One winter morning at 7:10am Katie texted me “Just remembered Bantham Swoosh” – I (Manda) was sat on a London tube – this was not ideal as you can only get internet at the stations. I saw the message and replied, well actually I can’t repeat what I replied, but it resulted in me standing on Kennington platform entering the swim. Hoorah! We were going to Bantham Swoosh!
Until, Katie messaged at 7:33am “ah %%^ I didn’t actually press pay on mine”. To cut a long story short, we both ended up getting a spot from the charity Level Water (see details of their work below) so it was with a lot of excitement that we made it down to Devon on a glorious sunny Friday to register for the Swoosh!
Bantham Swoosh is an Outdoor Swimming Society 6km (well 5.5km) swim down the River Avon from Aveton Gifford to Bantham Beach. It is called the swoosh because of the push you get at the end of the swim (more on that later!).
Early Saturday morning we arrived at the start area at Aveton Gifford. We lathered ourselves in body glide, joined a queue longer than the swim for the portaloos (we really think women whose pelvic floors have taken a beating should get priority?!), said goodbye to our bags and after a briefing we, along with 798ish other swimmers, waded into the water.
Because of the sportive like nature of the swim there is no gun start, just a casual walking over a timing mat and start when you are ready. Mine and Katie’s parting conversation went:
Me: I will see you at the end. You just go off if you want to.
Her: I think I will stay with you as you are good at course navigation.
After the initial shock that the water was salty (I wasn’t really prepared for this swim!), I settled down and found a comfort and rhythm with Katie by my side. I had read the swim map and came away thinking that we had to stay on the left for the whole of the swim, but the paddle boarder that guided us the whole way (thanks!!!), kept swinging us off to the right, I tried to just relax and follow whatever he was gesticulating at us as he knew the river better than me and he could definitely see a lot more than we could!
The estuary is sandy bottomed meaning a lot of the time the water was beautifully clear and we could see all the way to the river floor. There was quite a bit of debris in spots, mainly prickly leaves hell bent on getting in my face and ears, but for the most part it was a clean swim.
At just over 5km, Katie and I were leading a pack, I couldn’t see any of the swimmers in front of us, we approached a load of boats, the paddler disappeared and Katie’s comment of “YOU.ARE.GOOD.AT.COURSE.NAVIGATION” was ringing through my head…..ARGHHHH! I stopped and the paddler sprinted to my side and told me what to do. At this point, the people behind, sprinted past. My initial thought was “mugs, we still have 1km to go” and then “what do they know that I don’t”. What I didn’t know was we were about 200m from the finish – whoops! We exited the water to me wondering where the swoosh was?! I think I was so distracted thinking about why these people were sprinting already and the fact that I couldn’t sprint because of my dodgy shoulder that I totally missed the swoosh!
It was truly a joyous swim. Everyone exiting the swim looked so happy and proud and for me it was a moment of swimming joy in an otherwise fractious period of shoulder pain consumed swimming.
p.s. THERE IS NEVER TOO MUCH BODYGLIDE FOR SEA SWIMS
Level Water: Level Water provides free one-to-one swimming lessons for children with disabilities. Without their one-to-one swimming lessons, most of these children will never learn to swim.