The OB (Original Bluetit)

The OB (Original Bluetit)

Sian Richardson, the founder of The Bluetits Chill Swimmers talks to ddipp® about how the group formed and how swimming has made a big difference to her wellbeing and happiness.

Sian, who lives in St David’s Pembrokeshire, began swimming in the waters of Porthsele beach in 2014.  Spurred on by her then health and mobility troubles combined with her inner love of a challenge, Sian set herself the unusual (back then) task of swimming an ‘ice mile’. For those not in the know, to become an ice miler you must swim in water temperatures of 5 degrees Celsius or less, wearing nothing more than a swimming costume for the full mile. Not an easy challenge and one that she eventually completed after three winters and with lots of determination and shrieking at the cold whilst attracting lots of attention.  In 2014, winter sea swimming was quite an unusual sight!! 

Slowly people became curious about what she was doing and over time, more and more people joined her and although there was no intention to become a group, a group was formed, and they called themselves the Bluetits (can’t think why! 😊). Fast forward to 2023 and this group is now heading for charitable status with over 100,000 members in coastal towns and cities across the UK and overseas, and it is open to people of all genders, all abilities and for those with mobility issues there is help offered by other members.

When Sian started swimming, she felt her body wasn't working brilliantly any longer, she says, “It had kind of given up, but I was still in that frame of mind where I enjoyed challenge. I was on the waiting list for my first hip replacement for quite a long time, and it meant the world to me that I had a physical activity that I could do. For the that time I was in the water I was weightless, so I was pain free – and I knew that for a few hours afterwards I would be pain free.”  

Sian says that other members say they find it helpful for everything from the menopause symptoms to mental health as well as being part of a group and socialising. Meeting up with like-minded people, all being part of the same challenge, appreciating each other’s courage and laughter and finding a flock of people who are very accepting of each other is unmeasurably valuable.  So much so that the group has members who don’t swim, who just come for the chat and camaraderie, they are called dry Bluetits.

Sian says that “for those that do go in the water, there is a definite high caused by your body’s response to the cold. For the first 90 seconds people feel pain, then your bodies adjust.”

“As we approach the water, we're often saying or thinking that we don’t want to go in,” she says. “We tend to turn up and talk for 30 minutes about why we don't want to do it. Then someone will say they’ve driven 30 minutes to get here we’ll say, ‘Okay, sod it, we’ll go in.’ We scream a lot, but we know that in two minutes’ time we’re going to start to feel a lot better because our body has gone through a process of survival and now our brain is full of adrenaline.“

“I encourage people to swear and shout anything they like, and all sorts of interesting things come out of people's mouths when they are about to go in the water,” she says. “Nobody cares. Nobody listens, but we all laugh about it. And the good thing is that as long as you're talking or whooping or screaming, you're not going to start hyperventilating.”

So, if you are around the Pembrokeshire coast and overhear some fruity language coming from an energetic lady in an orange (or turquoise, she has two!) ddipp® robe, that’ll be Sian doing here favourite thing!

The Bluetits have swimming groups all over the UK, find your flock on their website  Give it a go!

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