A few months ago, Amy set herself a challenge. To swim every day of summer. To submerge herself in a body of water, every day, for 91 days in a row. How hard could it be?

 

At the start of November last year, the We Are Explorers team spent a weekend on the Great Ocean Road at the Port Fairy Adventure Film Festival. One of my favourite films from the festival, ‘My Big White Thighs and Me’, tells the story of Hannah, a hilarious and heart-warming woman who, in an attempt to seek out her old adventurous self, goes swimming in the wild, once a month, for a year. 

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My Big White Thighs and Me

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The joy Hannah finds every time she sets out to swim inspired me to do the same. Along with the mantra of one of my wisest friends Ellie, who will often declare as I’m hesitating to get into the cold winter ocean, ‘You never regret a swim!’, I decided to try and swim in a body of water every day of summer. I didn’t quite make the full three months, but 70 out of 91 ain’t bad!

Lucky for me, the Pacific Ocean is about 250 steps from my bedroom. So actually getting to a body of water wasn’t the challenge. Finding the time and motivation was. 

February 19th 2020 – Rare blue skies over Bellambi ocean pool

Despite having the beach almost literally on my doorstep, I’m not at home very often during the day. On either side of the eight hours I’m at work, I spend two hours commuting. So to make sure I squeezed in a dip during the week, many of my swims happened either at dawn or dusk.

Sometimes I swam with family, sometimes with friends. Sometimes it was with just one other person. Once there were about 20 of us splashing about the surf together. But mostly I swam alone. 

Sometimes I swam somewhere new. Sometimes I swam in freshwater, under waterfalls and in pools. On one particularly sweaty Wednesday night, a small group of friends practiced our best synchronised diving at the local ocean pool at around 10pm. But mostly, I swam in the same stretch of ocean, right by my house.

January 22nd 2020 – My local stretch of sand

Swimming in freshwater is divine. I love emerging feeling clean, rather than crusty. But there’s something about saltwater that washes away more than freshwater ever could. Freshwater washes your body, saltwater cleanses your soul. 

Swimming every day was a way for me to take stock. A small moment to be with myself and decompress. I found myself sighing, deeply, every time I came up from the depths. As if the tension I’d built up during the day was somehow washed away with that first salty submersion. I always took a few seconds to float on my back and stare at the sky, before diving below the water and trying to suspend myself for a while in that salty sanctuary. 

December 26th 2019 – Kangaroo River during sunset on Boxing Day

I began to recognise small changes in the environment around me. And big ones too. It was a summer unlike any other, and going outside to swim wasn’t always enjoyable. So often I swam with smoke in my lungs, ash floating on the waves around me and fear on my mind. 

I swam under a greyish yellow sky more often than a blue one, with the red, blazing sun, staring at me like the eye of the devil, as it set over the escarpment, if I could see that far into the distance at all. Stripping off in the shower, I’d find specks of ash had made their way between my swimmers and my skin.

A first hand account of the south coast bushfires, amy fairall, narooma, south coast, nsw, bushfires, smoke, smog

January 1st 2020 – My first swim of the year in Narooma

Less than a month later, it was an inundation of rain that kept me away from the beach. Unsafe swell, flooding rains, and even the possibility of pollution, as the creeks washed out into the sea. I didn’t swim for an entire week in February. I didn’t swim on New Year’s Eve or on Christmas Day. 

But for the most part, I found time, even just ten minutes of it, to dive and swim and float and just be, in a body of water, nearly every day. Whether I sprinted to the shore and back before jumping on the train to work or spent all day lazing by a river, dipping in and out whenever I pleased.

The only swims I regretted were the ones I didn’t take.