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  • Mark Revington

Swimming

Updated: Apr 10

I went for a swim recently in Whakaraupō. It was brisk. There were no Hector’s dolphins. Then I had a Messenger exchange with a brother living in Ōhope. He had been swimming almost every day of summer, he said.


A photo taken by the writer at the beach, where the waves meet the sand.

An old schoolmate of mine, Annette Lees, swam every day for a year and then wrote a book about it. According to her, when Pākehā, who mostly swam breaststroke, arrived in Aotearoa, Māori were swimming overarm.


Swim is not only a book about swimming every day, but also about the connection we have with water. Lees missed swimming one summer and felt the contempt of her inner seven-year-old, she told RNZ. The next summer she began swimming every day, kept going into autumn because it was still warm, and discovered she was addicted.


Ah, swimming. When I was younger, I too swam every day. The sea and I were mates. I love the water, whether it is the sea or an awa or a lake. I am happy near water. I am even happier when I can see water. Maybe it is because I grew up at a beach and saw the sea every day?



When I am in the water, I am complete. The feeling of water lapping at me makes me feel good; it is even better than the wind in my hair.


I thought I swam every day in summer, partly because the water was warm until I saw my son crawling into the water off the coast of Borneo. He was a little over one. That water was warm. At that age, he loved it.


He and his mates used to catch the ferry to Diamond Harbour so they could jump off the wharf into the water there. Asked about the temperature, he reckoned it was pretty good. But then he wears shorts all winter and is a mainlander.


Evidently swimming engages all of our senses and balances our hormones. Research shows that water impacts all five senses at the same time. And you can always smell the sea, which adds to sensory overload. Then there is research which shows that catecholomines (produced by the adrenal glands when you are physically or emotionally stressed and increase blood pressure, heart rate and breathing) are rebalanced when you are in water. And science says surfing produces a veritable cascade of feel-good chemicals. Who knew?

Biologist and naturalist Edward O. Wilson reckoned we have an instinctive bond with nature in our genes. I reckon he may have been onto something.


I prefer to swim in the sea and in warmer water although the rush I get from colder water is hard to describe. It tells me I am alive, that’s for sure. I love being in water. You can keep the science although it turns out that there is plenty going on. Water has that effect and there is something about the way it envelops me that is both welcoming and indescribable. Long may it last.


Nā Mark Revington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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