New Blog: Open Water Ladies Record Making North Channel Adventure and Oceans 7 Challenge. A Lotus Rises meets Vicki Watson

On 23rd June 2016, the Open Water Ladies Relay Team completed a 2 way crossing of the North Channel – a stretch of water famed for its cold temperatures and challenging currents in 28 hours and 25 minutes.

The swim is a story of 5 ordinary women Caroline, Louise, Vicki, Sarah & Clare who decided to do something extraordinary setting a number of records in the process: Fastest 2 way crossing of the North Channel, Earliest crossing of the North Channel, First 5 person 2 way relay crossing of NC, First all female 2 way crossing of the North Channel and First all British 2 way crossing of the North Channel.

Prior to signing up for the swim Vicki Watson had swum only in a wetsuit in open water.

“I had previously completed two long distance triathlons (The Outlaw), however, I did not learn to swim until 2011, and I had never got my head down and only swum front crawl for an hour, without resorting to a bit of breaststroke!”

A Lotus Rises spoke to Vicki to find out more about her adventure and what it takes to make a record breaking relay team a reality.

Whose idea was it?!

Caroline aka “The Boss” first mentioned it to me in November 2013. She was thinking about swimming the North Channel as a solo, but thought it would be more fun as a team, and at that point no-one else had attempted it 2 ways, so we thought we could go for a world first.

The Boss

 Caroline spent many hours on the phone and via email to Quinton Nelson, our pilot, deciding on the tides to give us the best chance of completing the crossing. Caroline picked her team well, and also when we were all at our coldest.  For me it was swimming at Hathersage (unheated) outdoor pool. Due to previous commitments 2014 was not doable, so we planned to attempt the swim in August 2015. However, before we got out there an international team of well known “ice swimmers” called The Fast & Frozen attempted and completed a 2 way crossing in 29 hours 59 minutes. 

 In August 2015 we went out to Ireland to attempt the swim, however, the weather gods were not on our side, and we couldn’t start. We spent lots of time on twitter chatting to Andy’s Channel Ladies who were waiting in Dover for their 3 way English Channel attempt, which also didn’t happen, so we were able to commiserate together

 I was also messaging with one of the Fast & Frozen, who was very supportive of our challenge.  Both teams were amongst the first to congratulate us on our success. The team has changed a bit over the past few years, due to family commitments and injuries, and we have gone from a 6 person team to a 5 person “special” relay team, and the dynamics between works.


  Why did you do it?

 It seemed like it would be fun, as well as a challenge.  I am not a fast swimmer, but Caroline was aware that I am a stubborn person, and that I would not stop!  When she asked me I was on my 2nd winter of cold water swimming.  However, what I didn’t mention was that I hated swimming in the sea, it did then, and still does, frighten me.  It is so big and strong! I only learnt to swim in 2011, as I started doing triathlons. But the feeling of camaraderie and lifelong friendships I have made through swimming has been amazing.  It is a sport and in particular open water swimming, that embraces all, regardless of size, age or speed.  We are all together in our love of swimming outside, and I find the community so welcoming.



What did your training involve?

Swimming, but not as much as it should of!  Work, families and other commitments can get in the way. I do enjoy “social” swimming, so when with friends it can involve a bit of heads up breaststroke, and catching up.  Water is like therapy, and we all lead stressful lives, so we need to be able to relax.  I regularly swum in the pool over the winter, and used every opportunity I could to swim in lakes, rivers and the sea.   What I didn’t do was practice jumping into the water off a boat.  The first time I did that was on the swim!



 What was it like? What were the highs? What were the lows?

It was like nothing else I had experienced before in my life, it feels surreal, and it still doesn’t feel real.  When I got out of my first swim Caroline asked how it was, I said it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, turned out it was 11 degrees.  My 2nd hour was a jellyfish soup, getting stung on my arms, legs and face by Lions mane jellyfish.

 So many highs…Quinton was the best pilot, he stood at the wheel for the whole time (apart from when he went to confirm that we had broken the toilet).  The ‘Moon Jellyfish’ were so beautiful, the hours went quickly and swimming during the night was so peaceful, apart from the led light stuck to the side of the boat.  Actually that freaked me out a few times, as I felt I was in a beautiful bubble, watching the jellyfish change colour, then I would turn to my right to breath, and “Aarrgghh” there is a blooming great big boat right next to me!  A bit like a goldfish, I kept forgetting it was there!


 On my 3rd swim Caroline told me to swim strong as we needed to get to Scotland asap, or we would miss the tide back.  I swam hard, got out and just apologised, as I hadn’t reached Scotland.  Then Caroline pointed out I had done exactly what was needed, and Scotland was right there. Apparently on my 1st hour there was a group of puffins swimming with me, although as they didn’t take any photos, I don’t know if I am being wound up or not!! 


 Lows…not too many.  Before my 5th swim I knew I was tired, we had been on the boat for 22 hours at that point. I spoke to our observer Micheal Angus, I knew that I was experiencing effects of hypothermia. During the swim I was disorientated, and kept losing the boat, it was the only hour that couldn’t be over quickly enough.  When I got back on the boat I said that I had lost my mojo, so I ate, wrapped myself up, and lay on the deck in the sunshine and slept.  When I woke I was still low, but I knew I was warm, I knew I had to get back in the water to get my mind right.  My 6th swim was a dream, we could see Ireland, and the end was in sight.  I got my mojo back!


What kind of mental preparation did you do for the swim and, on the day, how did you deal with the challenge of having swum all the way across, having to turn around and swim back again?

Mentally we were already strong, that is why Caroline picked us! We are all stubborn! The challenge was always to get to Scotland quick enough to give us a chance to be able to swim back.  So when we got there, we knew we had a really good chance of getting back, so it was a great feeling!

 What makes a successful relay team?

Being able to talk to each other, or not, when needed.  We have respect for each other as women, and know that we will always have each others back.  We all knew that whatever happened, we would all do our best, for ourselves personally, and for each other.  You have to spend a lot of time with your team, when you are tired, cold and potentially struggling physically and mentally. You do not need or want drama that you have to deal with as well.  


What next?!

We are booked to attempt the Catalina Channel 2 ways again on August 21st 2017, and we are hoping to be able to swim the Gibraltar Strait (2 ways) in 2018!  Our aim is to complete 2 way crossings of the Oceans 7 challenge, as a relay team.  It is going to take awhile, and I will be in my 50s by the time we finish, but it will be worth it!


At A Lotus Rises is a community of women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water.  From the first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming, many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or

We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!


Next week four women from London’s Serpentine Swimming Club – the JENBO Jets  – will be swimming the length of Lake Geneva to raise funds for both lifeguards saving refugees, and local peacebuilders who protect and rebuild lives shattered by conflict.


Natasha is fundraising for Peace Direct – an NGO with 12 years’ experience supporting local peacebuilders worldwide who find their own solutions to conflict and build long-lasting peace: 
Emily is fundraising for Lifeguard Hellas who haul refugees out of the water, saving them from sinking boats near the island of Lesvos.


We spoke to Natasha about why she’s doing this and what it involves:

This swim will be the ultimate test in endurance for me, but local peacebuilders dedicate their lives to helping people overcome war and violence to build brighter futures and long-lasting peace. The energy, commitment and resilience they show in enabling people to forge a new path out of violence and tragedy is remarkable, and thinking of their daily sacrifices will certainly help keep me going during tough points in the swim.

