Stuart recently took part in a training session at the National Swim Academy.  Here’s his report:

Open Water Swim Training

National Swim Academy, Stirling University, 31 May 2015

Open water session by Scottish Swimming

Open water session by Scottish Swimming

The Intermediate Open-Water Swim Training held on the 31st May 2015 by Scottish Swimming was a good bite-size session which gave instruction and practice of a few good techniques for both understanding the difference between pool-swimming and open-water-swimming – such important differences which regular pool swimmers may not naturally think to consider, yet make a massive difference.

A technique such as sighting – literally, looking where you are going – is so common that it normally comes naturally to us all. In a swimming pool straight-line swimming is aided by the pool lanes, tiles, pool-edge, lighting, ceiling beams etc. but open-water doesn’t have any of these helpful markings.   Being able to repeatedly look where you are going takes not only the knowledge that you have to check, but a simple (when practiced) new swim technique in order to be able to do so without breaking your stroke, and therefore keeping up momentum and rhythm.

Other techniques such as drafting other swimmers (literally swimming close behind them) to benefit from lessened water resistance and thus improved stroke efficiency (less effort), also help make swimming (in pool or loch) physically easier.

In the end, anything which helps swimmers improve their open water swimming ability is only going to make the prospect of entering freezing cold water far less daunting, and possibly more enjoyable.

Stuart Campbell, Mid Argyll Wild Swimmers

Scottish Swimming has a programme of other adult coached sessions coming up for people who would like to get involved in swimming.

The swim series includes three open water events over the summer:

  • Saturday 6th June at the Helix Lagoon, Falkirk,
  • Saturday 11th July at Knockburn Sports Loch near Banchory
  • Sunday 23rd August at Loch Lomond

Local, weekly coached sessions are available and listed on the website:

Posted by: wildswimmers | April 27, 2015

A swim in spring sunshine

A trip to Ballachulish and Glencoe last week gave me the chance to experience a new swimming location and on a sunny warm morning I set off to Cuil Bay, close to Duror village in Appin. Turning off the main road I passed a tiny, stone built moss-clad bridge, now bypassed by a new road. Primroses peeked from its nooks and crannies and daffodils bobbed their heads brightly. I thought of all the people who had journeyed to the Highlands over this ancient bridge in centuries past.

Continuing along the single-track road, it wasn’t long before Cuil Bay opened out before me – a beautiful pebble beach with stunning views onto Loch Linnhe and the mountains surrounding it – some nearly 3000 ft and still dusted with spring snow – and on to Lismore Island and, in the distance, the Island of Mull. Eider duck and barnacle geese were happily pottering around. Gorse bushes were in full bloom and scented the air. It was calm and quiet – perfect for a morning swim.

I’d been told it was a popular bathing spot but the water still being cold, there were no other swimmers around. Being unfamiliar with the location I decided to keep close to the shore and swim along the beach within my depth. I paddled in (being careful not to disturb the geese) and set off – first the shock of the cold, then a few minutes of gritted teeth, and then the familiar delightful sensation of being quite comfortable in the cold water. Floating on my back and gazing around at the dramatic scenery I counted the mighty mountain peaks – easily more than twenty!   The mountains to the west are part of Kingairloch, beyond which lies Morvern and the peninsula of Ardnamurchan; to the northwest Ardgour, Sunart and Moidart; and to the north, Scotland’s highest peak Ben Nevis near Fort William. Of course, none of this is in present day Argyll, but historically the county of Argyll did include these areas. They are so stunning and so close to Argyll that visitors really ought not to miss out – after seeing Argyll first!

Revelling in the gentle sunshine and the majestic views all around me I floated happily for 15 minutes, looking north, south, east and west, on this beautiful spring morning. Far across the loch I could see white fluffy shapes, and beside them tiny white specks – the sheep with their spring lambs!

After my swim I headed straight back to the hotel, where I was able to sit by a roaring log fire and enjoy further views of the loch and mountains while warming up with a pot of tea. I don’t believe Scotland’s scenery can be beaten anywhere in the world.

