6 best books and films that will inspire you to try wild swimming

triathlon athlete swimming on lake in sunrise wearing wetsuit

Immersing yourself in the blue does wonders to your mental and physical wellbeing. Whether you’re an avid swimmer or just dipping your toes, these books and films will inspire you to take the plunge.

1. Swim by Annette Lees

Swim by Annette Lees
(Potton & Burton)

A beautifully written social history of swimming in New Zealand, which also describes the author’s quest to swim every day for a year and features first-person accounts from other Kiwi outdoor swimmers.

2. Phosphorescence by Julia Baird

Phosphorescence by Julia Baird
(HarperCollins)

On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark by Julia Baird. This Australian writer’s investigation into happiness encompasses the joy of sea swimming and watery wonders such as glowing jellyfish.

3. Waterlog by Roger Deakin

Waterlog by Roger Deakin
(Penguin)

A swimmer’s journey through Britain. Inspired by John Cheever’s 1964 short story (also well worth reading) in which a man makes his way home from a party by swimming through neighbourhood pools, Roger Deakin swims through the British Isles in estuaries, moats, rivers, streams and spa pools. A combination of travel writing, natural history and autobiography.

4. I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
(Chatto & Windus)

With her husband terminally ill, a mum of five finds solace swimming in the freezing Irish Sea.

5. Tonic of the Sea

In this divinely shot short documentary on YouTube, an English woman describes how sea swimming at dawn every day led to her recovery after a nervous breakdown.

6. At the Bay by Katherine Mansfield

At the Bay by Katherine Mansfield
(Penguin)

A 1921 New Zealand classic, with glorious descriptions believed to be based on a morning swim at Days Bay, Wellington.


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