Its 69km and will take us between 24 to 35 hours depending on the weather and swim conditions.

Training tips and strategy
As we all swim at roughly the same speed, we’ve trained by swimming regularly together over the last few months, so it helps maintain our pace and fitness. We’ve also done swims where we get in and out of the water repeating one hour swims as we will do across Lake Geneva, to test our ability to battle the cold and fatigue. Luckily our swim captain is a physio so she takes care of any injury niggles, but ultimately the key to a strong team is constant communication. Planning and training together has allowed us to identify what we need and discuss each other’s fears and weaknesses, so we can develop strategies to tackle them. As well as bonding of course!

As you know, at a Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance”. What  SwimCake will you be taking across Lake Geneva?

I will take banana bread – delicious and nutritious after a choppy swim. But we will also have cookies and chocolate tiffin!

Big Love
Finally, just a thank you to our swimming friends and groups that are supporting us to do this, and the generous friends, family and colleagues who have donated to help us across. Like any challenge, you can never do it alone, so we are hugely grateful to all that have donated, given tips, supplies or good luck wishes. We promise to give it our all!
Go Smash it JENBO Jets. Wicked, wicked, BOOM!

At A Lotus Rises is a community of women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water.  From the first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming, many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or

We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

New Blog: Totally Bondi! A Lotus Rises meets endurance swimmer and surf life saver Kristy McIntyre

Kristy McIntyre is an endurance swimmer who lives in Sydney. Her swim adventures include solo swims of Lake Zurich, The English Channel and Rottnest. Two years ago, Kristy joined the Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving Club, Australia’s oldest life saving club founded in 1907 (and perhaps the world’s first ever life saving club).


Kristy is a volunteer lifesaver and trainer, and, with a group of 4 others, recently trained 19 new lifesavers over 11 weeks. The training programme includes practical and theory classes that teach new recruits: how to communicate on the beach, CPR & first aid, skills to negotiate the surf swimming and on a board, how to rescue conscious and unconscious patients and treat spinal injuries.

Kristy talked to A Lotus Rises about what it takes to train as a life-saver and the importance of swim community in her swimming journey.

Epic Sydney Harbour Swim Selfie!

Why did you become part of the Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving Club?

 There are so many long distance swimmers who owe their success to volunteers. Before moving to Sydney, I lived in London and was part of the Serpentine Swimming club. I loved the ethos and volunteering culture of the club. The club and it’s community were a big part of why I loved living in London. When I moved to Sydney, I joined Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving as I wanted to continue to volunteer in our local community, to meet like-minded people, improve my surf skills, and, as I’d just returned from the UK with my English partner (Mark) it was a great way to re-integrate Mark and I into Australian life and teach him all the things he needed to know about the ocean. It also happens to be home to the largest population of British people in Australia.

What is the role of life savers on Bondi beach?

Bondi Beach is one of the busiest beaches in the country, on a hot day we can get 30,000 people at the beach in a day, we do more rescues in a day than some surf clubs do in a year. Bondi is one of the Sydney beaches that is patrolled all year round by paid council lifeguards (think Bondi Rescue). The volunteer lifesavers patrol from September to April on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, we wear red and yellow uniforms and volunteer a minimum of 6 hours, 1 in every 3 weekends.  At Bondi there are two volunteer clubs, Bondi and North Bondi and members of both clubs work alongside the lifeguards to keep beach goers safe. We rescue people who are in difficulty in the ocean, treat broken bones & dislocations, treat cuts & abrasions, help find lost children, take tourist photos and even provide directions.

Hello Bondi!

What do you need to do to qualify as a life saver? 

 To qualify as a lifesaver requires undertaking an 11 week bronze medallion course which consists of 1 x 2hr theory class, 1 x 3 hour practical class and additional board and swimming training every week. To pass this course you’ll need to swim 400m in under 9 minutes, complete a 200m run – 200m swim – 200m run, in under 8 minutes, rescue an unconscious person from behind breaking waves using a board, demonstrate your ability to work as a team, communicate on the beach, perform CPR, lift unconscious patients, treat spinal injuries and provide first aid.


What are the common dangers swimmers need to look out for and what are the kind of situations you encounter?

At a patrolled beach, swimmers should always swim between the red and yellow flags, this is the most watched place for you to swim. If you’ve decided not to swim between the flags or there are no flags you need to look at the ocean, if there are no waves breaking and the water is darker in colour, this indicates a channel that the water is using to go back out to sea (commonly known as a rip). Don’t go swimming in a rip, if you do find yourself in a rip, don’t try to swim back to shore against it, swim across it to where the waves are breaking and take the waves back into shore. Rip’s won’t kill you and won’t drag you under the water, they’ll take you out past the break zone and then they dissipate, if you want to return to shore quickly, the quickest way is using the waves.

Blue bottles or stingers will sting initially, but you can treat them very effectively with what you have on the beach. Use the salt water to pull the stinger off yourself (you can touch this with your fingers it won’t hurt you), then try a warm shower, or failing that lifesavers will have ice and/or stingose at their patrol tent.

Another danger is diving head first into sand banks, if you’re at a beach you’ve never been to before, walk out into the water and look for where the sand banks are, if you’re going to dive or surf a wave make sure your arms are always outstretched in front of you, this will help protecting your head and neck.

Kristy enjoying the 2016 Rottnest swim

As you know, at a Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance”. What is your preferred SwimCake and why?

Banana cake with cream cheese frosting, not too sweet, its quiet dense so you get a lot of energy from it and when your mouth is all salty after a long swim, it doesn’t sting it.

YUM! Thank you Kristy!

Rottnest Complete!



Swimming Robben Island, A Lotus Rises Meets Natasha Dyer

Natasha Dyer is a London-born and based open water swimmer, working as a communications specialist for international development, focused in Africa. She is passionate about social justice and ensuring people have equal access to quality education. She’s currently conducting research into the drivers of conflict behind xenophobic violence in South Africa.


On May 4th 2016, she swam 11.3km around Robben Island, becoming one of less than 10 women to have completed this swim. This was her first swim over 10k and in challenging temperatures of between 13 and 16 degrees.

A Lotus Rises spoke to Natasha to find out what it takes to break through the 10k barrier, acclimatisation and the story behind her inspiring swim!

Natasha and her swim crew!

What’s your swimming background?

I always loved swimming, especially in the sea, but had never considered taking up open water as a challenge until I moved to South Africa in 2010 and was looking for ways to fundraise for the educational charity I was working for. The first South African to ever swim the Channel Peter Bales, suggested I swim the 7.5km crossing from Robben Island to Cape Town (Big Bay). I initially thought he was crazy but then I met the rest of the Cape Town open water swimming community and never looked back! I completed that swim on my second attempt (1st go I was pulled out 500m before the shore due to hypothermia) but when I moved back to London I let my inner fish lie flat for a while, while I did other things. Luckily, last year I joined the Serpentine swimming club, a collection of weird and wonderful people, and my swimming took off again! 


Why did you choose a circumnavigation of Robben Island?

