Liz Stonebridge established the 30 Bays in 30 Days sea swim challenge in Guernsey in 2013 to raise money for Les Bourgs Hospice. As the event turns 10 this year, we asked Liz to share the story behind this inspiring challenge.
Imagine swimming in a different place, every day, for 30 days. Wallowing in turquoise blue waters lapping up onto tropical swathes of sand; exploring hidden cliff based coves or diving off cobbled slipways as the sky ignites with the fiery colours of the setting sun. This is just a snapshot of experiences that participants signed up to the 30 Bays in 30 Days charity fundraiser can expect from the challenge.
For an island of only 24 square miles in size, Guernsey has an enviable plethora of sea swimming spots on its doorstep meaning that whatever the weather there is always a sheltered place to take a dip. It now also boasts a thriving community hub at its revamped bathing pools, which were recently described in a RIBA journal article as “Guernsey lido mixes Aussie cool with Scandinavian hygge”. Add to that the unique experience of being able to swim as the sun rises and then again as it sets with just a leisurely 20 minutes bike ride to get from coast to coast it really is a sea swimmer’s dream.
It was this variety of swim spots and the benefits of sea swimming that caught the imagination of Liz Stonebridge, founder of the 30 Bays in 30 Days event, when she was visiting a close relative in the island’s hospice. Her Mum had also been cared for by them when she was 19 so with a determination to raise some money for the charity, the 30 bays in 30 days concept was born.
Participants sign up to swim at least 30 strokes in each bay on the list whenever they like during the month of July. A group swim opens and closes the event with the buzz of a couple of hundred people shrieking, chatting and laughing as they enter the sea reverberating through the air.
A summer tradition
In a small island boasting so many enviable swim spots any reader could expect that sea swimming would have always been a favoured pastime of islanders, but this hasn’t always been the case. When the event was set up 10 years ago there were only a small number of people who took to the waters on a regular basis so having over 500 people signed up to the challenge in the first year was against all expectations. The event has gone from strength and is now a firm summer tradition in Guernsey’s calendar. For those who take part year on year it continues to offer a different experience each time depending on the tide, weather or people that each swim is ticked off with.
This event has offered a chance for people to get reacquainted with the addictiveness of the sea swim buzz, give them an excuse to take time out and reconnect with family and friends but also provide them with a chance to rebuild or start a new relationship with the sea. It has been a gentle reminder of how lucky islanders are to live on such a beautiful island, encouraging them to revisit places they wouldn’t normally explore such as the hidden gem of Marble Bay.
30 Bays in 30 Days has inspired a new generation of sea swimmers over the years, which was boosted even more when an inspired decision by local politicians allowed socially distanced swimming during lockdown. It is now rare to visit a beach any day of the year and not see someone taking a dip which has led to a whole new community of friendly sea swimmers emerging.
Helping participants rediscover a love of sea swimming
Fast forward a decade to now and this fundraising event has around 750 people who take on the challenge each year. Most importantly, it has raised over £230K for Les Bourgs Hospice. The concept has been shared with Guernsey’s sister island of Jersey to help raise funds for Jersey Hospice Care and The National Trust for Jersey and in 2022 with Alderney, a smaller island in the Bailiwick of Guernsey which runs a 5 Bays in 5 Days event to raise money for Alderney Cancer Relief and the Alderney Wildlife Trust.
“When I came up with the concept I could never have dreamt that 10 years on it would still be capturing the imagination of so many islanders,” said Liz. “I have always been passionate about sea swimming so it is incredibly rewarding to hear feedback from people who have said that it has helped them to rediscover how much they love it too. More than that though, it has meant a huge amount to be able to support Les Bourgs Hospice, which has provided our family with so much support and care. The crazy part is that sea swimming has led me to my dream career as I now work in fundraising for the Hospice so running 30 Bays in 30 Days is now part of my job!”.
30 Bays in 30 Days takes place this on 1-30 July 2023, and is run on behalf of Les Bourgs Hospice, Guernsey. Find out more about the challenge via the 30 Bays in 30 Days website or via their Instagram @30baysin30days. Drone photography: Skywave photography.
A note on safe swimming: Guernsey has some of the world’s largest tidal ranges, which transform its bays every six hours or so. As an island in the English Channel, some areas on its coastline also have dangerous currents. As with any sea swim it is advisable to assess where you are swimming and glean local knowledge before you enter the sea.
For the more adventurous visitors, it is possible to link up with guides such as Guernsey Swim Adventures.