FEATURES,  View from the Water

When is a swim more than just a swim?

Image: Steve Wand Memorial Swim (c) Neil Gear

Towards the end of 2015, a bunch of guys gathered at Charlton Lido for that long-distance swimmers’ classic, 100 x 100m. A few months later, one of those swimmers, Steve Wand, was dead. He died in a cycling accident when a van pulled out in front of him on a fast descent. His friends called the air ambulance but they were unable to save him. Steve was 58 when he died, just short of his 59th birthday when he planned to retire.

Steve came relatively late to endurance sport after quitting smoking in his 40s but he embraced it wholeheartedly. His friends say he didn’t have hobbies, only passions and obsessions, which is something many swimmers can surely relate to. As well as sport, he loved vegetarian cooking and travel. I didn’t know Steve, but from the way people speak of him, it sounds as if he was an inspiration to many.

To honour Steve’s memory, Mark Sheridan decided to recreate those 100 100s on 17 December this year. Not only did he drag along Steve’s friends from the 2015 swim, he went out to the open water swimming community and ‘invited’ around 30 other people to join in. I write ‘invited’ because what Mark actually said was: “I am organising a memorial swim from Steve Wand. You will be there.” So I was, and I was proud to take part in what was a wonderful demonstration of the swimming community coming together to celebrate the life of a fellow swimmer and also to raise funds for a good cause. So far, nearly £3000 has been collected for the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance.

As for the swim, the first thing I have to say is that Charlton Lido is a wonderful facility. It’s a beautiful 50m heated outdoor pool in South East London. The staff were fantastic and fully supportive, allowing us to take over four lanes and we had around 10 swimmers in each. With Oliver Wilkinson (Manhattan Island Marathon Swim record holder) and Dan Bullock (founder of Swim for Tri and UK masters national open water champion) leading the way, there was no messing around and we cranked out the 10km in just under three exhausting hours.

After the swim we shared a vegetarian chilli, one of Steve’s favourite recipes, and Steve’s family presented everyone who took part with a medal as a memento of a swim that was definitely a lot more than just a swim.

The fundraising page is still open: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/SteveWandMemorialSwim2016

Steve Wand Memorial Swim4 By Neil Gear

Image (c) Neil Gear

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.