Posted by: wildswimmers | April 14, 2015

The Recovery Position


Beautifully apt description and drawing of winter swimmers by Nancy Farmer!

Originally posted on Cat-of-the-Day:

This is the recovery position for winter swimmers, not for drunk people. Though addled brains, an inability to speak in long sentences and a tendency to throw your drink all over the place are common to both conditions. You probably haven’t known shivering until you have known winter swimming, And still I persist in finding it strangely amusing.

The Winter Swimmer's Recovery Position The Winter Swimmer’s Recovery Position

View original

Posted by: wildswimmers | April 13, 2015

Glorious swim in Galway by Martin

Here’s Martin’s guest post about some beautiful swims on his recent visit to Galway:

We were driving west out of Galway along the promenade at Salthill, dreaming of an Atlantic dip, when we spotted a fantastic diving tower. Slamming on the brakes, we parked and jumped out of the car into the glorious sunny morning. It’s the luck of the draw what weather you get in Ireland (as in Argyll), but we had hit upon a week of warm sunshine. As we rounded the corner into the changing area of lemon and orange paintwork there was an immediate sense of camaraderie amongst a group of oldies, who obviously meet and swim and chat here every day. And today was a day to linger in the shelter that faced the sun and the 1950s art deco diving tower. But it wasn’t just old regulars here: there was a steady stream of young guys, older guys and gals, and even a couple of tourists, keen to sample the waters of Galway Bay.

The following day, the waters beckoned again. This time at the sandy stretch of Renvyle beach, surrounded by high hills and again bathed in bright sunshine, which threw light across the top of the surf, making it sparkle and glisten.

Posted by: wildswimmers | March 18, 2015

Fifty Swims of Grey

Haven’t seen the film or read the book but I have done the swims!  And boy am I glad those winter swims are OVER!  We’ve swum in wind, hail, snow, ice, storms, sleet, rain, mist and fog.  But suddenly, Spring is here!  We’re being dazzled by sunshine and clear skies, and it’s a joy to swim in gorgeous green cool water and feel the warmth of the sun on your face.  Months of lovely swimming lie ahead and I, for one, am looking forward to it immensely.  To celebrate I’ve been bidding on a vintage swimsuit on eBay…. fingers crossed!

Posted by: wildswimmers | March 13, 2015

Cartoons by Kelvin

Here’s two cartoons by my talented nephew Kelvin: the first one shows a scene from a recurring nightmare Lottie has about being chased up the road by the local Sheriff, after her morning swim, casting garments left and right in her haste to escape his ogling eyes.  Thankfully this event has never happened in real life!

Next up is a happier scene in which Lottie and me (scoffing champagne) are luxuriating in the hot tub, while being towed along by Captain Duggie’s fishing boat, serenaded by seals.  Again, this is just a dream!

Hear some of Kelvin’s music here, with his band “All the luck in the World”.

Posted by: wildswimmers | March 10, 2015

Scottish Hot Tubbing

Fantastic hot tub video here by Angus McMillan!


Posted by: wildswimmers | February 24, 2015

Swift Swimmer fights back!

The Swift Swimmer is my 86 year old mum Eileen, who has loved swimming in the sea from childhood.  Last summer she swam in the sea regularly, from our summer “bathing hut” – our tiny vintage caravan, parked by the beach.  In September she was struck down by heart problems which resulted in 4 months of inactivity and ill health.  She ended up being pushed around the house in a wheelchair, breathless and anxious.  Happily she’s now on the mend and determined to get fit for the summer swimming season.  With this aim she has started training gently in our local pool where they run a terrific hydrotherapy session, with skilled and attentive staff who are very encouraging and kind.  She’s coming on slowly but surely and we’re very proud of her.  Well done the Swift sea-going octogenarian Swimmer!

Posted by: wildswimmers | February 2, 2015

Goodbye January!

