Ice, rain or waves… the wild swim­mer who took the plunge ev­ery day in 2019

A dip in the ocean capped a mem­o­rable year for one hardy ad­ven­turer, reports Vicky Al­lan

The Herald - - News -

IT started with a cal­en­dar and ended yes­ter­day by plung­ing into a 6 °C North Sea at Joppa steps as he cel­e­brated com­plet­ing a year of swim­ming out­doors ev­ery day.

Over the course of the last 365 days, Tra­nent-based Richard Cox has been for 418 wild swims, with around 100 dif­fer­ent peo­ple, in 50 dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, the ma­jor­ity of which have been in Scot­land – though one took place in the River Ij, when on a mini-cruise to Am­s­ter­dam, to keep up his daily rou­tine, he ended up ask­ing a taxi driver to take him to a place where he could take a dip.

Mr Cox, a 53-year-old se­cu­rity of­fi­cer, started his year-long di­pathon al­most ac­ci­den­tally, after he was sent a wild swim­ming-themed cal­en­dar by the artist Nancy Farmer for Christ­mas last year.

He said: “This is what started me off. I swam on Jan­uary 1, then on the next day, then the next, and I started putting the de­tails of the swims under each date – where it was, who I swam with and whether it was high tide or low tide.”

He car­ried on, and be­fore he knew it, it was the end of Jan­uary and he had swum ev­ery day.

He said: “It didn’t start off as a chal­lenge or any­thing like that. It wasn’t a char­ity thing. It was just purely for my own fun re­ally, and it turned into a bit of a jour­ney.

“I’ve done it purely for fun. I’m not a com­pet­i­tive per­son. I’m not into foot­ball or rugby. Even with my swim­ming, I just do heads up breast­stroke.

“I don’t do front crawl. I don’t swim in any events or any­thing. If I do hand­stands or if I’m swim­ming round with my swim­ming shorts on my head, it adds to it. It’s been fan­tas­tic.

“It re­ally has been a good year, and it has gone quickly.”

The cold­est wa­ter he has swum in was in Glad­house Reser­voir in Fe­bru­ary, where he cracked the ice with a ham­mer.

Some of his favourite swims have in­volved div­ing into wa­ter­falls and plunge pools, at idyl­lic spots like Sol­dier’s Leap and the Her­mitage.

He said: “If I was to pick one spe­cial swim then, off the top of my head it’s the Devil’s Pul­pit. It’s beau­ti­ful. It’s not a ‘swim’ swim but there are plunge pools there and you can scram­ble up the wa­ter­falls and into the deep plunge pool.

“It’s so Jurassic look­ing, you ex­pect a di­nosaur to come around the cor­ner. And the colour of the rock is a re­ally rich red. Even the wa­ter it­self is red colour.”

He also re­called rev­el­ling in the of­ten­de­serted Aber­lady beach, and jump­ing in some “re­ally big waves” at Cold­ing­ham.

Mr Cox, who lives just a cou­ple of miles from the sea, used to be a scuba-diver, but de­cided to “knock it on the head”, when it be­gan to feel a bit of a chore, hav­ing to carry heavy kit and ser­vice it.

He re­called: “I started, a lit­tle bit of swim­ming in the sea again and snorkellin­g.” He said that he be­lieved swim­ming had helped his health – and that he hadn’t let a cold or chest in­fec­tion stop him from get­ting in there.

“I’ve had two colds and one started go­ing to my chest. I thought, ‘I’m just go­ing to swim through it.’ And I did. Ob­vi­ously I’m not a med­i­cal per­son and ad­vis­ing any­one else to do that. You’ve got to do what you see fit. But I swam through it and both colds only lasted a cou­ple of days.

“Com­pare that with when I had a chest in­fec­tion in 2018 and stayed out the wa­ter for a cou­ple of weeks and it just dragged on and on.”

He even kept swim­ming when he sus­tained, in the wa­ter, a deep cut in his heel, which did not heal for weeks.

But Mr Cox is not alone in dip­ping ev­ery day. Among those who joined him yes­ter­day to cel­e­brate his 365th day at Joppa steps were Chris­tine Bell and Su­san Fer­gu­son-sned­den, who had both swum out­doors ev­ery day for the past month as part of the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar

De­cem­ber chal­lenge, in which peo­ple swim daily to raise money for char­ity.

Ms Fer­gu­son-sned­den said she was fundrais­ing for Chris’s House, a cen­tre for help and in­ter­ven­tion around sui­cide.

“Sui­cide is an is­sue which is very close to my heart. I read an ar­ti­cle about Chris’s House and the amaz­ing work they do in Wishaw and Mother­well.

“I was re­ally struck by the brav­ery and strength of the founder in re­spond­ing to her own tragedy by set­ting up such a valu­able place of sup­port.”

I’ve done it purely for fun. I’m not a com­pet­i­tive per­son

Pic­ture: Kirsty An­der­son

Wild swim­mer Richard Cox, who swam out­doors ev­ery day of 2019, at Por­to­bello Beach in Ed­in­burgh with fel­low hardy souls

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