Swim Dem Crew on Curating Inclusive Swimming Spaces
It’s the middle of the U.K’s heatwave summer and if you are anything like me then all you want to do is be completely submerged in a body of water somewhere beautiful. But for some, hurling yourself head first into water can be daunting. It can conjure up feelings of stress and anxiety in many of us, emotions that arise from a range of sources, be it inexperience, unpleasant memories or feeling unwelcome.
This is where Swim Dem comes in, a London-based swimming community on a mission to introduce everyone to the world of water. Founded by Nathaniel Cole, Peigh Asante and Emily Deyn the collective is committed to fostering inclusive spaces and improving people's mental health by harnessing the power of water.
The starting point for the project was a personal one. The trio initially met nine years ago at one of Charlie Dark's popular runs through the streets of London hosted by his collective Run Dem Crew, later linking up to go for swims together at local pools. The better part of a decade later they have created and grown their own community switching out pavements for pools.
As the warmer weather pushes us to the banks or beaches looking for relief from our latest bout of sun-drenched days, we sit down with Swim Dem to steal a few tips and tricks for those that aren’t feeling quite ready to take the plunge.
Brought to you by Nike Swim and Trippin as a part of Open Waters, helping people of all backgrounds and experience levels navigate the waters.
Don’t be afraid of the water, just be smart about it.
Don't try and be brave or cheat the system because the thing is, the elements will always win. So take it slow and build your confidence with experts or a safe pair of hands. At swimdem they go above and beyond by ensuring there are two instructors available at each session.
Don't think this isn't for you
POC swimmers have ‘been made to believe that the sport of swimming is not for us’ but actually ‘it is for you. And actually, you can’. Swimdem acknowledge the lack of understanding of POC-related obstacles in many swimming spaces saying ‘all those concerns and fears we get it, and whether it's about having more eyes on you or worrying about skin drying out, hair care, like we get it, and we can talk about it with all the members as well’.
SWIMMING IN THE UK
Don't be afraid of the cold
The added layer of freezing waters and only a few days of sun might make swimming in the Uk seem less than tempting. Heated lidos are actually quite a luxury, while London holds a few of them don’t be swayed. ‘We think there’s so much benefits to having a relationship with cold water. The cold water brings a presence of thoughts and strengthens the connection between body and mind through the odd sensations you feel, it’s so hard to describe, that’s why you must try it for yourself!”
So don’t be afraid of the cold and hit up one of their favourite cold water lidos. They recommend heading to south London's Brockwell Lido for a dip that will make you feel truly away, followed by a munch at their amazing cafe. Or Tooting Bec Lido to ‘feel like you are swimming in the sea as the pool is nearly 100 metres long!’ Lastly, one of the most beautiful Lidos in the UK, Parliament Hill Lido with it’s metallic basin (we thought this was done to heat the water up, but it was actually installed to reduce maintenance time as there are no tiles) which also boasts a cafe that has great falafel wraps and traditional breakfast scran.
The importance of community
Don’t underestimate the importance of the people around you, and the power of water to bring you closer. Water is a great communicator and leveler. It requires an open mind and ego to truly be manipulated by your hands, feet and breathing. Although it can be daunting at first, it gets much easier when doing it amongst friendly faces.
“It is something about the kind of space and the community that we've created that makes people feel safe and that's something I'm definitely proud of. People trusted us enough to be like, actually, you know what? I feel comfortable enough to come along with you on this journey.”
In the community, we find strength and safety, particularly for people of colour. With the state of the world as it is and the hardships we all face to one degree or another, we're often pushed to believe that we must tackle certain challenges alone. But the work that Swim Dem does shows us that now is the time to build community and nourish it because whether it's swimming, or navigating life in general, we stand stronger together.Brought to you in partnership with Nike Swim