The sea, and water in general, have been something I have feared for most of my life. One of my earliest memories is of being frightened of the sea and what it holds beneath the surface. To me, the ocean was something to avoid, to fear and to mistrust. It was too deep, too vast, too unknown - too uncontrollable and uncertain for a person like me. Similarly, the swimming pool was an uncomfortable experience which was basically a life or death experience every time. Regardless, I had always admired swimmers and their ability to cruise through the water with ease, but I was a runner, not a swimmer and I didn’t think that would change.
Years later, following an injury which left me unable to run, I decided to participate in some local swimming lessons. My inability to run was one factor but it was mainly because my sister was learning to swim ‘properly’, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her being able to do something I couldn’t, so along I went. I didn’t like the pool; I didn’t like my head being submerged and I didn’t like being out of my depth. I didn’t like the goggles or breathing air out of my nose. I hated it - the water, the chlorine, the enormous effort it took to drag my body across the width of the pool… There was a long list of things I didn’t like, but I kept turning up to those lessons because I couldn’t lose to my little (30 year old) sister. Eventually, it became easier, I was breathing and I wasn’t drowning, my arms were moving me through the water and it all made some sense. I had my first flash of satisfaction and a feeling of enjoyment from swimming, I was presented with my first swimming badge of 400M at the end of the course and off I went.
Fast forward a couple of years, many additional lessons and tumble turns later, and I was the proud owner of a vast array of funky swimming costumes, lots of goggles (to my husband’s dismay) and a TYR swim bag. I felt so proud of my swimming journey, but I had begun to get restless and I wanted to learn more. I wondered if I should try something different. I cannot remember exactly how I came across SwimTrek, but I did and I over the course of a year I watched lots of videos about the different holidays on offer. I felt like I knew Glen Walker, the guide from the Introduction to Open Water in Mallorca video, and in a moment of bloody-mindedness, I just booked it! Sweet Jesus, I was going to learn to swim in the sea! What had I done? What was going to happen to me? Would I survive? Would I be eaten by sharks or jellyfish? There was after all, going to be deep water, salt water, boats and marine life involved! Oh. My. Goodness. After reading the itinerary notes (post booking, of course) I consoled myself that I would make it through the first three days at least and if I had to throw the towel in at least I could sunbathe for the remaining two days.
So, how did it all turn out? Well, I am alive! I didn’t drown or get eaten by sharks or anything else for that matter. The Introduction to Open Water was INCREDIBLE. Although I didn’t get to meet Glen, our guides John and Anna were a great replacement!
So, what was so incredible about SwimTrek and the course?
First, there are the people you meet. The brave, open-minded souls who are a bit like you - willing to take a chance, willing to learn and grow regardless of how frightened they may be feeling. These strangers swiftly become your friends, your support and most importantly your team. You will laugh. You will laugh so much, even underwater! Even when you’re so tired you can’t even see the yellow buoy John is telling you to swim to for the fourth time! You will laugh about the day over wine and food before falling, exhausted, into bed. You will laugh at a Franco-Anglo version of “Bubble, Bubble, Breathe” until your sides hurt. You will laugh at Bridget Jones ‘diving’ into the pool. You will laugh at the ‘Allo Allo’ style translations going on when drills are being explained. You will laugh at the Virgin Mary and Lady Di who just so happen to join you on the trip. You are just going to laugh at yourself and each other a lot.
Then there are the guides, Anna and John, who have the patience of saints. You can ask “Where?” and “When?” and “Which one?” and “What colour?” as much as you like - it won’t bother John! In fact, John loves questions which are repeated over and over. 😊 Seriously though, Anna and John have an incredible wealth of experience; the trust and belief you develop in them is astounding, in fact, what you can learn from them is incredible. It was the challenge and development I had been craving.
John and Anna took great care of our team and even though we were split into three groups (Pinkies, Orangies and Yellow Perils) I never felt far away from them. They took care to make us feel safe and informed of the day ahead and, for me personally, they reassured and cared yet encouraged and challenged me when I needed it. I couldn’t have asked for more. The days were varied as were the distances and by the end of the trip I had gone from being genuinely afraid and struggling mentally on the first proper swim to not even thinking about being in the sea. The final 4km swim I completed in the open sea on Day 5 didn’t faze me, I’d come so far from my mental barriers at the beginning of the week, I didn’t even care when I realised I still had 2km to go! I also brushed past a jellyfish on the final morning swim and didn’t give it a thought! Progress!
Our technique development took place at The Best Centre (where Adam Peaty and Sarah Sjostrom have trained) which is in a league of its own. It is a special place with a delightful pool. At first the 50m pool seems daunting, but by the end of the week it’s not long enough, not with my engines (my trusty fins) on! It is here you will learn and understand “Bubble, bubble, breathe” and “Zip!” amongst other drills. You will certainly reduce your swim stroke and you will become faster and stronger, I promise. We swam here three times and it really was a joy. It’s a fantastic place to learn and develop technique and you can add to your costume and goggle collection in the little shop too…
So, finally, Mallorca and Colonia St Jordi, the port and the Es Trenc beach - it’s a beaut of a place. In terms of the sea, the water clarity is fabulous - you could see everything, it never gets too deep, yet you still get variety and challenge in the water. What a place to learn to swim in the sea. What a holiday. I feel very lucky to have taken part on this experience and I am so grateful that an organisation like SwimTrek exists. Thank you, SwimTrek, thank you John and Anna and thank you to all my new friends.