She Swims have provided a platform for women in Cornwall to come together through their love for wild swimming. For some members, it has inspired them to incorporate sea swimming into their day to day lives.

She Swims members. Photo: Rachael Bennett

She Swims started in October 2020 by Gemma Lawley as a way for her and people she knew to connect about sea swimming. As a swimming teacher, she had been sea swimming throughout the year for several years. However, she was aware many of her friends wanted to extend their summer swimming over winter. Gemma thought this would be a safe way to contact each other, share conditions and buddy up for swims.

They welcome all swimmers. “It’s really about the connection, some have been swimming for years summer yet to dip their toes,” she said.

After such a difficult year cold water swimming was becoming more and more popular because of its positive impact on a person’s mental health and well-being. Gemma’s youngest son was diagnosed with autism at the age of four and it’s been quite difficult over the last few years, she said. The sea has always provided her with respite, somewhere to get away and reset even if it was just for a short while.  “Swimming has literally kept me going sometimes,” Gemma said.

To ensure the safety of its members the group is kept private. For Gemma, it is really important to value everyone’s privacy.  She never expected or intended the group to grow the way it has. “Bit by bit the numbers just grew-people invited their friends and it pretty much through organically. I think before Christmas it had around 900 members are now we stand at over 1400!” said Gemma.

Sea swimming does come with its precautions. One thing the group highlights is safety. She Swims encourages its members to improve and increase their knowledge, experience, and swimming skill. They strive to use social media for good. Women post pictures of the conditions daily to show others in the group to show whether that day is a swim day (or not), said Gemma.

Moving forward the group would love She Swims Falmouth to become a community interest company. They have already raised over £800 since October for RNLI, Georgia’s voice, and Cornwall refuge trust. They would like to continue fundraising for charities that mean something to the local community. As well as increase accessibility to people who are unable to access the sea currently. She Swims would also like to provide water safety courses.

For Gemma, Falmouth has always been a remarkable community and if we can give back to help support others, I think that is wonderful. The sea is big enough for everyone as long as safety is always considered there is no reason why we can’t all swim happily together, she said.

“I never really expected to accomplish or achieve anything but it’s remarkable and wonderful that it has,” Gemma said.

She Swims members running into the sea at Gyllyngvase beach. Photo: Rachael Bennett.

One member of the group, Rachael Bennett, shared what ‘She Swims’ means to her. Rachel knew Gemma before she created the group, she thought it was great but never thought she would be a part of it. After joining the group to be nosey she was so inspired by all the ladies and their wonderful pictures. She also commended Gemma for her knowledge. She said, “Without them, I would never have taken the plunge.”

Her body image was another concern before she joined the group. “I am very body conscious, but Gemma has promoted such a kind and caring group that actually now I just don’t care what I look like going in the water anymore,” said Rachael.

After being furloughed she felt like she could quite easily stay at home all day, but the group has given her focus. And a reason to go out. For Rachael this is more than a Facebook group, she has made new friends and connections. From her perspective, they all inspire each other in one way or another.

In these stressful times trying to embrace the ‘new normal’ these women have come together. “Swimming really has been my escape from the world, my precious time for just me which gives me the chance to reflect on everything,” Rachael said.

She said there have been days when she has not felt like swimming, but she has pushed herself to go in. Afterwards, she goes back home feeling refreshed and ready to start again.

It has been the new ‘going out’ for her. “I have loved every minute of it, from seeing beautiful sunrises to proper belly laughing with friends,” Rachael said, “I really can’t thank Gemma enough, and all the ladies on she swims Falmouth.”

She Swims members swimming in the sea. Photo: Rachael Bennett.

Another member Jeanette Bate has gained many friendships and it has been a source of exercise. She said safety and well being come first with every swim. Any woman – regardless of age – is welcome, Jeanette said.

For its members, She Swims has been a wonderfully inspiring group to be a part of. One that has brought many benefits to their lives.

DISCLAIMER: She Swims always abides by all Covid rules and regulations.

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