Sue Wilson – a 51-year-old, mum of two living in New Malden – is a year-round skin swimmer here in the UK. Yes, that means she has swum in water temperatures as low as 2°C! In the last year she has qualified as an STA open water coach, and is now a Swim England level 2 swim teacher too. She also works part time at her local leisure centre running an adult education department. What little free time she does have, she spends getting wet – go you, Sue! As well as swimming, Sue finds a lot of joy in hiking and reading.
We asked Sue what inspired her to live such a water-driven lifestyle:
‘I’ve always liked the water, but tended to avoid any exercise! I was at a leisure centre meeting when the fitness manager suggested we enter a team for the Swimathon. It was quite a challenge to get into my swimming costume at work, as many of my work colleagues are a lot younger than me (and slimmer!), but we successfully completed the team swim, swimming 50 lengths each. Following this, I thought that perhaps I could do the whole 5K on my own next time!’
And so…the training began. Whilst on holiday in Cornwall that year, Sue decided to make the most of being able to do some proper outdoor swimming. After hiring a wetsuit, she engaged the services of a local guide to take her out in the sea. A usual hater of anything cold, she surprised herself when she fell immediately in love with swimming in the deep water!
‘Six months after I returned from Cornwall I was wondering if there were any groups on Facebook where I would be able to join in and swim outdoors. I found Surrey outdoor swimmers and joined them, but decided I couldn’t do a swim until I bought my own wetsuit!’
She did her first swim in the Thames with them in April, and six weeks later had actually abandoned the wetsuit and continued skin swimming from then on. With more experience under her belt, she also later completed the 5K Swimathon on her own. This courageous journey has taken Sue from someone who actively avoided doing any exercise, to a person who now drives down the road in the pouring rain delighted to be going for a swim!
‘It has absolutely changed my life beyond recognition – for the better, of course.’
Challenges aside, skin swimming has also given a point of adventure to her life once more, and with it a sense of fun and joy she thought she’d left behind in her 20s! A recent Yorkshire Dales trip with her swim buddies encapsulated all of this; swimming in as many waterfalls as they could discover, it was a four-day trip filled with nothing by laughter – and water, of course…
After such a drastic change in path, we wanted to know what Sue’s life motto was, now that she’s found her love for skin swimming and the outdoors:
‘I have two mottos really; I believe that getting fit is the best beauty treatment you could give yourself. If I’m tired, I also tell myself that a slow swim is better than no swim! Open water swimming has taught me not to care about what people think anymore. It has been the biggest boost for my self-confidence and body image.’
Zaini came into Sue’s life through her friends; after seeing them wearing them, she took a particular fancy to the rainbow Zaini, and so asked for a few for her birthday this year! Her wonderful sister bought her two – and a headband!
‘I really love the shape of them, and the yarn that they are made from. There’s really nothing else similar on the market that I’ve seen.’
We’re so glad you love them as much as we do, Sue! With the Dougal 'Fleece Lined' Beanie being her particular favourite, a percentage of these purchases will be going to the The Human Dignity Trust, which specialises in defending LGBTQ+ rights around the globe. Read more about the great work that they do here: www.humandignitytrust.org
Psst…don’t forget to follow Sue in her amazing water conquests through her Instagram handle @52swims52weeks.