My circular swim by Craig Robertson
7th November 2018
‘The water was dragging me out from the side, I was going to be sucked under, I couldn’t let go of the side of the pool.’ – My first memory of swimming lessons at Slough Community Centre pool (Olympic size).
Every Friday after school, I quickly learned to let go, helped by the fantastic old ladies who ran the swim school. Whilst there I went onto get my 10, 25 and 100 m swim badges and lifesaver. It was fun and I looked forward to it. When we later moved to the west of Reading, I joined Reading swimming Club. And suddenly, I was a club swimmer doing squad training which involved swimming in various pools across the town 5 days a week and participating in local galas.
The endless lengths and drills bored me and I quickly lost my love of swimming, having to attend before school and Saturday mornings, which as a teenager was not very agreeable! My parents were dead against me quitting but finally the lure of girls and alcohol dragged me away and I quit at 15, much to the annoyance of the head coach.
But having grown up with a garden that backed onto the Thames at Purley, and loved swimming in the river as a kid and camping out on the islands, my years of swim training gave me a confidence in the water that I had not appreciated at the time. Whilst backpacking in 1991, I was fortunate enough to swim in many different lakes, sea and rivers across the globe, from the warmth of the Barrier Reef and Indian ocean to the near freezing lochs of Scotland. It was also whilst backpacking that I realised just how many kids could not swim! They had no fear of water, but could not swim as no one had taught them to.
In recent years I’ve become more active in swimming again, always outdoors in anything deep enough and challenged myself with some events. I always found swimming a solitary pursuit but lately, I met some great people who are just happy to paddle, splash, faff and swim.
Last September, I was able to assist with helping those non-swimmer kids by participating in the Dart 10K on behalf of ‘Level Water’ – a charity that is devoted to teaching kids to swim – which to me is key not only in that it can save their life but it gives confidence in the water which leads to even greater enjoyment.
I may not have appreciated the endless lengths of the ‘chlorine box’ as a kid but it did give me a great confidence in the water which has led to many water-based adventures across the globe. So my relationship with swimming has come full circle in a sense, in that now it’s not so solitary at all and I can enjoy it in its many forms, be that a long distance, an organised group swim followed by cake, a family group holiday on the water or just grabbing a dip on my own whilst being somewhere new.
I even swam my way into The Guardian newspaper this summer, probably my first and last paid modelling assignment.