29/09/2016 by Carl Reynolds
Sat on a tree by the side of Tongue Pot. Waiting in a moment of reflection and appreciation of the wilds, before I immerse again. I’m with Dan Start researching his first Wild Swimming book. Among a myriad of other things, he tells me about the Outdoor Swimming Society, and a few months later I am at one of their early Parliament Hill Lido Christmas Dips. I meet Kari Furre and she teaches me how to swim front crawl over the next six months. Until now, I had been an inefficient breaststroker. Front crawl was moving legs and arms as fast as possible. I couldn’t manage more than 50 metres.
I join the South London Swimming Club, fetch up one Autumn Sunday morning and enter a race. “You know you can’t win for three races, don’t you?”, I am informed. The handicapper gives me 50. I win the race. Next week it’s 60. And it’d didn’t drop, but certainly went up, from that number ever after.
My attendance is sporadic to start with. I still feel a little bit of an outsider. People are friendly, but I’ve not got a swim mate yet. I’m too intrigued by everyone to settle into a niche.
Later, the following Summer, I’m on the sleeper to Penzance en-route to a Swimtrek Holiday circumnavigating the Isles of Scilly. I become friends with Big Carl. We start training together in Tooting. I have many, many memories of not being able to get dressed very well post swim. Big Carl gets frostnip.
My obsession deepens and extends for several years. I swim further and colder. I play patball. I consume gargantuan amounts of bread and cake. I lounge in the sauna. I get involved as a volunteer. I organise and am frowned upon. The Polar Bear Club thrives. I watch friends stroke across the English Channel, I flirt with the idea myself and drop it. I love the races and the little competitions between myself and Nick; and later Jim. The handicapper occasionally informs me that it’s my week to win by shaving my handicap. I am a Bread Maker of the Year and a Best Hat – a smoking dragon – at the CWSC. I take endless photos and blog about the place. I have fallen into the embrace of the SLSC members and am spending a few hours, most days, at the place.
And in 2015 I move to Brixham, by the sea. Another avenue of swimming and people is opened up to me.
There are 310 posts that reference Tooting Bec Lido on this blog, with many photos too. Enjoy reading them, I believe they reflect the joyousness of the place. Thank you.