When HOWSC first asked me to write something for the Club on its origins, I had a quick look at my email history to help nudge me in the right direction in terms of dates and events that have shaped the club. It’s easy to forget how it all started, and I am living proof of that. 459 emails later, (and that is only from Feb 2014!) here is what I can recall.
Having said that, one thing I do remember very clearly (without reference to my computer) is the moment I asked Chris Richards if he wanted to help me form some kind of “proper” open water swimming club – we were in the water enjoying a rest, right outside the RAF clubhouse at Medmenham way back in the Autumn of 2006. We had this notion that “the Club” would be well-placed to have some kind of physical presence, rather than just being a virtual club, as it had been up to that point. All we had done up to then was meet, typically on a Saturday morning, for an ‘organised’ session with other swimming friends. Most of us were half decent – some were really good, and some not so. If I’m honest, it was more about getting some miles in whilst enjoying the company of other like-minded mates.
As is so often the way, if there is demand for something, it tends to just happen, and so it was with HOWSC. More and more people were taking to the water, probably because of the rise in popularity of triathlons and open water swimming events like The Henley Classic. We called it HOWSC for lack of any other better suggestions. We nicked the logo from our good mates over at Henley Swim and the lurid pink was a combination of Leander Pink and the perfectly sensible idea that our hat should be a non-natural colour which is much more visible to other river users.
In the early days there was no desire for any kind of physical presence, but that soon changed with the increase in numbers. Somewhere to meet before and after. Somewhere with showers perhaps? Who knows, we thought. But life got in the way, designs on Medmenham came and went and we reverted to our tried and tested virtual club.
Then in 2014, we were approached by Marlow Rowing Club to see if HOWSC wanted to become a “Water-sports Hub” constituent member in their brand new £2.2M clubhouse. There then followed rather a lot of meetings and emails to make that vision happen. When The Hub first opened, we got quite excited – what with our new clubhouse, bar and gym. Timed swims then followed; committee meetings and cinema evenings. It started to feel like a proper club. But there was something not quite right. We were sharing it all with other people that were at best bemused; and at worst, slightly put out once a month on a Saturday morning when we ran our timed swims. It all felt wrong, especially when it became apparent that the reach at Marlow was not ideal – it was too busy (swans and other river users) – and it bends the wrong way!
It was also quite apparent that there was little desire for any kind of formal clubhouse – outdoor swimmers like the idea of ducking and diving (excuse the pun). And so the idea of The Hub has been put aside for the time being. No bridges have been burnt there, so you never know.
Certain characters also came and went, like they do; but some have persevered. It’s heartening to see stalwarts like Andy Lane, Mark Plested, Malcom Burfitt and Jeni Orme who have been instrumental in making the club what it is today; and more recently the likes of Mark Reed, Rod Laird, Phil Cater and Ella Chloe-Foote seem to be shaping it nicely from what I can see on social media. All clubs need strong characters, but they mostly need “completer-finishers”. If you need something done, ask a busy person, as they say.
Over the years the club has benefitted from all sorts of generous people adding their skills into the mix. Special mention must surely go to Katia Vastiau. Her unwavering confidence in the water and ability with a camera helped capture the imagination of others less bold in their approach to what is often thought of as a radical pastime.
|AS YOU'RE HERE: The HOWSC website is maintained and run by HOWSC members and relies on voluntary contribtutions. Do you have something you'd like to share? Maybe reflections on a recent swim, tales of adventures in far flung places, an account of your watery accomplishments? Photographs, videos, poetry, prose, art and more will all be gratefully received and published on the website for all to admire. Contact Mark Reed to discuss or submit your contribution. We look forward to hearing from you.|