LIFE CHANGES  2021

A short swim after another successful coaching session in Loch Lomond

I am writing this blog post in early December 2021, thinking it has been far too long between blog posts. This is not a year in review for 2021 as I hope to have that post up in early January 2022. However, I wanted to explain why there has been such a long time between blog posts.

The year of 2020 was a year of massive change for a large number of people, and for me it was no different. My plans to visit Australia for the first time since 2014 to spend time with my father, attend my son’s wedding, and meet my granddaughter, were made impossible due to the pandemic that spread across the globe faster than a bushfire in a heatwave.

However, 2021 has turned out to be a big year of change for me as well. I had been coaching clients in openwater skills in Scotland since around 2016, on a part-time basis, fitting it between my full-time grownup job, and my work in Greece as a swim tour guide. During the lockdowns, there has been a huge surge in popularity in swimming outdoors in the UK, and to my surprise, it lasted over winter, as the benefits of cold water swimming in troubled times became apparent. I decided that this was a good time to see if I could turn my part-time hobby into a full-time role. So in April 2021, I handed in my notice and left the security of a well paid job in the UK Civil Service, to work full time as an openwater swim coach in Scotland.

A serene view of Inchtavannach

Now some of you might think I am crazy, as why would anyone chose to swim in Scotland, where in a good summer the sea might get to 14c, and Loch Lomond might nudge 20c? To say nothing of winter when small lochs freeze over, and large lochs can regularly drop to below 5c for a couple of months of winter. But there was is a huge interest in swimming outdoors, and to be honest, Scotland does have a lot of clean fresh water, with amazing scenery and opportunities to explore, without the threat of any marine predators.

I also had the security of being offered a couple of months of work as a swim guide in Greece with the wonderful Big Blue Swim (check them out if you want an adventure in warm clear water). I updated my swim coaching qualifications in the Cairngorms in early May, and a late cold blast that left snow on the hills forced us to move indoors for most of our assessment.

Another coaching session

Fairly soon, I was busier than ever, conducting one-to-one coaching sessions with a huge range of clients, ranging from those who wanted to learn to swim front crawl (or freestyle as I knew it), through to those training for ironman triathlons. I was working long hours, gaining a huge amount of job satisfaction watching people learn to swim with the water, becoming more efficient so they could swim further for longer without getting out of breathe. By August I was doing 5 lessons a day in a range of locations across the West Coast of Scotland such as Loch Lomond, Loch Lubnaig, Loch Venachar, White Loch and Balgray (before they were closed due to outbreaks of blue-green algae), sea locations like Barrassie and Troon, and a few other places on the Firth of Clyde. I also started doing some small group coaching sessions at Loch Lubnaig every Monday morning, to which people came from as far away as Fife for sessions. I must admit that the beauty of this loch meant I never had a feeling that I did not want to go to work on a Monday. I also had the joy of helping the Mermaid gain experience as she assisted me in coaching sessions when she was in Scotland, after she had also gained her open water coaching qualifications.

A dawn session in summer

As the summer went by, I was very busy, working long hours that flew by. It was fantastic to see the smiles on faces as swimmers gained confidence and skills to master the open water. Some of the highlights of the season included:-

  • Having a regular early morning client in Loch Lomond who started the summer doing only heads up breaststroke, but by the end of summer swimming several hundred metres front crawl in deep water. She even kept it up every week right up until the end of November, as the water temperature dropped.
  • Teaching a lady in her 70s to swim front crawl. When she first saw me, she would only swim with her head up in water she could stand up in. By the end of summer, she was doing front crawl as well, and going into water where she could not see the bottom, and letting everyone know about her wonderful Aussie coach.
  • Showing the skills to a triathlete who had entered his first event, a half-ironman, which required a swim of 1.9km. He could barely swim 50m, when we started, but after just a handful of sessions, he was soon able to do swims of a couple of kms (and yes he finished his event).
  • Taking a wonderful group of swimmers on their first explore swim in Loch Lomond, doing a 2km swim to the northern point of Inchtavannach, and a small sub-group doubling the distance with a swim back round wee peter statue.
  • Helping swimmers with various conditions to improve their swimming so as to enable them to swim in 3km openwater events.

These were just some of the highlights, there was many many more. I realised that I was a good coach, and that I enjoyed seeing the progress made by all of my clients. They all shared a passion for swimming outdoors and wanted to improve, and I felt honoured that I could help each and every one of them achieve their goals and dreams.

Loch Lubnaig in late summer, with SUPs and swimmers

I even managed to get back to Greece for a guiding tour as well during the summer. While my season there was not as long as I had hoped, I was very grateful to be able to travel at all to one of my favourite locations to work (though a number of friends do not believe that I am actually working as to them it looks like paradise).

The Ionian Sea in Greece

And my coaching has continued right up till December, in the great outdoors, and in local pools. So if you are wanting a coach for any aspect of outdoor swimming, please get in touch with me via the comments. I can teach you how to adjust to the icy waters of a Scottish winter, ensuring your safety at all times, teaching you how to manage the risks of this extreme activity. Remember I am one of the very few openwater swim coaches who has competed in ice swimming events, where the water temperature has to be under 5c for times to be ratified.

I can also help improve your technique, making you a much more efficient swimmer for an triathlon, an openwater swim event. Or maybe you just want to gain the confidence to explore the beauty of Scottish Lochs in a safe manner. Or you want a guide who can swim with you as you swim around the islands of Loch Lomond, swim the length of Loch Lubnaig or Loch Voil or Loch Venachar. Or maybe you want to swim ten lochs in a day.

White Loch looking pristine

What ever you seek, whether it is getting into the lochs or sea to swim, get in touch with me, I look forward to hearing frpm you. Go on, you will gain confidence and skills and will start doing things that you never thought possible. Hey if this native of the Sunburnt Country can learn to swim outdoors in Scotland year round without a wetsuit, than a lot of other people can too. And it is so much better if you learn from someone with the background and experience.

So taking the plunge into making my hobby a full-time job, has turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done. I am able to work outdoors for many hours a day, get to swim in lochs much more often than I ever used to, and meet a huge range of wonderful people, who share the joy and passion of outdoor swimming (I refrain from calling it wild swimming, even though that phrase is much more common).

Bring on 2022, it is going to be an exciting year.

6 Comments on “LIFE CHANGES  2021

  1. Nice story, Greg. We, too, have experienced a boom in winter swimming. Without pools, they’ve been forced into the sea, and they discover that they can, and it’s good.

    Best wishes, and stay healthy,

    Paul Ellercamp

    oceanswimsafaris.com ocean@oceanswimsafaris.com

    >

    • Thanks Paul for your kind words. I am enjoying your images of Forster, which look so inviting as I swim in 5c water in Scotland. Trust La Nina is not causing too much grief, but it must be a pleasant change from that awful El Nino fire season a couple of years ago.

  2. Greg,
    Great write up, and yes I’m a future client for the 10 Lochs in a Day or another Scottish Ice Mile!
    You definitely get my thumbs up and will share this link amongst my swimmy contacts.
    Cheers,
    Fellow Ozzie
    Nick

  3. Greggie, the Nemisis here! Good on you mate re full time swim coaching.

  4. A fantastic coach, & a great writer too! I’d like to visit someday $ Swim in the lochs. A post-Pandemic goal! – Kris

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