Three brothers, Calum, Jack and Robbie Hudson, have taken it upon themselves to combine swimming, the arts and conservation, known as The Wild Swimming Brothers they share the water with some of the most dangerous animals on earth.
Callum said: “In Norway we were all stung by Lions Mane Jellyfish, they’re the biggest Jellyfish on the planet.
“They’re fine when they’re the right way up but in the currents they can turn upside down and then you have no idea where the tentacles are.”
Not only swimming and conservation take priority on their trips, after conquering Apex Predator Fear, art is another passion for Robbie who has put together a series of drawings and paintings that mark their trips.
Swimming is the most popular sport amongst 5-10 year old children in England according to government statistics, so how did a triumvirate of siblings decide to plunge into deadly whirlpool and Orca laden waters? They share their thoughts, and a guide for safe Wild Swimming.
You started swimming young. Why do children choose swimming ahead of other sports?
Swimming for us is the great leveller and the ultimate participation sport. It requires almost no equipment, cares not for wealth, age, size, strength, shape, race, sexuality or gender; find a body of water and you’re away. It is the most globally accessible sport (more people swim than play football) and an essential survival skill. I think children should ultimately choose what they love themselves, but I would say that almost all of us as children possess a love, curiosity and desire to swim and play in water. I believe that we lose this as we get older as well.
What about the three of you, was it something you did competitively when you were younger?
No, we’ve never swum competitively and in truth none of us has any real interest in competing, we love swimming together and prefer the friendship that swimming brings rather than the rivalry. As children, we grew up outdoors and our mum taught us to love the natural world, to explore rivers, lakes and waterfalls, she never instilled in us a fear of the outdoors. Growing up in the Lake District and holidaying in Scotland with our Grandma Wild and in Devon with our Great Aunt Mary we were never short of swim spot. I don’t think any of have much interest in going faster and “beating” people, I’m much more motivated by going further.
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Swimming in the Lake District and Norway provide the aesthetics of Wild Swimming. What are the benefits of swimming for anyone that wants to get involved in the sport?
The benefits are almost endless and too difficult to list, it helps to manage weight with about 367 calories burnt after just 30 minutes of breaststroke – that beats walking, cycling and even running. It reduces stress levels, raises self-esteem, boosts your mood and depression. It greatly strengthens muscles and is a low-impact exercise limiting the amount of injuries sustained. It is also an essential life skill and any parent whose child can’t swim but can use a i-pad needs to take a long hard look in the mirror. Lots of blame is attributed to sporting bodies, schools or councils but ultimately the responsibility to get children swimming rests with the parents.
Presumably you have to train a lot. Between the ages of 5-10 and 11-15 there is a drop off in participation in children’s swimming. Do you think training regime plays a part?
I’d actually push back there and say that you don’t have to train that much, the mental training is for the swims we do is far greater than the physical side. I’d argue that we teach children to fear water, to fear the nautral world and the outdoors rather than embrace it and respect it.
How many hours a week do you think the average 11-15 year old spends watching TV? Or playing on their Xbox? If they can find 3 hours a night to play computers games they can find a few hours a week to go swimming. Training can suck the fun out of a lot of things and it’s important to retain a sense of perspective, if more swim clubs focused on children enjoying themselves, taking them to lakes to swim outdoors rather than trying to shave off a few seconds in a chlorinated indoor pool then maybe more kids wouldn’t drop out. I much prefer a leisurely outdoor swim at my own pace in a lake than endless lengths of front crawl in an indoor pool.
An idea of the Wild Swimming Brothers’ training…
- Cycle 16 miles to and from work 4 days a week – 64 miles a week (quicker, cheaper and healthier than the tube)
- Monday evening – Monday mile – swim 1 mile in an outdoor 50m pool against the clock (25 mins max = Less than 1 episode of Friends)
- Tuesday evening – Tuesday technique – 2 mile outdoor swim mixing in paddles, floats and pull buoys (1 hour max – 2 episodes of Friends)
- Wednesday evening – Boxing – 2 hours with a group of 4 mates, always important to mix it up
- Thursday – Run to work in the morning and day off in the evening
- Friday – Usually a full day off no training, in summer I’ll usually fit in a short swim before going out
- Saturday or Sunday depending on what I’ve been doing on Friday or Saturday night will only have one long outdoor swim, this could be 2-4 miles depending on how I feel
Rules for anyone thinking of taking up Wild Swimming…
On our more extreme swims we’ve faced the strongest currents and biggest whirlpools on the planet, Our swims across the Moskstraumen and Saltstraumen were world firsts and we also hold the record for the longest distance ever swum in the Arctic Circle. We’ve also swam in areas with dangerous wildlife from the Killer Whales and Lions Mane Jellyfish of the Arctic to the Crocodiles and Piranhas of Venezuela. But for your normal outdoor swim I’d follow these 10 tips from Wild Swimming, as a general rule;
- 1 Never swim in canals, locks or urban rivers
- Never swim in flood water and be cautious of water quality during droughts
- Keep cuts and wounds covered with waterproof plasters if you are concerned
- Avoid contact with blue–green algae
- Never swim alone and keep a constant watch on weak swimmers
- Never jump into water you have not thoroughly checked for depth and obstructions
- Always make sure you know how you will get out before you get in
- Don’t get too cold – warm up with exercise and warm clothes before and after a swim
- Wear footwear if you can
- Watch out for boats on any navigable river. Wear a coloured swim hat so you can be seen