This year I set a goal for myself of swimming over 10km in open water. As South Africa was where it all began for me, and I knew there were several 10k+ swims around Cape Town, I wanted to do it there. Robben Island is of course a very significant landmark, as its where Nelson Mandela and many other struggle heroes were imprisoned for almost 30 years during apartheid. It was quite something to contemplate while swimming around it. Definitely provided motivation, as did swimming towards Table Mountain! 

 I was in town to be a bridesmaid for my swim buddy’s wedding and with all the celebrations had given up hope that I’d get a swim in before leaving. Especially as the crossing I’d planned to attempt – from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay – was off the cards because of a recent storm damaging the landing area. However, the day before my skipper Derrick Frazer – head of Big Bay lifesaving club  and the man who had pulled me out when I was hypothermic during my first crossing (and thus saved my life) – suggested swimming around the island, so I jumped at the chance! It was all pretty last minute, but I think that’s the way to approach it as you can never be sure a swim will actually happen. I was pretty nervous about the temperature and whether my mind was up to the challenge, but everything happened so serendipitously, I knew I had to make it! 


The water temperature ranged between 13-16 degrees. It’s also famed for having a few exciting inhabitants. How did you prepare to swim in those temperatures and were you nervous about sharks at all – if so how did you overcome that?

The sea life on the day was amazing. On our way out to the island we met a pod of more than 100 dolphins. It was such a thrill to see them jumping in and out of the water at breakneck speed! During the swim my crew also saw penguins, seals and a couple of whales! People always think of great whites in the Atlantic, and they are there, but are hardly ever seen around Robben Island as they prefer the warmer waters at Seal Island and around Fish Hoek where the seals, are found. Occasionally they mistake surfers for seals in the waves, but human attacks are pretty rare. We just hear a lot about them when they do. People like to hype up the shark element to Cape Town swimming to make it sound impressive, but the truth is that the cold is the biggest challenge. 

Saying that, the thought does sometimes enter your mind that you might meet something, so you have to push it out and carry on. At the beginning of my swim, I had to skirt quite a lot of jellyfish which freaked me out at first. But I soon realised they weren’t stinging, so I focused on avoiding the kelp (thick sea weeds) instead! 

In terms of training, I swam at the Serps during the winter, where the temperature got down to 3 degrees at one point, so I felt fairly acclimatised to the cold. I’d done a half an hour sea swim the week before however and felt pretty shivery, so I was still nervous. And on the day, it definitely was cold! 


Was the swim difficult to organise independently? What logistic considerations were there? Who were your support crew and what role did they play in this swim?

I was lucky, as I already knew the people who could make it happen quickly. I had submitted my forms to the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association who verify the swim, but my skipper organised the logistics. If you’ve never done a swim like this, its wise to connect with an experienced skipper who can help beforehand and brief you to make sure all you need to worry about on the day is swimming! 

You can’t underestimate the importance of having a good support crew. As said, Derrick was my skipper and my second was my great friend and newlywed Zani Taitz, who swam the second half with me. It was a great boost, as I was definitely cold when she got in and its always nice to swim with someone, especially friends. Looking up at dear people that had helped me get into the sport, cheering me on and enjoying it as well was such a thrill. Also the thought of how good I’d feel at the finish and how happy I’d be to tell my Serps teammates, with whom I’ve signed up to swim across the Channel and Lake Geneva this year. So I (literally) gritted my teeth and just kept swimming!  

What advice do you have for any other swimmers wanting to break through the 10k barrier?

A month or so before, I’d gone on a swim camp organised by Nick and Sakura Adams, very experienced open water swimmers who do an enormous amount to prepare aspiring Channel and other open water swimmers to succeed. During the camp, we’d done a 10km straight session in the 25m pool which, although brutal, had shown me that I could swim the distance in one go. 

Having done other sea swims before also helped, especially because the sea is very different to river swimming. The salt water dehydrates you and makes your throat quite sore and you have to learn to swim in the waves. Completing other swims had also showed me I could stay in for a while and cope with the cold, though I knew it’d be tough. I just thought about how far I’d come from that first Robben Island crossing. There’s no magic formula however, just time in the water, learning from other experienced swimmers, gritting your teeth and enjoying it! 


What next?!

As mentioned, in August I’m swimming in a relay across the Channel and in September another across the 69km Lake Geneva. Next year I’m considering swims around the bottom of Africa at Cape Point (where sharks are more common), between the Fjords in Norway, crossing the Gibraltar straits or swimming at Alcatraz! But I haven’t decided yet. For me, a huge part of open water swimming is not just about testing my limits of duration, distance and mental strength, but also getting to explore different parts of the world and its nature through swimming. 

As you know, at A Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance?”. What is your preferred Swim Cake and why?

The best swim cake I’ve had so far is the Guinness chocolate cake fellow swimmer and butterfly swim nutter Sam Mould made for my birthday. It melts in your mouth and is absolutely divine. What a great study! Please invite me to try the shortlist.


Thank you Natasha!

At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

Long Distance and Channel Training Camp: 0-6 Hours in 7 Days

Long distance and channel training swim ‘holidays’ are one of those things I’ve talked about doing ‘one day’… Happily the other week I found myself enjoying not just one, but 7 days of distance swimming, in the turquoise waters of Formentera with SwimQuest.

We love swimming!

In my heart I’ve always wanted to experience long distance swims and I booked the trip because I wanted to explore what I can do and get some perspective on my swimming aspirations.

Add to that, Swimquest’s Alice (in Waterland) Todd told me that I would be rewarded with a mojito at the end of the week, and as an elite endurance athlete that’s the kind of thing I take very seriously.

This trip is a great opportunity to put winter training into practice and assist with acclimatisation – the swim plan for the week is tailored to each person (keen novice and experienced long distance swimmers are catered for), but in general you build up each day with 1-2 swims; each increasing the time in the 14-16 degree water – providing a great platform to kick off the northern hemisphere summer swim season.


For those with distance swim objectives on the horizon, the week is also the chance to get a confidence boost for the challenges ahead and perhaps get some paper work done by ticking off qualifying swims: For an English Channel Solo ,that’s a 6 hour swim at 16 degrees or lower; and for and English Channel Relay that’s a 2 hour swim at the same temperature.

Of course it’s not all about the English Channel – Lake Zurich and S.C.A.R were amongst the imminent swimming objectives of participants. I’d booked the trip without a specific objective in mind, but a few weeks ago joined a 4 women Channel relay team setting out in late June, so this was now a great opportunity to get my 2 hour qualifier done.

In between swims there is food and workshops on key topics for long distance swims like training plans, nutrition and feeding, fatigue, mental preparation and swim technique analysis (including footage taken towards the end of our swims in order to get an insight on how well we were able to maintain technique over time).

The scene is set for an epic week!

An Open Mind

For some reason until we started to swim, I hadn’t really appreciated the cumulative nature of the week and as we notched up more and more time in the water, it began to dawn on me what a big step this was.

However instead of freaking out at the potential volume of swimming , I enjoyed each swim as it came and kept in the moment, concentrating on technique, exploring the wildlife (beautiful fish, coral, sea grass and even an octopus!), enjoying the changing rhythm of the sea and taking every opportunity I could to learn from those around me.

