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Digital Subscriptions > Outdoor Swimmer > April 2017 > BEYOND CLUBS TO COMMUNITY


According to the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), 22% of women and 20% of men in England are unable to swim. Alice Gartland meets inspirational Swim London coach Harley Hicks, whose mission is to ‘rip those statistics apart’


Eighteen months ago Hicks was asked by BBC TV presenter and swimming world record holder Ayo Akinwolere whether it would be possible to take a group of adults from being aquaphobic non-swimmers to completing their first mile in open water at the Great Manchester and Great London Swims. “I don’t know” said Hicks, “Let’s try it…”

From January to July 2015 Hicks and his colleague Danielle Ballaram ran weekly training sessions for participants in the Swim Dem Crew Swim Challenge, helping dissolve the fear of water among participants and leading to 12 completing Great Swim events, including one swimmer who went from only being able to stand up in the 0.8m deep children’s pool, to completing a mile in Salford Quays.

Alongside the formal tuition provided by Hicks, Swim Dem Crew, a community of swimmers focused on participation and trying to encourage those who don’t normally swim to get into the water, provided the social side and mentoring for the project.

The Swim Dem Swim Challenge was well documented on social media, connecting with, and inspiring, a new audience for outdoor swimming and breaking through traditional parameters of a swimming club to create a swimming community. “On the back of that, Swim London was created to target adults who don’t have swimming as part of their family ritual, would like to learn to swim but have not had the chance to, or who’ve had a go in the past and it’s not worked out for whatever reason,” says Hicks.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Welcome to the first issue of Outdoor Swimmer! We are dedicated to providing inspiration and information for people who swim outdoors – and for people who want to swim outdoors but haven’t yet quite plucked up enough courage to escape the confines of the pool. If you were a reader of H2Open, the former name of Outdoor Swimmer, we hope you will be pleased with the changes we have made. But don’t worry, we haven’t changed radically! We still have all the same great features we had before, but the changes we have made are those that were suggested by you in our reader survey. We will focus more on the social aspects of outdoor swimming and increase our coverage of wild swimming, as well as expanding our training section to include distance-specific plans to help you reach your swimming goals. We are also thrilled to have joined forces with the Outdoor Swimming Society to bring you reviews of all the best kit for outdoor swimmers. This issue we look at goggles, next month we will be reviewing wetsuits. Let us know what you think of the changes, and what you would like to see more (or less) of in Outdoor Swimmer. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming. Jonathan Cowie Editor