It is September, and time to take stock of the summer season of open water swimming. While countless thousands have enjoyed the water this unusually hot and rainless summer, the season is marred by headlines like “Frivolity can turn to fatality’: UK heatwave brings rise in teenage drownings” from the Guardian newspaper, and “At least 10 people die in open water during UK’s searing heatwave” from The Independent, and “UK heatwave: man’s body pulled from sea and swimmer missing as 14 dead in UK heatwave” from The Mirror. These banners speak to the deeply regrettable outcomes of extreme swimming accidents. At the end of August I went to swim with the Surrey Outdoor Swimmers, a naturally joyous group, the mood being marred that week by a drowning on their local patch, the River Thames at Hampton Court. This was their first collective swim since that awful event, and Juliet Turnbull, a deeply experienced swimmer and their ringmaster was feeling the sadness. A force for good, she was doing something to improve the situation. She has set up a group called ‘Open Water – Share the Knowledge’, which is about sharing the open water experience that she and others have, with people newly entering open water swimming. As she puts it, promoting positive use of open water.
Juliet is otherwise known as the Thames Mermaid, and she swims in the Thames at Molesey and Thames Ditton almost every day. She has swum the length of the non-tidal Thames across two years, and has many swimming achievements under her belt. A very experienced swimmer indeed. There are several organisations in the UK whose remit is the prevention of anti-drowning, so what makes ‘Open Water- Share the Knowledge’ different? Most importantly, builds on the growing expertise in open water among local users, about open water swimmers and paddle boarders sharing their experience, their local knowledge. A river like The Thames can be so different according to where you swim in it, local conditions and season. In this podcast we talk about river swimming safety, and her ideas for developing ‘Open Water – Share the Knowledge’ alongside other organisations, and with meetings and social media. Juliet has a magnetic personality, and if anyone can make this happen, it is she. By the end of our recording session, she has signed me up as an ambassador for Open Water – Share the Knowledge. I am honoured to be asked, and very happy to help. Anything to help make open water swimming safer so that people can engage with the water in positive ways.
Listen to the podcast here