That enabled me to consolidate and trust my potential, and, ignoring the slight hiccup where I managed to beach myself on a rock and was incapacitated with giggles for about 10 minutes (#eliteenduranceathlete), I found myself completing a 1.5 hour, then 2 hour, then 4 hour and then a 6 hour channel qualifying swim (my longest swim ever!) all with a big smile on my face. Proper wicked.

We did it ! Chris, Stephen, James and Alice celebrating finishing our longest swims of the week!

Team Work 

What a team! It’s the people that make these weeks. Swimquest’s John Coningham Rolls and Charlie of course (how many armpits can one smother with Vaseline in one week – quite a few it seems!) but also my fellow guests, all working towards amazing swimming goals and sharing their knowledge and inspirational stories along the way.

As the hours of swimming progressed, each of us met different challenges, gained new perspectives and surpassed personal goals and expectations.

Post 4 hour swim and ice cream team selfie!

To complete a four hour swim one day and then go into a 6 hour the next, did require a couple of deep breaths and I was somewhat wide eyed with expectation  – but as John said “It’s just a 2 hour swim, you’ve already done the 4 hours.” –  so rather like the rest of the week, that’s how I looked at it; in bite sized chunks, and any nerves translated into excitement – I was going to do my first six hour!


The experience also brought home to me how important support crew are.  Often when I swim my mind goes to magical places, and keeping track of time or anything more than a high five, cup of UCan and a jelly baby, can be tricky.

Things got particularly surreal when at 5 hours I spotted an octopus. I spent the next 30 mins with ‘An Octopuses Garden’ by the Beatles going around my head and talking to fish.

This was a gear change for my mind’s juke box which had previously been playing classic hits like Wham! Club Tropicana and Ant and Dec’s ‘Lets Get Ready To Rumble’.

Swim Community

I know that completing a week of swimming like this culminating in a 6 hour channel qualifier would not have happened without the laughter, encouragement and insights of everyone who I meet along the way.

In January when I was swimming at the Jinan international winter swimming festival in China, Ranie Pearce gave me her South End Rowing Club pool parker. I’m sure it’s a pool parker with super powers and I wore it religiously throughout this distance swim week – before and after swims.

To me it represents the love and encouragement of the swim community, the people who don’t laugh at another person’s dreams, but have faith and see potential in them and share that all important spirit of adventure

I wear that parker with pride as well as it being rather comforting and toasty – thank you Ranie!

South End Rowing Club Pool Parker in action!

Once upon a time I was a wetsuit only swimmer and thought non wetsuit swimmers were nuts and that whole skins swimming thing seemed daunting. I still wear a wetsuit from time to time, but somehow via fun swims, mentors and encouragement at the Serpentine and South London Swimming Club, along with events like Chillswim, The UK Cold Water Swimming Championships, The Dart 10k, Henley Swims and others, I have become an all year round skins open water swimmer.

Swimming with my mates means acclimatisation to cooler temperatures has happened naturally through fun swims that have also lead me to explore different waterways, all at my own pace, rather than being on a rushed pass or fail mission.

Celebrating the 50m head up breast stroke at the Taierzhuang International Winter Swimming Festival in China – Tiara, earrings and sunglasses optional.

My comfort level with distance is also progressing, along with a love of meditation that gives me a freedom of mind and body I cherish, and I reflected very much on the A Lotus Rises interview with endurance swimmer Beth French, about mindfulness and swimming, throughout the week.

All of that enabled me to enjoy and progress through the week.

Rest, Food and Recuperation

During the week I had two massages, ate a huge amount of food, and slept A LOT. I’m still taking things pretty easy and I make sure I get to my physio regularly. As my roommate Emma said, you need to build a team around you. Juggling swimming dreams with the demands everyday life is not simple – I don’t get it ‘right’ all the time.

Post swim ice cream and developing swim hat tan line nicely (watch out Anna Wardley!)

Equally I am not in a rush – give or take a few global environmental challenges, the Channel et al ain’t going anywhere…Swimming is a sport for life and I want to have fun, be kind to myself and look after my body and mind as this journey progresses.

Rest, rest, rest!

Overall this Swimquest week is about realising your potential and finding out what suits you as a swimmer on your individual path. It provided me with some important general advice and has empowered me to explore what’s best for me too – for example, a lot of people really like maxim as their main feed for long distance swims, but it seems I get on better with UCan.

Post swim potatoes bravas – Note. This is just a starter #eliteenduranceathlete

Life in and out of the water

Last year when I was at the Camp Eton long distance swim training weekend, John described how in life there can be two types of people: “Drainers and radiators…Surround yourself with radiators” – and that resonated throughout the week – thank you to my fellow swimmers and in particular Emma and James who often kept me company and embraced my somewhat Dory – like qualities when in the water.

Emma awesome room mate and super radiator🙂

Other things I learnt:

  • No matter how long you spend in the water, however acclimatised or however warm the climate, when you spray p20 sunscreen on your back it feels really cold!
  • Long distance swimming is a team sport.
  • Doing your bra up after a 6 hour swim in 15 degree water is a significant challenge.
  • Never underestimate the importance of a powerfully named nail varnish. My room mate Emma has a selection of nail varnish with fantastic names for her big swims. For the six hour swim she let me borrow one entitled “Up the Anti”…And I did!


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The night before the 6 hour swim: Up the Anti Nail Varnish applied and sleeping in pajamas entitled “You Are Awesome” – elite preparation for an elite endurance athlete
  • An open and positive mind unlocks potential
  • Anything is possible
  • I love swimming

…. Thank you SwimQuest!

Mojito Accomplished – Cheers Alice Todd!


At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!


Splash! The Swimming Initiative Empowering Lives In An Out Of The Water in Hong Kong

Simon Holliday has lived in HK for two years and has spent a lot of that time swimming in the surprisingly beautiful waters around Hong Kong. He is a Channel swimmer and became the second person to swim from HK to Macau in 2014. Last year he co-founded Splash – a swim school for Foreign Domestic Workers and under-privileged young people in Hong Kong. A Lotus Rises spoke to Simon and Naive, a recent Splash! graduate to find out more about this fantastic initiative that is empowering women both in and out of the water.

Splash! From the Pool…
…To Open Water!

What is Splash?

Splash conducts free learn-to-swim and water safety courses for targeted communities who may not have access or financial resources for swim lessons. 

Taught by experienced coaches in a supportive group setting, Splash swimmers learn an important life skill while developing confidence and well-being both in and out of the water.  We are a bunch of volunteers – some with a coaching background some without – who wanted to share the sport we love.


Why did you found Splash?

Foreign Domestic Workers play a pivotal but under-appreciated role in Hong Kong society.  They are required to live with their employers in invariably tiny living quarters. They have no legal rights in Hong Kong.  Should they lose their job, they are required to leave Hong Kong within two weeks. They make a huge sacrifice to work in Hong Kong, leaving children, extended family and friends behind in The Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia.

They work six days a week and on their ONE day off many congregate in the central business district and other open areas sitting on pieces of cardboard, playing cards, sharing food and catching up with friends.  We felt some of these women would like the opportunity to use this time to learn a life skill.  Swimming has been such an important part of my life and we wanted to share our love of the water with others.  It is quite a selfish activity really as we (the coaches) seem to get at least as much enjoyment from the sessions as the participants!


What impact does it have?

