opportunities I’ve had this year. I’m also honoured to be a voice for those with disabilities that love this sport as much as I do, and for those that are yet to start the sport too. 2023 is going to bring many more exciting things and I’m going to attempt a swim I have wanted to do since I was a teenager – watch this space!”

Sophie Etheridge, Adaptive Athlete and Outdoor Swimmer contributor @sophie_adaptive_athlete

Carving out time to reconnect

“A love of outdoor swimming and adventure connected me with my partner, Sam, when we first met back in 2018. In our first years we swam, sculled and scrambled down the River Mole together; paddled down the Wye, camping beside the river each night; explored remote Highland lochs and Hebridean bays; and road tripped around Iceland’s Westfjords in search of geothermal pools. Fast forward four years and we are striving to come back to ourselves after the birth of our daughter, lockdowns and a house move. I think we’ve only swam together twice this year: snatched moments between work and childcare. My intention for 2023 is to carve out time to reconnect with this part of myself and this important part of ‘us’.”

Jo Tinsley, Outdoor Swimmer Digital Journalist

Set a goal and work towards it

“Looking forward to 2023, I’ll be starting where I left off. The goal is to swim the final section of Scotland’s most southern peninsula, these being some notoriously difficult waters. 2022 brought its fair share of challenges, with wild winds and choppy seas, but this is the hazard of swimming the Scottish coastline. Set a goal and work towards it. There will likely be obstacles, but these will only make the hard work and achievement all the greater.”

Gavin, Scottish long-distance swimmer @officiallygav

Encourage swimmers from under-represented backgrounds to enter an open-water event

“2022 was an incredible year of working with my community interest company, Swimunity and helping to provide opportunities for those from under-represented backgrounds to enjoy swimming, the water and nature. Going into 2023 I want to continue this work, but a big goal of mine is to encourage more of the women we teach swimming to enter into an open-water swimming event by the summer.”

Omie Dale, Outdoor Swimmer Gear Editor & Co-founder Swimunity

Winter miles for summer smiles

After a couple years of enjoying wild dipping I am up for a few long-distance challenges in 2023. I am signed up to do the one-day Scilly Swim Challenge in September and would also like to tick off a few long swims in the Lake District – Wastwater, Ullswater and (maybe!) Windermere. So far I am enjoying getting back into training – it’s good for my mental health in a different way to dipping. Having the Lakes on my doorstep is the best of both worlds. Hopefully winter miles will mean summer smiles!

Jonathan Cowie, Outdoor Swimmer Contributing Editor

New lido excitement

“Unlike previous years, 2022 didn’t end with the embrace of cold water. A long running snotty nose and a lack of gumption, coupled with the warming embrace of the Mediterranean on a November trip to Cyprus, meant that winter swims have lost their allure somewhat. All the better then that 2023 sees the opening of Sea Lanes on Brighton beach just a pebble’s throw from my front door. A heated 50m lido with the option of a dip in the sea is my idea of heaven. I cannot wait for long stretches of front crawl without having to check currents or worry about breaking waves. Doubtless I’ll be bashing into other swimmers though.”

Joe Minihane, author of Floating

“Mother and daughter together with no pretence, just laughter”

“2022 started off with being part of the January daily dip team raising money for Shelter but unfortunately we both got Covid so could not participate much at all. Then in the spring we both moved houses quite away from each other and it changed our wild swimming adventures. Gone are the days of swimming every day together; now we swim occasionally. We both miss the company and the silliness but it is something very special that we have, mother and daughter together with no pretence just laughter. What does it mean for 2023? We both will make more of an effort to meet up regularly, we will laugh and be silly and most important of all we’ll be swimming.”

Sallie and Ella, @theswimmingwomen

2022 – what a page turner!

“2022 is only the beginning of my wild swimming story and what a page turner it’s been! The experiences and the people I’ve met have been amazing! On top of that, the feeling of calm and peace that it brings to me is something I never thought would be possible! I’m always (and I mean, always) on the go, so getting into the water and just ‘being’ is nourishment for my mind and soul. There are so many groups out there, so if you’re thinking of giving it a go, do it! It’ll be a great New Year’s resolution to make. 

Tara Davies @tara_treks

Setting a date and making it happen 

For years I’ve been going on escapades with a little gang of swimmers. We swam the landscape of Speyside, splashed on every island in the Outer Hebrides, microadventured in Southern Ireland and dipped the Yorkshire Dales. We’ve got our next destination in mind but we need to find dates that each of us can fit into our busy lives. If you have aspirations and intentions for exploring places with swimmy friends there is an overwhelming amount of inspiration all over social media, online and in print publications. Picking the date is a good start to making it happen for you. 

Susanne Masters, Outdoor Swimmer contributor

Reflections on river swims

“My favourite swim of the year was with my spaniel, Scout and my Sunday swimming group. If I get in the water, Scout always follows. In November, we had some heavy rain, so the river was in spate. When this happens, my group meets at a safe spot, but I didn’t want to risk having Scout swept away. In the end, I attached her to me using her lead. That way we were able to get in, swoosh downstream, and then clamber out and run up the bank to do it again.”

Rebecca Beattie, author of The Wheel of the Year, @rebeccambeattie

Share your #swimintentions2023 on Instagram; tag us and we will share with our community. We would love to hear from you!

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.