January – the grimmest month for winter swimmers is OVER!  Having spent most of the month asleep I was pleased that I still managed to achieve 23 swims out of 31 days.  This is the month when willpower really matters and teeth have to be well and truly gritted to get into the water.  On the plus side we had some terrific storms swims, culminating in Saturday’s nutty Sound of Jura “sprachle” which involved taking Capt Duggie’s yacht out into the Sound of Jura and throwing ourselves off into 80m of green and white wave topped water.  This was a new experience which required much forward planning (by the captain) and an immense quantity of neoprene, warm clothes and (of course) food.  Seeing the yacht pitching and rearing up out of the water from close quarters was certainly eye-opening!  Having practised getting back into the dingy before setting off, it proved to be slightly more difficult while being bashed by waves and I ended up getting clonked on the head and shoved underwater while righting the dingy (Duggie found this most amusing).  I bounced up pretty quickly and we got back on board, had the usual battle with our wetsuits and swiftly moved on to my favourite part: scoffing hearty bacon sandwiches, hot juice and home made gingerbread cake.  See a wee video here:

Posted by: wildswimmers | January 10, 2015

Eagle Swim

This week we welcomed Mark, a lone swimmer from our village, and here’s his epic account of his initiation into the exploits of the Sound of Jura Swimming Club:

I’d been sea swimming for 3 months – ploughing my lonely way back and forth across the sea loch in front of my house, charting the same course every day across flat, sheltered water between the village septic tank outfall to the east and the few remaining raw sewage pipes entering the bay to the west. It was still exhilarating; compulsive even; but not exactly fun. I’d heard of the crazy wild swimmers from the west side with their multi-person expeditions and brightly coloured hats, but was sure that my way was the best, in my elite club of one, over on the east side.

Then one day after I’d returned from another swim (or jobbie dodging as my family like to call it) I watched “Assault on Frothy Rock”, the video of the wild swimmers’ latest adventure in rough seas and white water out west. The water bore no resemblance to my sea on the east side; it was a wild, turquoise-blue maelstrom. It looked more like surviving than swimming. But the thing that struck me most was that, even over the banging music track, I could hear the constant sound of laughter; manic, joyous laughter. “Well” I thought, “this looks like…….fun!”

One phone call later and Lottie had generously invited me over to join her, Iona & Duggie for another assault on Frothy Rock.

And so a couple of hours later here we all are on Carsaig pier, Duggie and I in our wetsuits, Iona and Lottie elegant in their swimsuits and colourful hats. The wind is a brisk south westerly, with short choppy whitecaps lit by the low winter sun out in the bay, a world away from poo soup over on the east side. Adrenalin is present. And then we’re off, heading straight out west into the waves toward the reef at the entrance to the bay. My brain is in overdrive; breathe in, splutter on a mouthful of sea spray, stroke, breathe out, splutter, stroke, choke. Then after a while I begin to time the breathing with the waves and things calm down a bit. I look around to see Lottie, Iona and Duggie whooping with the exhilaration of it all, lost in a moving landscape of froth and sunshine. A little further out, starting to get the hang of it, Iona shouts and points upwards to the sky. A sea eagle is silhouetted black against the blue, its broad wings holding it above us in the stiff breeze. Perhaps we look like a disaster waiting to happen and it sees a potential meal! But a few seconds later and it’s away north up the coast in search of easier food.

Iona and Lottie began to feel the cold a bit sooner than the wetsuit brigade and after 20 minutes or so turn back to the pier. I follow a way behind Duggie as he continues to Frothy Rock. Once there, we stand on a kelp covered rocky ledge surrounded by calm white water as the waves pound the west side of the rock but leave us untouched. And then the journey back, the waves now urging us on, me wondering how many gallons of sea water it’s possible to swallow and still float.

It all goes in a bit of a blur but back at Duggie & Lottie’s house, over a cup of delicious hot chocolate held in shaking hands, we recount the journey and fix it in our memories. Thanks to you crazy people from the west side, poo soup may be missing a floater from now on.

Photos by Duggie and Lottie; text by Mark Smith (thanks Mark, for a great post!).










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