As part of our ongoing Reconnect project we’re on a mission to connect with individuals who share our passion for the outdoors. Those who embrace nature in one way or another. Grasping the abundance of what Mother Earth offers with both hands, and all with all senses.
This week we’re catching up with Sus Davy. Sus is an avid cold-water swimmer, outdoor lover, and female boss of vegan cafe Cascara in Bath. We wanted to find out more about Sus’ love for cold-water swimming and how immersing herself in nature in this way benefits her.
Hi Sus! Thanks for joining us on our Reconnect journey. We genuinely believe that enjoying the outdoors and deeply experiencing the natural world is interconnected with a strong desire to protect it. As a cold-water swimmer and outdoor adventurer, would you say this is true to your experience?
Definitely. I think most outdoor enthusiasts feel this way. Because we enjoy nature and our outdoor surroundings so deeply, the desire to protect it feels really important. From seeing plastic in the rivers and seas, the glaciers retreating in the mountains, the visual impact of how the planet is suffering is too large to ignore.
So tell us, how you got into cold-water swimming?
I’ve always loved the sea. My parents always encouraged us into the waters from a young age, come rain or shine. In fact, I don’t remember a summer when we would ever NOT swim somewhere! My mum always had this rule that if you were on a beach then you had to get in the sea, so that sort of stuck!
In the last 6 years, I’ve regularly swum in my local rivers, from around March to October. Living in a landlocked town like Bath, I knew that if I wanted to enjoy the aspects of cold water I would have to do that in the Avon and not the Atlantic!
What do you enjoy about it? What are the benefits for you?
I love the peace it gives me. Something about being in a vast body of water seems to melt my worries away. I prefer water to be colder, as it requires more focus to stay in the present moment, focussing on your breath. It’s like a meditation practice for me. When river swimming, I also love being at the water level and taking in nature from that angle, seeing kingfishers swoop along the river’s edge whilst swimming is a lovely treat.
Do you swim all year round?
I try to! I have swam every month since February 2020 so far and hope to continue that.
Lockdown and high river levels have made it a bit trickier recently but I still managed 10 swims in January 2021!
Can you talk about the connection you have with nature when you swim and how that makes you feel? What is it about the cold water that you love?
Being on the water line in a river, you just see the world from a different perspective. You see parts of trees that you maybe wouldn’t notice usually, different birds, buildings from a different angle etc.
Cold-water submersion requires you to be mindful and stay focussed. It clears my mind better than anything else. I also feel a buzz like energy after I’ve swum, that usually lasts for the rest of the day!
Jewellery often accompanies us on our wild adventures. It’s worn when we plunge into cold seas and fiddled with as we walk over grassy hills. It can bring us a sense of comfort when far away from home. Do you think it’s possible to carry memories and feeling with jewellery? Do you have pieces of significance?
Oh of course. Jewellery can remind you of a place, or moment - and you can make that memory last forever in a piece. I often look for pieces when I travel, to remind me of that country or that experience.
One of my favourite pieces recently given to me is of a swimming lady, I wear her around my neck as a ‘good water omen’ of sorts.
I’ve also got one of Emma’s mountain rings ‘Everest’ - this gives me a constant reminder of my years living in the French Alps.
Can you give us 4 tips on getting cold-water swimming for first-timers?
Start small, try a 1-2 minute dip at first. It’s really important to build up your tolerance gradually and not shock your body, especially in the winter.
If taking a plunge into open water is a bit daunting, start with cold showers at home!
When you’re in the water, focus on your breath. Try and keep it steady, and avoid lots of sharp inhales if you can.
Take a hot drink in a flask to warm you from the inside once you’re dressed.
Do let us know if Sus has inspired you and you decide to take a dip! and Stay up to date with Sus’s adventures @roughmeasures
Look out for more Reconnect interviews in the coming weeks.