Stephen Spielberg has a lot to answer for. I mean, mostly great stuff like The Goonies and Raiders of the Lost Ark. But he also is responsible for my fear of open water swimming.
I used to enjoy family trips to the seaside. We’d rarely get away as a whole family because running a farm is a 24/7 job and either mum or dad would have to stay behind and look after the dairy herd. And the bloody cats. It was a speacial time when we’d get to the sandy beaches of Great Yarmouth or Bournemouth and splash about and swim in the murky brown sea.
All that changed after I watched the nature documentary, Jaws. Directed by a young Stephen Spielberg.
Since then every time I’ve been in anything larger than a hot tub I feel a rush of panic and a surge of adrenaline when getting balls deep in the water. It is not the icy cold kiss of the water upon my nether regions but the fear of being chomped upon by a shark. This panic has even struck in swimming pools! I always hear that theme; duh-duh, duh-duh…
I know that the odds of being eaten by a shark are minute, and my odds of getting attacked by a great white are as remote as winning the lottery. But if you have to be in the lottery to win it, you have to be in the sea to be an hors d’oeuvre. So why risk it – there’s a low probabiliy but MASSIVE downside.
I’ve looked on at open water swimmers as a breed apart, a special kind of lunatic. Their continued survival by not getting eaten by a sharks has done nothing to assuage my fears. Only increased it as time between shark attacks increases, so the odds of one occurring, decrease.
But this fear cannot continue.
I attended Night of Adventure. Hosted by Al Humphreys for Hope and Homes for Children. A series of adventurers speaking over a series of slides, for 20 seconds per slide. For the performers, it is quite intense!
One speaker, George Mahood, spoke about deciding to do an ironman triathlon only 4 months after having a tumour removed from his spine. As part of his training he entered the Plymouth Breakwater. Having never done any open water swimming before it was a brave move. He and the other swimmers are dropped off a boat 2.2 miles from shore and have to swim back.
I knew as soon as George named the race that I had to do it. If a man recovering from a spinal tumour did it, then I could overcome my fear. So I signed up later on that evening. Now I’m hearing that damned theme and seeing fins everywhere. I’m telling you so I have to do it!
But first a brief foray to Ostersund, Sweden. More on that later.