Last year we helped nearly 200 Foreign Domestic Workers to learn to swim.  We have also seen some of our swimmers go on to compete in open water competitions.  These were women who had just learned to swim competing against people who had swam all their lives.  They fail and succeed with a smile on their faces and are always willing to give it a try.

But swimming is really just the vehicle.  We have seen participants grow in confidence out of the water.  Friendships develop.  And more people are joining a small but growing open water community. 

What are your hopes for the future?

This year, we hope to help nearly 700 Foreign Domestic Workers learn to swim.  We are also developing programmes for under-privileged young people.

Longer term, we hope to continue to build swimming communities in parts of Hong Kong and other countries in Asia.  

Congratulations to the Splash Winter 2016 graduates!


Naive Gascon, a recent Splash! graduate also shares her experience. Naive joined Splash as a beginner swimmer and now regularly enjoys 4km swims in open water.

Why did you participate in Splash?

I participated in Splash because i really wanted to learn how to swim. When I got here in Hong Kong, I looked for opportunities to grow, learn things and have fun on my day off. Before, I participated in free learning stuff offered from different organization such as Yoga, Cooking, etc.  and then Splash came. Swimming just captured my heart!

Naive flying out of the water!

What did you gain from participating in Splash?

Friends, happiness, fun. It has boosted my self esteem and given a sense of “belongingness”, which I struggled with when I first got here. I also learnt a lot from people I met, which is pretty awesome. The  short time since learning learned how to swim has shaped me not just physically, but also as a human being. There is so much love in Splash. 

Naive at the end of an open water swim training session with Hungarian marathon swimmer Manyoki Attila

How can people support Splash?

We need more volunteer coaches, more pairs of goggles and more money to offer more free learn to swim programmes.  Details of lessons, coaching opportunities and how to make a donation can be found here .




69km, 32 Hours and 52 Minutes. A Lotus Rises meets Marathon Swimmer and Winter Swimming Champion Jaimie Monahan

On August 26th and 27th, 2015, Jaimie Monahan from New York City, swam the 42.8 miles (69km) across Lake Geneva in 32 hours and 52 minutes. It was the 53rd longest solo swim in human history – and she is the first American to complete a solo crossing of the lake.

This is another chapter in an incredible swimming journey that has taken Jaimie across the globe from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle, from Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier to frozen lakes in Siberia and Vermont to the Sahara Desert and the towering mountains and crystal blue waters of Switzerland.  And that’s just in 2015.

Jaimie has also just become the overall female winner of the 2015-2016 International Winter Swimming World Cup.

Paradise Bay Antarctica Courtesy of Arik Thormahlen
Paradise Bay Antarctica Courtesy of Arik Thormahlen

What inspired you to undertake this swim?

In February of 2015 I got an email through the English Channel swimmers distribution list about a new organization, the Lake Geneva Swim Association (LGSA) ( that was starting to organize swims across Lake Geneva in Switzerland for the coming summer.  I’d been focusing on ice swimming and winter swimming for the past year and hadn’t done any long swims for a while.  Lake Geneva was much longer than any swim I’d ever done and less than six months away, but something about it just called to me.  I researched for a few minutes about the lake, the surrounding landmarks, and the water, and decided to go for it.

I registered my interest on the website and within a few minutes was in correspondence with Ben Barham, the founder of the Lake Geneva Swimming Association (LGSA).  He was great and we locked down a date that same day!  In general, I try to only pursue swims that are exciting or meaningful to me personally rather than try and check off swims on arbitrary lists.

Lake Geneva Photo Courtesy of Ben Barham LGSA
Jaimie in her element in Lake Geneva

How did you prepare physically and mentally? 

Physically I swam as much as I could, and did a lot of yoga.  For me, yoga helps a lot mentally too because it’s taught me to just show up to the mat (or the water) and breathe through whatever happens.  I also thought it was important to get a long freshwater swim under my belt a few months in advance, so I signed up for Extreme North Dakota Racing’s Watersports Endurance Test END-WET, a 36 mile swim down the Red River of the North.  I had never swum much in fresh water, so END-WET was a great learning experience for me, as well as a lot of fun with swimming friends and the amazing people of Great Forks, North Dakota.  Definitely a great community race!

How important are logistics and support crew? Were there any particular instructions you gave to them? What did you eat?

Logistics are a very big factor on a swim this long. We planned for up to 48 hours worth of feeds which is a LOT of bottled water and carbohydrate powder.  Watching us load a huge shopping trolley cart of groceries onto the boat the day prior must have been really funny for the people watching us from Geneva’s stylish waterfront cafes.

Support crew is so important, perhaps THE most important thing.  I had a small but dedicated and experienced personal crew of one, the amazing Arik Thormahlen, and a wonderful team organized by the LGSA of our pilots Gérard Schoch and Jacques Massard and observers Ben Barham and Tim Davies.

I fed every 30 minutes on warm carbohydrate drink, interspersed with black tea and even some flat Coca-Cola at the end for variety. I don’t eat solids during swims but the drinks provide warmth and enough calories to keep me going, even for a long time.

JMonahan Feed with Arik and Ben
Jaimie and her super support crew Arik Thormahlen and Ben Barham, Observer and LGSA Founder


How much sunscreen and vaseline did you have to apply etc?

I could go on for ages on the topic of sunscreen but for this swim I used La Roche-Posay Anthelios factor 60 as a base layer with a thick layer of Desitin Maximum Strength brand diaper/nappy cream. It’s messy and we come prepared with latex gloves for a neater application, but with 40% zinc oxide, it is the only thing that works for me. It also prevents chafing so no need for vaseline! It was very effective and stayed (mostly) on, even after almost 33 hours in the water. I still daydream about ways to reapply in the water for even better coverage but haven’t found a good method yet.

JMonahan Zinc

What goes on in your head on a 32 hour, 52 minute swim?

Everything and anything!  I have a really slow stroke count so I often try to keep faster paced songs in my head to increase my turnover.  I felt quite sick for most of the Lake Geneva swim so I spent a lot of time monitoring myself…making sure my feeds were absorbing, that the cold I was feeling wasn’t hypothermia, just discomfort, etc. For this swim the scenery was a great distraction for me, beautiful vineyards, stunning mountains, and the water itself was ridiculously lovely so I tried to focus on that too.

Do you have a mantra? What keeps you motivated?

I don’t have a mantra.  Sometimes I count to myself, but always lose track.  It’s kind of calming though.  In terms of motivation, I just swim to the next feed, or sunrise, or some other landmark.  For long swims I try not to even think about being done until the very end.  It’s always the last 10% of every swim that’s the hardest for me, because my mind switches from swimming and being in the moment to wanting to be done.

How do you recover from a swim that big?

It sounds a little funny but for me swimming at my typical pace for long solo swims is not very tough on my body – even after swimming for so long I was only sore for about 24 hours afterwards.  Slept in the next morning, had a nice social swim on the second day and went on a (leisurely!) hike with friends before heading back to NYC.

Perito Moreno Glacier Photo Courtesy of Mariia Yrjo-Koskinen
The Perito Moreno Glacier: Jaimie Monahan overall female winner of the 2015-16 International Winter Swimming World Cup

We know that you love cold water swimming.  What are your top tips? Please refer to fancy dress in your answer.

