I came across this article online. It really resonated with how I’ve experienced people react to learning about the sort of swimming I do.

The bulk of the article goes like this:

When open water swimmers tell others what they do, they often are the recipient of the following question:

Why?

Non-swimmers want to know why another human would subject themselves to swimming marathon distances, or in the cold water, or with sharks, or subject themselves to jellyfish stings, currents, and waves. Or why someone would willingly swim at night or without a wetsuit?

Why do you do that? Why would you do that? Why you?

And many times, swimmers cannot eloquently articulate why they swim in the open water. They know instinctively why, but it is hard to explain their motivations succinctly and clearly to non-swimmers. Tell another marathon swimmer that you are doing the English Channel and they say, “Great! When? Who is your pilot?” They don’t ask why. They instinctively know why.

In contrast, tell a non-swimmer that you are going to swim 20 miles in the cold ocean at night with sharks and jellyfish and they ask, “Why?” But even with a reply, non-swimmers remain puzzled. They often continue their inquiry of you, “Aren’t you scared? Worried? Won’t you be tired? Cold? Stung? Eaten?” In general, the risk-oriented response from non-swimmers is completely different from the approach of encouragement, support and wonder from swimmers. Instead of facing questions of why, swimmers face statements grounded in optimism from other swimmers whether the planned swim is 1 mile or 20.

I loved this. There’s a great video on there looking at the more philosophical general concept of “why”, but this article inspired me to think about why I do this sport.

I’ve gone into detail about the how and what the process was of finding myself in this sport, so here’s a list of my top 10 reasons why I do this crazy thing.

  1. Ocean swimmers are nice people. Most people get into it through charity events or programs, and it just doesn’t be the sort of activity that attracts dickheads!
  2. I keep surprising myself with what I can ask of my body and have it actually do.
  3. It’s different every single time you go out there. My attention span isn’t always that good, especially for exercise, and yet I’ve been doing this for 2 and a half years now without a break and I love it more than ever.
  4. Swimming is very meditative. Whether I’m pushing myself for a particular pace in the pool, focussing on a particular part of my technique in a drill, or fighting my way through big surf, swimming is an activity that is by nature very “in the moment”. You really can’t be stressing about the bills or that unfinished piece of work on your desk when you need to concentrate on fundamentals. Like breathing. And not drowning.
  5. As far as exercise goes, one where I don’t have to be hot and sweaty the whole time works pretty well for me.
  6. It keeps me out of the pub. (Most of the time.) I can’t imagine being in surf with a hangover and wold never do it to myself. Since I like swimming more than I like drinking, it’s a pretty simple choice, and one that makes me feel good and doubles the health benefits of the activity.
  7. I feel brave and strong and capable out there. I do something regularly that makes most people at least a little nervous.
  8. I feel a little smug sometimes. Especially in winter and in horrid weather. I don’t back down or hit snooze on the alarm clock. I get up and go to the beach and give it a go. I’ve pretty much never wished I’d stayed in bed, and some of those days have actually turned out to be the most fun and memorable.
  9. There are some pretty amazing things to see out there. A whole world under the water…rays and fish and aquatic plants and rock formations. Even just the light dappling the sand moving around with the water, and the breaking of the waves above you. It’s beautiful.
  10. I just love being in the water. It feels amazing…the weightlessness, the buoyancy, the gliding and the diving. It’s just a little bit like magic.

You know, in case you were wondering.

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