On the 3rd July 2021, 6 Cornish maids are plunging into the cold Altantic Ocean to relay swim 50km from Lands End to the Scilly Isles. It’s the Scilly Swim Challenge 2021 and these brave women are doing it to raise funds for a local charity who are making national waves in the UK: Surfers Against Sewage (SAS). It’s a charity that Cool of the Wild supports too, so we’re delighted to have the opportunity to showcase this insanely inspiring challenge that has already raised over £5k for SAS.
SAS began in 1990 as a response by the surfing community to the dreadful state of the beaches in Cornwall. Since then, the charity has grown into one of the UK’s most active and successful environmental charities. And thanks to persistent and bold campaigning, the UK now enjoys some of the cleanest beaches in Europe.
Now, in 2021, the problems in our seas and on our beaches have evolved into a plastic pollution crisis of monumental proportions. As such, SAS aim to end plastic pollution on UK beaches by 2030. But they can’t do that without groups like the Scilly Swimmers taking on seriously tough challenges (like swimming 50km across the ocean!) to help raise awareness and funds.
An interview with the Scilly Swimmers
With only a few weeks to go before the big day, Alice, Kim-Marie, Paula, Tina, Alex and Ruth, also known as the Scilly Swimmers – and they really are rather silly! – have shared with Cool of the Wild what drives them to keep pushing themselves to get into the sea, everyday, whatever the weather:
What inspired you to take on a swimming challenge?
We love challenges and sea swimming is new to us all which has made this event something we have had to work hard for. Having previously rowed this stretch of water we were drawn back to it. We had considered the Channel but the stretch between Lands End and Scilly feels more familiar. Plus there are less ships to negotiate!
Raising money for our local charity Surfers Against Sewage is also important to us. As thalassophiles and having grown up in Cornwall we have experienced first hand what great work they have done when it comes to cleaning up the ocean. Now they are focussing on fundamental environment issues such as plastic pollution and climate change, so we are keen to help on this journey through raising funds.
Where did the idea of swimming to the Scilly Isles come from?
It’s a stretch of water that means a lot to us. 6 years ago four of us rowed a surfboat from Scilly to Sennen and over the years we have spent many happy times on Scilly. It also comes with it a sense of mystery and excitement whether considering the many ships wrecked on the Severn reef or the legend told of the Lost Land of Lyonesse.
How did your team of swimmers come together?
We all know each other through the extreme sport surfboat rowing. We have rowed surfboats for years. We came third in the World Surf Life Saving champs in Montpellier, we have taken on big surf in Biarritz, the choppy North Sea off Holland as well as were the first all female surfboat crew to negotiate the Venetian Canals in the Voga Longa. This history of surfboat rowing has created an unbreakable bond based on trust and great friendship.
When did you start your training for this challenge?
We started training during the summer of 2020. We trained in the sea all winter as pools were closed due to COVID. As a result, we have certainly found a new passion for sea swimming.
What does a regular training week look like?
Sea swimming almost everyday … usually between 30mins to an hour. On some days we even swim twice.
What has been the most challenging part of your training so far?
Swimming in the sea during the cold winter months. Knowing that our only option for training was to take on the freezing temperatures. But we got through and always felt better for it.
How different is sea swimming to pool swimming?
Very. There is more buoyancy in the sea but also more resistance. You tend not to kick, as the suits we wear mean that our legs float. There is more resistance in every pull so when we swim in the pool our arms feel very light in comparison. We had some awesome training from SureSwimKernow which significantly helped us adapt our techniques to sea swimming.
Are you eating any differently to fuel your training?
Not really 😂…but on the day we will need to make sure we eat small amounts regularly. High energy and easily digestible foods.
Do you ever question whether you can complete the challenge?
Absolutely. It’s going to be really tough and the limit will be 24hrs. However, we are all extremely head strong so however much it hurts we will keep going.
We have been through so much together over the years that we know that we can rely on each other.
We know how to support each other and all have a lot of stamina. The problems that arise could be things like sea sickness, fatigue, injuries, sun exposure, cold exposure. We will do everything we can to get this done.
What happens if the conditions are too rough to do the swim on the 4th July?
We have a 4 day window but if the conditions aren’t favourable for those days we will delay for a month.
How long do you think it will take to swim to the Scilly Isles?
Somewhere between 18 and 24 hours. We will be rotating and starting off on hour-long sessions. But this will be flexible depending the on conditions and how we’re all feeling.
Do you have a support crew for the swim?
Yes, we have a skipper, crew and dive boat with all the right equipment aboard. These guys have previously accompanied other solo swimmers to Scilly. We also have two kayakers along side, guiding us in the right direction.
What gear do you wear to keep you warm and comfortable in the sea?
We wear swim wetsuits, a neck protector, ear plugs, goggles and hat. In the winter we also wore gloves and boots.
What tips can you give to others considering taking on a swim challenge?
Make sure it’s with a group of mates who you trust and love hanging out with as you’ll spend lots of time together.