Good question!  For training, my best advice is to ramp up gradually.  Start swimming in the summer or autumn and then just keep swimming outdoors as the water gets colder.  Keep your breathing under control, relax, and as you’re going in, try counting to 100.  By then it usually feels okay.  Don’t push your limits, get used to how your body feels and reacts and be conservative with temperatures and length of swim until you are familiar with what “normal” and “not normal” feels like for you.  And never swim alone!

Specific to winter swimming events and competitions – my best advice is bring as many swim costumes as you can, more than you think you need.  Keeping on a wet swimsuit between events can take a toll over the course of a long day of events.  In a similar vein, always dry off and get dressed immediately after a cold swim. You may feel amazing and want to hang out in the cold air, but dry off, cover your head, and get dressed including warm comfortable footwear as soon as possible.

And yes, fancy dress wherever/whenever possible!  I highly recommend a sheep hat.

Tooting Bec UK Winter Swimming Champs- photo courtesy Tolga Akmen
Sheep hats – The millinery of winter swimming champions!

A Lotus Rises is a community of women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water.

More inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog,  Facebook and Instagram and  Twitter – we’d love to hear from you at We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

Swimming Diplomacy 游泳外交 “Yóuyǒng wàijiāo”

Tomorrow I fly to China to Swim…

300m in Daming Lake, at sub 5 degree temperatures, with hundreds of other swimmers from China and across the globe, at the 5th International Winter Swimming Festival, in Jinan City, Shandong Province, North China.

I love how swimming adventures pop up as if from nowhere; yet somehow reveal a hidden logic that joins once disparate dots from across your life, together.

Karaoke, Beijing 2008


China has been a part of my life for almost two decades. I first went to China in 1996 to teach English as part of my ‘Gap Year’. Since then, I have had the opportunity to study, live and work in the country on a number of occasions and have been fascinated by the countries economic and social development.

My last visit to China was in 2008, when I working as a lawyer in Beijing. It was amazing to be living in the city at the time of the Olympics.


It was the performance of female British swimmers Keri-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten in the Open Water Swimming events at Beijing 2008 that helped start the growth of open water swimming in the UK.

In 2010 I swam my first mile and open water swimming is now my big passion in life.

Finishing my first 1 mile swim at Ullswater 2010

The human body is 90% water and 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water. It’s what sustains us and connects individuals and communities across the globe; yet our never ending rush for advancement means the world is facing a fresh water crisis and our oceans are being decimated, etching the battle lines of the future on a fragile liquid landscape.

River Crossing, Zhejiang Province 2003

It’s easy to get swept up in political and commercial agenda, and sometimes it feels we are at risk of forgetting that behind the brands, policies and rhetoric are people; each of us made of that same 90% water.

Now, more than ever it is time to remember that essence; our shared humanity.

Like many people, when I swim, I feel free. I am in my element and global and personal agenda falls away.

Sunset swim at The Jetty at Waternish
Freedom! Enjoying a Sunset Swim off the Jetty at Waternish, Isle of Skye (Photo Copyright Gill Williams)

It is a great honour to have been invited to swim in Jinan. I am really excited to return to China and rather than work or study, to be celebrating my passion for water with new Chinese friends and the wider international swimming community.

My favourite Chinese proverb is ‘芙蓉出水’ (fúróng chūshuǐ) meaning ‘Out of the Water a Lotus Rises’ The proverb is used to describe strong beautiful women in water, and also overcoming challenges and coming into bloom, and inspired the poem that I wrote for Amy Sharrock’s Swimmers’ Manifesto in Summer in summer 2014.

That meaning resonates with me deeply and inspired the creation of this blog, ‘A Lotus Rises’ which is part of an online community, dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of water.

The symbol of Jinan is a lotus, and they rise up out of the water of Daming Lake. I am really excited to bring together all these different elements of my life by participating in the festival.


From Beijing I will travel to Jinan, then to Shanghai and Hong Kong and on to Sydney and Tasmania.

Tomorrow marks the start of a journey connecting friends, personal, social and intellectual passions, swimscapes, landscapes, communities, and family history… and I am sure many more things I cannot anticipate; all the way to Tasmania…

‘芙蓉出水‘(fúróng chūshuǐ) ‘Out of the Water a Lotus Rises’.

Henley Bridge to Bridge
UK swimming – the Henley Bridge to Bridge  2015- TEAM!

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

The Mermaid of the Solent

Deborah Herridge started open water swimming in summer 2013 and has just completed a 14 mile two-way Solent swim, raising funds for three charities close to her heart, The Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation who provide holidays for children with life-threatening illnesses, Cancer Research and Canine Partners. Inspired by the London 2012 Paralympics to get fit and to try and raise funds for good causes through swimming, she has raised nearly £10,000 for charity in the past few years and motivated many in the open water swimming community along the way.

The wonderful Deborah Herridge – Quantum of Solent II complete! (credit Deborah Herridge)

Why did you want to do a two way Solent Swim? 

Last summer (2014) I swam a new route across the Solent, a 7 mile swim from Ryde on the Isle of Wight to Hill Head Sailing Club on the English mainland. We had near perfect conditions, a flat calm sea, a beautiful sunrise at the start, warm air and sea, around 18C and it all went really well. I enjoyed it so much that at the end I thought, “hmmm, that wasn’t too bad, I wonder if I could swim a longer distance…?” The seed was planted.

(Credit Deborah Herridge)

That Autumn I did lots of research on English Chanel swimming, and sought lots of advice from previous Channel swimmers, and decided to go for it. Life is for living, why not! So I booked my solo for 2017 and started planning The Quantum of Solent II. The swim was meant as a stepping stone – if I could successfully swim two thirds of the distance of the English Channel by swimming two widths of the Solent without too much injury; I reckoned my shoulders may be able to have a bash at swimming across the big one.

In Her Element (Credit Deborah Herridge)

I know the EC is a different ball game all together though, but I think the conditions for the latter leg of the Quantum of Solent swim (a horrendous and un-forecast F5-6 with white caps for the last 3+ hours) was great training for how unpredictable the English Channel can be. It is a mental challenge as well as a physical one, and my head and body coped well considering the conditions, although I did want to stop a few times. I’ve heard a saying about the EC, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. It seems apt.

What training did you do and how do you keep it fun?

I started training for the two-way swim on January 1st with a dip in the rather chilly Solent with 500 other New Year’s nutters. I was trying to swim throughout winter for the first time, as always just swimming in my swimming costume, which proved to be an exhilarating experience, if a little refreshing to say the least.The first tidal window to make the crossing in the complicated tidal flows of the Solent was on the 26th June.

My husband Robert writes all my training plans using a training method called Periodisation Training, where you work in three weekly cycles, light/medium/heavy, and they build in intensity as the time goes on. So I started going to the pool 3-5 times a week as well as a couple of short sea swims to keep acclimatised until it got warmer, and the pool sea swims would then transfer to the sea.

…And she did! (credit Deobrah Herridge)

We also have help, advice and swim coaching from Danny Bunn, who has been working with Robert to devise pool and open water interval sets which have made me stronger, faster and fitter.

