WHAT INSPIRES YOU to swim outdoors? A wild ol’ ancestor perhaps? A book you read? Music?
Sources of inspiration for wild swimming are both varied and prolific. One day you might be walking by a river somewhere when you spot an old bystander suddenly stripping down and charging into the cold water, like a wild dog released from its captivity. The sight of this free soul could be enough to spark that same wild and withered flame still burning inside you. You might find yourself desperate to do the same thing...
I don’t know about you, but the thing I use to motivate myself most often, before a big swim, is film. There’s something very immersive about watching someone wild swimming - being able to hear their story and experience their natural surroundings as they did.
So, with this in mind, here’s ten short films that have enriched wild swimming for us and helped us to get over our fears in the past. Some of these tell the stories of great open water swimmers and others are purely visual. Both, we’ve found, can be incredibly effective to help you find that place of solace and silence inside yourself.
Blue Hue, Natasha Brookes
This is a beautifully shot short film by Natasha Brookes, following a wild swimmer as she swims naked in the icy lakes of Snowdonia. Put this on if you ever lose sight of the need to seek out new, remote and pristine places to swim.
Free-diving With Orcas, Jacques de Los
Filmed by the South African underwater photographer, Jacques de Vos, this short film shows the majesty of freediving with a pod of orcas. This was shot in Norway, near to the Lofoten Islands, and it's a great reminder that the resident wildlife are a key part of what makes swimmer outdoors so wonderful.
When asked whether of not you should be afraid of freediving with orcas, Jacques replied:
Robson Green's Wild Swimming Adventure, Robson Green & Lewis Pugh
Without a doubt this was our favourite moment from Robson Green's UK wild swimming adventure (shown on ITV). In this video you see the difference a little inspiration can make. Accompanied by Lewis Pugh, Robson Green manages to swim without a wetsuit across a cold lake. It certainly pimples the skin and gets the blood pumping. It also leads us nicely onto our next one...
The First Swim Across The North Pole, Lewis Pugh
The Human Polar Bear, Lewis Pugh, emerges in this short film as a nigh-superhuman, scientific marvel, attempting the world-first swim across the Geographic North Pole in 2007. It's exhilarating to watch the build-up to that moment when he dives into -1.7°C and swims 1km - something that was previously thought of as impossible.
Martin Strel, Marathon Swimmer, Martin Strel
Slovenian wild swimmer, Martin Strel, almost lost his mind when he swam the length of the Amazon. He came close to dying several times on this adventure - piranhas ate his back and he was struck by lighting. However, in the end, he made it.
I love Martin Strel - he is totally fearless, which is partly why he has become the world's greatest endurance swimmer. In this short he tells his story, from the beatings he received at the hands of his violent father to the escape he eventually found in the water. Today, he has survived the world's longest rivers, despite looking overweight and even unfit, he has swum for longer than anyone else, in conditions that terrify most sane swimmers.
Swimming The Fairy Pools, Kate Rew
Changing gear slightly, this video follows Kate Rew as she discovers and shares the magic of the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye. This is a very popular destination for wild swimmers and somewhere I'm desperate to go. In the mean time, Kate kindly brings it to life for us.
Swimming Sloth, Planet Earth II
I've never seen an animal that looked less inclined to enjoyed a wee swim, and yet, in BBC's Planet Earth, this amorous wee pygmy sloth storms out from the mangroves and claws its way through tropical waters, in search of a mate. In our minds, if these sluggish tree-dwellers can do it, there's no excuse for us not braving our next wild swim.
The Search for the Blue Whale, Louie Psihoyos & the Oceanic Preservation Society
This behind the scenes doc provides a closer look at the opening sequence of Racing Extinction, starring the largest animal that ever graced this blue planet. Created by Louie Psihoyos and the Oceanic Preservation Society (who were also responsible for one of the saddest films you'll ever see: The Cove), this excerpt meanders through human history, introduces the Anthropocene Epoch and features an awe-inspiring encounter between professional freedivers and a 90ft. blue whale.
Freediving in Silfra, Freedive UK
If you ever take a freediving trip to Iceland, be sure to check out Silfra, which apparently has some of the clearest waters you'll find on earth. In this short, Freedive UK celebrate 3 days in Iceland by visiting (and descending into) the popular Silfra fissure, which is actually a jagged crack between the North American and Eurasian continents.
Every year these continental plates drift further and further apart. The fact you can get in there, as this video shows, is surely enough to get any wild swimmer into their neoprene.
Afterglow, Tommaso Di Paola & Jack Webber
Finally, we come to this visually striking and intimate short doc, Afterglow, starring artist, photographer and outdoor swimmer, Vivienne Rickman Poole. In this short, Vivienne discusses the restorative, rejuvenating experience of swimming in cold water... and man does that water look cold! This is a great one for anyone who uses the natural world to inform and beautify their artwork.
Did we miss any wild swimming videos that you love and use to inspire yourself? If so, let us know in the comments section below...
Little brother Jack (26) - the youngest of the Hudson brothers - is an author represented by the literary agency Curtis Brown. He writes mostly for Adventure Uncovered, focusing on personal stories that link exploration and conservation. He was also the guest adventure editor at Red Bull UK. 'Swim Wild' is his debut book.