Swimming and the Enduring Power of Friendship

One of my biggest joys each summer is getting together with my fair-weather friends. Those are the women who I know through swimming, but who I only get to see when the water is warm enough to get together at a lake or river.

Me, Candace, Vicki, Aimee and Jane in the river, wearing bright swim caps and goggles, and with our tow floats.

I have known some of them for more than 15 years. We started out at the same swim program at a city pool, and eventually signed up together for our first open water swim.

A group of women in animated discussion, all wearing bathing suits and yellow swim caps with numbers on them. There are more swimmers in swimsuits and wetsuits in the background.

That led to a years-long love of swimming in the nearby lakes and rivers.

Me, Nadine and Candace in the water at Meech Lake near Ottawa.

I met others more recently, as they heard about our little group and joined in. Over the years we have moved on to other swim clubs. Nadine even moved out of province.

Nadine and I after a recent swim in the Ottawa River. We look wet and bedraggled, but we were really happy to see each other for the first time since she moved away over a year ago.

While a few of us hang out right through the winter,

Four women in a tent, wearing everything from bathing suits to warm coats and scarves. All have colourful swim caps decorated with snowflakes.

and we are friends on-line, the real fun comes in July, when the water is warm enough that even the most cold-sensitive can join for a swim and gossip.

A group of women (plus our friend Filippo) and Aimee’s giant swan float, in the Ottawa River.

Vicki, me and Aimee in the Rideau River. Historic Watson’s Mill in Manotick is in the background.

This summer we haven’t done much serious swimming, but maybe that will pick up after this weekend’s 3k race. Candace is doing it for the 9th time, it is Vicki’s first, and Aimee will be a swim angel for someone who needs support in the water. On Sunday we did spend time giving Vicki advice about managing the swim, but mostly we goofed around.

Four sets of legs as swimmers with their floats do handstands in the river. In the background, you can see a line of sailboats. We think they were practicing for the race, as there will be boats every 100 metres for the entire route.

When we have time, we like to follow the tradition of British slow swimmers, as described in Open Water Swimming: “Cake is an essential part of the whole ritual of open water swimming. Not only does it allows for recovery post-swim, with a variety of healthy and healthier options, but it is the vehicle for our social engagement, it is an essential enabler of this community feeling that is quite unique. We haven’t had a post-swim cake party yet, but I am looking forward to it.

Four umbrellas on the beach, protecting towels and clothing from the rain while we swim. There is also a colourful beach ball.

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa.