TW: Discussion of mental health and suicide


Through floods, the pandemic, icy winter water, multiple lockdowns and battling mental health issues, Sophie made it her mission to swim 365 days in a row. This meant full submersion in some form of natural water (no chlorine pools, no baths, no excuses) every day for a year.  Here’s how it went down.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants, for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Turbulent Waters

It was June 2021 and Australian winter descended upon the Central Coast of NSW.  At the time it was mid-COVID lockdown, I was experiencing bouts of depression, was totally burnt out, had a long running relationship with anxiety, and thanks to chronic fatigue, I was clocking up almost 12 hours of sleep a day.

This was a pivotal point where suicidal ideation reared its ugly head. I knew I was not functioning and I was hiding it pretty well. It was obvious something had to change.

I knew that the ocean always had been a place of solace for me; sometimes it induced my anxiety, but more often than not, it was my cure. As an active surfer, swimmer, freediver, and rock climber, surrounding myself with adrenaline in a natural setting is like meditation to me. On the other hand, attending a work meeting, reading my emails or even making a call to my doctor had me breaking out in a stress rash and shutting down. I felt like I was wired backwards.



There were a few days here and there of being physically active, yet I never felt motivated to stick to a routine or to improve myself. These sprightly adventures also had to be compensated by equivalent days spent in bed to recoup my energy. This is when I heard of ‘wild swimming’.

Swimming My Saviour



I knew I needed just to get my ass out of bed and wanted to really throw myself in the deep end (wink) of something. Something that was going to make me feel electric and alive, not just living.  I needed to lock something in. So I asked myself:

‘What if I just got in the water every day for 30 days?’


So it began, dawn on the first day of winter and I got a lot of turning heads from onlookers in the beach car park as I emerged in a one-piece ready for an icy plunge. As soon as my head went underwater, I immediately knew I was onto something. It was a new drug for me: wild swimming in cold water. It had to be a natural water source, every day and I stuck with it, being very strict with my routine.

Read more: Staying Safe Around Swimming Holes



30 days crossed off the calendar very quickly, which evolved into 60 days, then became 100. I’d made it through the entirety of winter and never missed a single swim, no matter the conditions.  More like-minded swimmers gravitated towards me and I met so many amazing brave souls embarking on similar journeys. Some were 85-90 years old. Some were swimming for bigger causes. Like my good friend Anna, who I met swimming – she raised almost $7,000 for Beyond Blue in memory of her brother Liam who she lost to suicide in 2021.

My friendship circle wasn’t the only thing that changed; I grew a new capacity to respect those who were suffering with mental health battles and were utilising the water in the same way I was.

I Went Wild Swimming Every Single Day For a Year – Here’s What I Learned, sophie turner, swim, from above, clear water

Feeling The Physical & Mental Changes

My body was also changing, often before my eyes. The long-term physiological effects that cold water has on your body and brain are phenomenal. There’s a reason people get addicted to it and why Whim Hoff has almost 3 million followers.

Firstly, my immune system became undoubtedly stronger. I got my appetite back and my energy seemed to becoming restored, so I had way more steam to make it through the day.

I found that my brain was forging new pathways, not exactly towards curing all my illnesses, but helping me manage to navigate them. In combination with a balanced diet and seeking clinical professional help, this new routine was a springboard from which I leapt into a new outlook on my life.



I found that anxiety tends to grow when things get unpredictable in our schedules. My mental health was being tested week after week with uncontrollable events in my life, but the one thing that was a consistent, the one thing I could rely on was that at some point, I was going to be in the water to rinse the day off.

Even on raining, stormy nights sometimes well after dark, I’d trudge down to the shoreline with my torch and towel, watching my warm breath in the cold air ahead of me as I walked, absolutely buzzing to jump in.


365 Days Later

Looking down at the calendar, I realised 200 days had passed and after hitting 3-0-0, 365 was in full view as a goal I knew I could reach. During trips inland, I’d use Google maps to navigate to the nearest natural water source and often rolled around in ice cold rivers and waterfalls just to tick the day off.

May 31st, 2022 saw my last day of the journey, and on that gorgeous Tuesday afternoon, I got to run into the surf with a group of my closest mates who’d been by my side since day one. I’ve been so fortunate to live so close to the ocean and to have seen all that Mother Nature has to offer.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!



For anyone looking for an alternative method for dealing with mental health issues, I’d implore them to try wild swimming or cold water therapy in combination with a holistic mental health care plan. Not only did that year of swimming instill a massive sense of discipline in me, but it also taught me that we can face the most uncomfortable situations and harness power from the pain.