Women Celebrate Body Diversity By Taking A Chilly Plunge For International Women’s Day 2019
Updated: May 26
Today 69 women gathered at Wardie Bay in Edinburgh for an invigorating sunrise wild swim in sea temperatures of 5.5c, and air temperature of 0.5c. They came in wetsuits, swimsuits, neoprene gloves and other swim kit to celebrate their own bodies and those of women and young girls everywhere for International Women’s Day 2019.
Their message was one of solidarity and Body Positivity.
Organised by activist Danni Gordon of The Chachi Power Project and photographer Anna Deacon of the Wild Swimming Photography Project, the event drew swimmers from all across the Scottish Central Belt, Fife, East and West Lothian.
The women gathered at Wardie Bay in Edinburgh for a sunrise wild swim on Friday 8th March 2019
Among those taking the dip were some of the UK’s most intrepid, high-profile swimmers and adventurers:
Lindsey Cole is currently The Outdoor Swimming Society's first ‘Swim Champ’. She took time out of her current challenge: cycling from Devon to the Winter Swim Championships in Taymouth, Scotland on 9th March, so she could celebrate International Women’s Day in style:
“For me jumping in wild water is like injecting unicorn blood into my veins. It makes me feel wonderful and it’s incredibly addictive. Whatever I may have been feeling before I dip is quite literally washed away as soon as I dunk my head in and totally immerse myself into the cold water, the group I’m with and just being outside and living.”
"We all have beautiful bodies - in all shapes and sizes, with muscles and fat bits and stories to tell of a real life lived..wild swimming and striding with our fellow swimmers celebrates this - men and women alike."
“Stripping off by a sea, a loch or a tarn, dipping in for a swim and getting out again is totally liberating for mind and body. We have been conditioned to think our bodies as things to be hidden if less than “perfect” - wild swimming challenges this. With no changing cubicles, heated floors and showers your mind set changes and you learn to love the body you inhabit. And this is a joy to watch in the other swimmers I introduce to this incredible community.”
“International Women’s Day is a perfect time to reflect, both personally and collectively, on how lucky we are to be exactly who we are. To have these bodies that allow us to express our individuality and uniqueness as we take on the world.”
Hazel, Lindsay and Gilly warming up after their swim
BODY CONFIDENCE VS SWIMMING
Body Confidence concerns and fear of judgement, have been cited as key factors in women and young girls giving up swimming and other sports, according to research by the House of Commons Health Committee and the Active People’s Survey.
“500,000 women gave up swimming in the last decade
because of body image concerns”
Deakin & Blue Swimwear
This year (2019) the current cohort of the Young Women Lead Committee organised by YWCA Scotland has chosen to explore the relationship young women have with sport and physical activity, with particular regard to issues that might prevent participation.
Last month Danni Gordon from The Chachi Power Project gave evidence at the first Committee meeting at The Scottish Parliament. At the meeting, she argued that a large percentage of the drop off was to do with body image issues and the way social media and diet culture has warped our attitude towards fitness and movement. Watch it here.
Danni wants to change how everyone sees and appreciates their bodies and she does this by holding events, talks and workshops around Scotland:
“I had terrible body confidence issues for a huge amount of my life and I only flipped my thinking in the past few years thanks to learning about the Body Positive Movement, changing my thought patterns and stopping destructive behaviours.
Now I love getting people together to learn about how we can all change our mindset’s towards our own and other people’s bodies and this wild dip in the sea for International Women’s Day is a challenging yet wonderful way to come together and let us all celebrate our amazing bodies!”
Wild Swimming has been a growing trend across the UK with some groups having thousands of members and informal and organised swimming events take place throughout the UK, every day of the year.
There has been increased interest in the sport after the release of The Ponds: a film documentary focused on those who swim year round in Hampstead Heath’s Swimming Ponds.
The mental, physical and social wellbeing benefits of wild swimming are only just being thoroughly researched but findings show improvements to regular swimmer’s: immune system, circulation, anxiety, focus and importantly: a connection to their community.
Anna Deacon, an Edinburgh based photographer, and journalist, Vicky Allan started The Wild Swimming Photography Project in September 2018. They were inspired by the joy of wild swimming, but also by the intense and sometimes heart-breaking stories people told to explain why they had decided to take it up.
Among the stories were a number related to body confidence. Many women suggested that they felt uncomfortable in a swimming pool environment, but had found new confidence when swimming in the wild, and within a community that is warm and inclusive. It was seeing this pattern that led them to collaborate with Danni’s Chachi Power Project.
Katie West, publisher:
“I love the idea of wild swimming. It implies getting closer to nature and closer to the more raw and vulnerable nature of ourselves and our bodies. Wild swimming has an element of bodily autonomy, when swimmers feel IN their bodies in ways which rarely happen”
Dawn Craig, wellbeing practitioner:
“I just love that in open water swimming everyone is so welcoming no matter what shape or size people are.”
The event began with a safety briefing. At this time of year, with the sea water temperature being at it’s coldest, it is dangerous to stay in for too long. After a quick 1-3 minute dip the swimmers came out, dried off and warmed up by the bonfire, celebrating with a cup of tea and piece of cake.
The Wild Swimming Photography Project and The Chachi Power Project wants to encourage people to get out there and show the world who you are, be proud of your body and set an example to the younger generation of how they can be proud too.
Give wild swimming a go with a local outdoor swimming group who can guide you how to do it safely. If you decide that wild swimming is your sport of choice then Britain’s nearly 18000km of coastline (of which Scotland makes up almost 10,000km of that) is the most accessible, free and available resource.
To see more about the swim then see the coverage here in: