The Mind Of The Channel Swimmer

The Mind Of The Channel Swimmer

Karen Throsby, a sociology lecturer at the University of Warwick, is leading a two and a half year sociological research project, entitled Becoming a Channel swimmer: identity and embodiment in an extreme sporting sub-culture.

The ongoing research can be seen here.

Her research is about the experience of becoming (or trying to become) an English Channel swimmer. “I draw upon my own experiences as well as those of other swimmers, boat pilots, coaches, family members, official observers and beach volunteers.” She observes, trains with, conducts interviews and studies a wide range of published and unpublished accounts, blogs and websites and media reporting as part of her research.

My aims are not only to generate a detailed account of the process of becoming a Channel swimmer, but also to ask what those experiences can tell us about sport, and about what counts as the sporting body, in contemporary society. I’m particularly interested in pursuing these aims in the light of the contemporary “war on obesity” and the upcoming 2012 London Olympics and its legacy.”

Karen’s community-oriented website contains details about how swimmers can participate in the research, including a quick quiz online, plus a resource library of Channel swimming organizations, blogs and videos, and a collection of the media coverage and research outputs for the project. “Please feel free to browse the website using the buttons below, add comments, join the debate or email me with suggestions for additional links and resources. I welcome written accounts of people’s solo Channel swimming stories.”

She asks a list of questions that helps kick start the information from channel swimmers:

1. What is your swimming history prior to the decision to swim the Channel?
2. How did you decide to swim the Channel? When did you make the decision?
3. How did you choose a pilot?
4. How did you train to swim the Channel? How long did you give yourself to train?
5. Describe the swim itself.
6. How did you feel about completing, or not completing, your Channel swim?
7. What effects did the training process have on your body?
8. What effect did the training process have on your daily life?
9. Did you try to change your body weight / increase your body fat as part of your training? How did you feel about that?
10. Was charity fund-raising a part of your Channel swim?
11. Why do you / did you want to swim the Channel?
12. What does it mean to you have swum (or tried to swim) the Channel?
13. How does swimming make you feel?

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