TEAM! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

How do I keep it fun? I love it all, I love the intensity, the hard work, how my mind will clear when I swim, I love it when it’s so tough I feel my heart is going to burst out of my chest, I love the feeling that swimming brings, so I guess I find all that fun. And I love swimming in the sea with friends. Some of my longest training sessions took place in some very challenging conditions, but I had many pals from my local swimming group, The Shack Sharks, who trained with me and having their company through the long sessions (the longest being 5 hours 20) and having them beside me made it much more fun.

The ever changing conditions keep one feeling alive as well, and my favourite swims are in the rain, nothing more special than being rained on whilst swimming.

How was the swim? What were the highs, the lows – we hear you fitted in a tumble turn?!

There were many highs, the anxiety at the start, the elation of the finish, the first third of the swim was wonderful, but the latter part was hell.

I started off feeling very nervous. My pals were there to support me and help me get ready, and they were there to make me smile and try and relax me, but there was an ominous feeling in tummy, a fear that the swim may be cancelled again if the weather changed.

It had been postponed back in June when I was standing at the waters edge at 3am ready to swim, when the wind had picked up and visibility was very bad with a sea mist rolling in, so the pilot called it off – in hindsight it was for the best safety wise but I was gutted to say the least at the time.

To be so ready to go, fit and healthy, my injured arm having healed well, bursting with energy, and then not be able to swim, and then try and keep up the fitness for the next two months was a challenge to say the least, physically especially, but most of all mentally, to stay focussed. But on this day, the day the big swim would go ahead, the weather seemed perfect, it was sunny and fairly warm, very little wind, but the sea felt very fresh at 16.5C. The summer hadn’t been that great and the Solent hadn’t warmed up as much as the previous year…

Awesome! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

The first hour went very fast, I remember remarking on the first feed what a wonderful day it was! I should have remained quiet…I got to Ryde much quicker than anticipated, in 2 hours and 44 minutes, I did a quick tumble, (what had originally been meant as a visual humour on the map had turned into a real thing as a bet to get more sponsorship), cleared the water and then started on my longer than foreseen journey back….The ‘lows’ were about to happen.

People were watching the tracker online and thought I’d be back much earlier than expected at the pace I’d swam the first leg on, little did we all know about the winds that were to spring up. The sea changed from calm first it was small gentle bobbing waves, I had to swim against the tide for an hour or so, I kept thinking I wasn’t getting any further away from the main landmark around here, the Spinnaker Tower, and remarked about it, to be told that everything was fine, when in fact I really wasn’t moving very far.

Then the winds came, creating such big swells and waves which constantly slapped at my face arms and back and chilled me to the bone. I knew now that my feet had turned blue, I had looked at them on one of my feeds, I had lost all feeling in them, and my hands were starting to feel slightly numb with the wind chill. I really wanted to stop a few times, and said so more than once, but my brilliant crew, Captain Chris Godfrey, my husband Robert, Caroline Crolla and Heather Massey kept me motivated and encouraged me to go on.

Deborah and crew! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

I couldn’t see much, the waves were so big, but eventually we neared land and I started to recognise buildings. When eventually the sailing club came into view in the distance I felt a surge of energy, enough to get me to the end, one of my shoulders felt very painful, but it all went when I saw my buddies from the Shack Sharks in the water!

Sharon,Lorraine and Oliver had come to swim in with me, it was a wonderful feeling, knowing people were there to support me. Then I saw all the people at the sailing club, friends from The Oakley Waterman charity, neighbours, swim pals, I must admit to filling up a little in my goggles. I was near now, very near, not far to go at all, I couldn’t quite believe I’d done it, then I heard a little commotion, some shouts, and didn’t actually see the sailing boat come past me, from the video it looks like it got very close to my head, that would have been a dramatic ending indeed!

Then I saw pebbles beneath me, I knew I was in the shallows now and could see the waves lapping the beach and hear the muffled cheers and applause through my ear plugs. I went to stand up, and promptly fell down… My legs had turned to jelly. I tried again, and fell back into the water.

EPIC! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

I heard “Come on Deborah! You can do it! Clear the water!” And I did. I then fell into the arms of my buddies Paula and Jeannie. I believe I was heard saying “never again!!!”. But the memory of the pain goes, and new adventures are planned.

I’m happy to say that the swim was recognised by the BLDSA as an inaugural record.

(Credit Deobrah Herridge)

What have you learnt from this swimming journey?

So many things.That I’m stronger than I thought, mentally and physically.

I once saw a 10k at Eton Dorney and thought I could never do a swim that long, but anything is possible, two years later I did 22k.

That swimmers are amazing, kind, helpful, welcoming and resourceful folk.

That swimming is a happy drug, I’ve never been happier and healthier, and when I don’t swim I get very sad. It probably sounds weird, but I feel like I’m meant to be in the sea. Maybe I was a fish in a previous life.

Mermaid and here’s the medal to prove it! (Credit Deborah Herridge)


What advice do you have for anyone thinking about taking up open water swimming?

Go for it. You won’t regret it.

Sunset Swimming Joy! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

And finally, what’s your favourite swimming costume and where is your favourite swim spot (although perhaps we know the answer to that!)?

My green mermaid costume, and I have two places, not surprisingly, the Solent and I also love the beautiful clear waters around the Isle of Mull and Iona. I’ve been holidaying there for ten years but only plucked up the courage to swim this summer, it was magnificent.

You can follow Deborah’s journey from the Solent to the English Channel here.

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!



Love SwimRun

Domestic travel in the UK is set to get pretty exciting in summer 2016. SwimTrek taught us that “Ferries are for wimps,” and now SwimRun is helping us re-think land based travel too.

As Britain prepares for a SwimRun invasion, A Lotus Rises spoke to Chloe Rafferty, founder of Love SwimRun a new 16k event incorporating 12.5k of running and 3.5k of swimming in Snowdonia National Park  to find out what SwimRun exactly is and about her dream to make it as accessible as possible.

Love SwimRun (Credit Chloe Rafferty)

What is SwimRun?

SwimRun is a fast growing endurance sport in which you run and swim between two predefined points along a set course of cross country runs and open water swims without stopping in between. SwimRun is quite similar to the sport aquathlon, where participants undertake a swim and then transition to a run. However, in SwimRun participants switch between running and swimming many times during a single race, running in their wetsuits and swimming in their trainers.

Swim! Credit Chloe Rafferty

The sport was conceived in 2006 when Ötillö (meaning ‘Island to island’) was held for the first time in Sweden. The concept of SwimRun was the result of a beer fuelled challenge between a group of friends – to race across the Stockholm archipelago, running over the islands and swimming between them. The race has become an annual event and this year Ötillö celebrated it’s 10th anniversary!

Ross Dolder Photography_Pic1
Run! Credit Ross Dolder Photography

SwimRun is gaining momentum and there are now SwimRun races all over the world, however, only this year has the sport reached the UK. There have been just a handful of events so far in Scotland and the Lake District and Love SwimRun is bringing the SwimRun craze to North Wales!

What inspired you to set up LoveSwimRun?

I discovered the concept of SwimRun early this year and loved it instantly. For me it offers the same great journey that I get from trail running with an extra element of adventure. I love the contrast between the swimming and running and the feeling of freedom that comes from seamlessly changing from one to the other. The stress of triathlon transitions has never appealed to me and I like the way you need very little gear – basically just your wetsuit, goggles, trainers and off you go! 

