It’s the summer of 1996, I’m in the midst of very excited chatter and very loud music as I urge my battered old car onwards towards its destination. One of my friends navigates (badly….old school style…with a map) as we chug along towards the venue of a dance music festival called Tribal Gathering. 

This festival was being held in a field, somewhere in Bedfordshire and on arrival, we race into the venue, as early 20 somethings are inclined to do and proceed to dance the night away.

Tunes such as ‘Professional Widow’ by Tori Amos were spun in the dance tent by a youthful Pete Tong as we formed the fondest of memories of fun, togetherness and youthful exuberance.

Nowadays, my ‘tribal gathering’ is outdoor swimming and my tribe are my fellow swimmers.

The build up to meeting for a swim (especially in the winter) is filled with the same euphoria, the same excited chatter, only this time, the dancing can take a different form (especially if the water is cold).

There is nothing quite like the challenge of an outdoor swim….none of the pool based sameyness (actual word), where the most challenging thing would be if a swimmer, with zero swim lane etiquette, pushed off in front of you. Outside, there are all manner of challenges to overcome, tides, weather, staying safe, sea/water dwelling creatures, seaweed, leaves, dogs peeing on your stuff (yes really) and very squidgy river and pond beds (my personal nemesis) to name but a few.

 Overcoming all these challenges elicits the same sense of togetherness and fun times that my dance music fandom did in yesteryear, and by far the best bit is that you get to share these wonderful ‘tribal gathering’ moments with your swim tribe, thus, ensuring friendship bonds that are the friendship equivalent of superglue.

It doesn’t matter what group you are in, what hashtag you use, what social media accounts you follow, whether you swim with or without a wetsuit… swimming outside you are part of a huge, wonderful, diverse community or swim tribe, that share the joy of outdoor swimming in a myriad of ways.