This week’s dream
Swimming with family in the open sea
“Nothing you can do in nature is as immersive as ocean swimming,” said Tom Vanderbilt in Outside. My wife and 9-year-old daughter could tell you as much. About a year ago, when we decided to try a new kind of vacation, they took to the open water even better than I could have hoped. The “wild swimming” movement took hold several years ago, especially in Britain, in the wake of such books as Waterlog, by naturalist Roger Deakin. More and more people, apparently, have been plunging into forgotten lakes and rivers, “partly for a spot of exercise, but mostly just for the unmediated joy of the experience.” That made sense to me. “I wanted to see the beauty of the ocean while it was still there to be seen. I wanted not to sit on a beach, but to swim to one.”
For our maiden outing, we contacted SwimQuest, a U.K.-based operator, and joined a group on Mathraki, a small Greek island. “The trip was a revelation.” Any worries I had about floating atop a bottomless sea swarming with sharks vanished immediately as we paddled the clear, warm, “ultra-buoyant” water. Accompanied by a boat, our group swam twice a day, for up to two hours, sometimes traversing rough channels, then breaking for lunch at a beachside taverna. My daughter, a swimmer since age 3, had no trouble keeping up with the adults in the group. And we loved the experience so much we quickly signed up for a more challenging week in the Bahamas.
Mere physical fitness doesn’t make a good swimmer. As I learned quickly, “I actually didn’t know how to swim” and had to modify my technique on the fly while trying to keep up with the crowd. Still, “my travails in the water were what I loved about the trip,” because my daughter got to see me struggling to learn while she sailed ahead alongside a group of strong women. That felt in keeping with the pleasures of ocean swimming. “In this other world, freed from the weight of gravity and the normal sense of time, people let go in more ways than one.” As our instructor said, “It’s this peace that overcomes you.” Our family is already discussing where to swim next year.
SwimQuest (swimquest.uk.com) offers a six-day swim adventure on Mathraki for $1,125 a person. ■