Soon after I entered a SwimRun event in Scotland (8km swimming and 23km running). You had to be a team of two to do it and I really struggled to find someone mad enough to want to do it with me! Eventually an old colleague agreed but we were unable to train together due to distance and when it came to the event we found we are not evenly matched. He really struggled and in the end we had to drop out about 2/3rds of the way around. I totally understood as it was so hard, but I was also frustrated and disappointed.

On the way back home to Wales I thought it was such a shame that all the SwimRun events taking place were so epic! I decided that I wanted to share my love of SwimRun and putting on a more accessible event was the way to do it! 

I wanted to make it easy for people to have a go and to find some else to have a go with! We are also offering solo entries for those people that can’t find a partner or just don’t want the pressure of having to keep up with a partner. 

Credit Chloe Rafferty

How, if at all, does your love of sport help with running your own business?

I run a few businesses, Love SwimRun being one of them. Obviously my passion for SwimRun drives me to work hard on promoting our SwimRun events but my love of running, swimming and mountain biking are what keep me going through every working day!

I work at home and mostly on the computer so I’m always looking forward to my reward of getting outside! I’m so lucky working for myself that I can pretty much go out whenever I want so if the sun comes out – off I go! On the other hand, this can be a bit of a problem as sometimes I spend longer outside than at my desk!…

Why has SwimRun grown in popularity? What are your hopes for the SwimRun future?

I think SwimRun has big appeal right now as it’s new and a bit different! Otillo has been in the media lately and its very aspirational to watch the videos and read about it. Outdoor swimming has grown massively in popularity over the last few year and this also taps into that. Again, I think it has a more natural feeling than the regimented rules of triathlon – you can use your ingenuity and you are working with the environment rather than battling against it. It’s the adventure and the challenge but there is also a feeling of unity with the other competitors, it’s a very friendly sport!

I very much hope that SwimRun has a future in the UK, but as it grows in popularity I hope that it can retain the unique qualities above. Our Love SwimRun races will always remain small compared to a lot of other commercial driven events. We want to make our events sustainable for the environment and the local area and community. We always want them to be fun, friendly and have a personal feel. 

out swim1 (1)

Do you have to wear a wetsuit and if so, is it different from a normal openwater swim wetsuit? 

Wetsuits are compulsory for most SwimRun races in the UK. This is for safety reasons. Wetsuits make you a lot more buoyant so you’ll float easily if you have to stop swimming for any reason. Obviously they also keep you much warmer. The swims can be long and are often in big bodies of water that rarely reach much above 15 degrees so unless you are a hardened cold water swimmer you are likely to suffer! We are working on another shorter event where wetsuits would be optional though… keep an eye on the website for news about this hopefully coming soon!

Until recently customising triathlon/open-water wetsuits was what everyone did but last year (2014) the first SwimRun specific wetsuits became available. These have zips at the front to make them easier to take on and off while running, integrated pockets, thinner fabric on the arms and hips to make them easier to run in and a host of other features. All very nice, but also very expensive if you are just starting out! I don’t have one, I just wear a shortie triathlon suit.

If you have a full suit the next step would be to SwimRun customise it by cutting the arms and legs off to make it a shortie, but don’t commit to that until you are sure you want to keep SwimRunning!  There’s more info about that at

Do you run in the wetsuit and swim in your shoes? 

Yes you run in your wetsuit! On longer runs you can undo it and take the top half off to help you breath and keep cool. A lot of people swim in their trainers but you can carry them instead by clipping to your waist or towing them on a float, but then you have the faff of taking them off/putting them on at each transition. I just like to wear my shoes and swim normally – it feels weird to start with but you get used to it. 


And what about trainers – are blisters a problem if you’re not wearing socks?

Trail running shoes are best as they have a snug fit and good grip on wet slippery surfaces. Designs that drain well and won’t absorb a lot of water are essential. You can even drill holes in them to help! You do wear socks, it would be very uncomfortable without. I find a good quality, quick drying (synthetic) pair of ankle socks are best. I have never had a blister. If you do short distances and build up your feet get used to it.

What other kit do you need? Do you have to carry it all and if so where do you put it?

There is a lot of expensive kit that you could buy and use for SwimRun (you can read all about this on our website but, personally I am very much about keeping it simple. Whatever kit you choose to use, remember you have to manage it at each transition and carry it all on the runs! You can use a small bag/hydration pack (if you can swim with it), shove it down your wetsuit or wear a nylon waist loop and use light weight karabinas to clip things to it.

Along with the wetsuit and trainers you’ll definitely need a bright coloured swimming cap and goggles. Other common but unessential equipment are hand paddles, pull buoys, fins and a tow line if you swim as a pair. If you swim alone or even with friend in a big body of water it’s a good idea to use a tow float – this a bright float that you tether around you waist that makes you much more visible and you that can hold onto it if you need to rest. Some have bags you can store stuff in to take with you. It’s also a good idea to carry a phone in a waterproof case, a whistle to attract help should you need it and some spare food. This safety gear is the same kit you’d think about if you were just open water swimming.

Ross Dolder Photography_pic3
Credit Ross Dolder Photography

Do you need to be able to map read to navigate the course?

Most courses are well marked and marshalled – each race is different. You won’t need to be able able to map read at all for Love SwimRun events.

How do you train for a SwimRun event (e.g. adjusting from swim to run so quickly)? Particularly if you’re not based near lakes and trails.

The only way to train for it is to do it. It’s harder than you’d think to get straight out of the water and start running in a wetsuit – it’s such a different exercise your breathing is all over the place! I have to be honest, I don’t know how you’d train for it if you didn’t have access to open water – I am not sure the lifeguards at the pool would you like you wearing trainers and running around the changing rooms!

There are places you can swim outdoors all over the UK, be they man-made lakes or old quarries.  I am sure there would be somewhere not too far away. Check the Outdoor Swimming Society website and look for outdoor swimming groups on Facebook for ideas and advice. When I can’t do much SwimRunning, during the coldest part of the winter, I just concentrate on swimming in the pool (drills, speed sets and endurance/distance training – joining a swimming club is great!) and keep my running up outdoors. If you can keep this up and then get to some openwater at the weekend to just concentrate on the transitions I think you’ll be fine. 

What advice do you have for any openwater swimmers transitioning to SwimRun?

Start off with some easy sessions/short distances and build up, especially with the running to avoid injuries. Experiment with different gear until you find what is right for you – try using what you’ve got first or adapting things from stuff you have at home before spending lots of expensive gear. For example you can make a pull buoy from two plastic bottles! Watch any Ötillö video to see some amazing homemade gear!

Stay safe – swim with someone else, swim close to the shore or have someone spot you from the shore. Read up on . I will be running some free ‘Social SwimRuns’ in early summer to give people a chance to practise and try gear out. I’ll announce info about these in the spring – keep and eye on the website, Facebook and Twitter

At a Lotus Rises, we’re working with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies (IISCS) on a groundbreaking study to discover the best cake for optimum swim performance. What, in your opinion, is the best cake for SwimRun?

Any cake that isn’t ‘sponge’! You need to absorb as little water as possible! Seriously, it’s good to take some food with you for energy – any individually wrapped (waterproof) flapjacks or seed bars are great! 

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

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Women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water