Here & there: Wild swimming around the world, good versus bad naked

"Good (half)-naked" at the King's Knob. Stirling, Scotland. June 21, 2016 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

FEATURE — Knowing my family was in London and knowing my boys’ propensity for partial nakedness, a childhood friend emailed me an article about a hot, new pop-up restaurant in the city where patrons dine in the buff.

The Dayton boys with friends, preparing for a wild swim in the Serpentine River in Hyde Park.  London, England.  June 15, 2016 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News
The Dayton boys with friends, preparing for a wild swim in the Serpentine River in Hyde Park. London, England. June 15, 2016 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

When I (jokingly) proposed going to the naked pop-up, my 6-year-old was horrified.  His response was basically the kindergarten version of Seinfeld’s “good naked” versus “bad naked” argument. And according to my boy, eating naked at a restaurant with other naked people is most certainly “bad naked.”

I tend to agree.

On the other hand, my boy and I don’t entirely agree on what makes for “good naked.” He and his brothers seem to believe that most outdoor locals provide the ideal setting for “good naked.”

The King’s Knob in Stirling, Scotland? Good naked. The fountain across from Buckingham Palace? Good naked. The Serpentine River in Hyde Park? Good naked.

I (and likely Queen Elizabeth II) take exception to the first two on the list. They are most definitely “bad naked” in my book. Even if by “naked” I really mean sometimes in their underwear and sometimes shirtless, sockless with their shorts hiked way up.

I do, however, agree with the latter. Well, I don’t just agree with it – I actually endorse it.

What kind of mother encourages her children to be half-naked in the middle of London’s Hyde Park?

Daytons wild swimming in a natural pool on the hike to Cerro La India Dorminda.  El Valle de Antón, Panama.  July 13, 2015 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News
Daytons wild swimming in a natural pool on the hike to Cerro La India Dorminda. El Valle de Antón, Panama. July 13, 2015 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

My reasons for being on board with this kind of nakedness have more to do with a concept called “wild swimming” and experiencing a place authentically than anything else.

Before we left for London, one woman who used to live there told me in no uncertain terms, “You must go wild swimming in the Serpentine while you are there.”

At the time of the conversation I didn’t know what wild swimming was but nodded appreciatively at her advice regardless. She is smart and sophisticated and I didn’t want to look stupid.

Later, while researching online, I discovered that my family and I were already avid practitioners of wild swimming without even knowing it. And I vowed to make it a priority on our trip to London.

According to the online British resource wildswimming.co.uk, the term “wild swimming” is used to “describe the age-old practise (sic) of swimming in natural waters – river swimming and other outdoor swimming (and was popularized) after the late Roger Deakin swam through Britain by river, lake and sea.”

Their “History of Wild Swimming” goes on to cite a plethora of origins including everything from the 19th century Romantic Movement and Edwardian wildness to the 1950s evolutionary theory expounded by Sir Alistair Hardy that “suggests that being by and in water is more than just a pleasure, it is at the core of our human condition.”

Whatever the origins, my family feels wild swimming at our core.  It calls to us.

Two members of the Dayton crew wild swimming in the Concord River near Old North Bridge.  Concord, Massachusetts.  June 7, 2016 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News
Two members of the Dayton crew wild swimming in the Concord River near Old North Bridge. Concord, Massachusetts. June 7, 2016 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

We’ve heard the siren song around the world: wild swimming in the Kuang Si Falls outside of Luang Probang, Cambodia; wild swimming in a natural pool in El Valle de Antón, Panama; and wild swimming in the Concord River by Old North Bridge outside of Boston.

We love to swim in these natural bodies of water when we travel because they feel alive with the energy of the land around it. They feel alive with the history of those who swam in it before. And there is a raw authenticity to it all.

After visiting London in June, we can now add wild swimming in the Serpentine River in Hyde Park to our authentic travel experiences.

Technically, we can add wild, naked swimming to the list.

The way I see it, the only thing more authentic than wild swimming in a natural body of water is to do it naked.

That’s the definition of “good naked” in my book. Perhaps even the Queen would agree.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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3 Comments

  • John July 10, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Good for you! I believe we call it “skinny-dipping” here and it’s one of life’s simpler pleasures. It should be allowed and enjoyed ‘most everywhere.

    • ladybugavenger July 10, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Please No! There are things my eyes can’t unsee, pleeeeeeze do not traumatize me like that.

  • Kristi July 10, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Can you imagine all the parasites that swim in your body too??? So yeah no thanks… Yes I know they could wearing a bathing suit too… But if you have watched as many Animal Planet, Discovery shows as I have you wouldn’t want to swim without a suit on either…

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