Posted on 11th March 2016
I needed a name for my new website. Paul Carruthers Photography had been taken, as had what seemed like every other variation.
For a while I played with other ideas ranging from the hilarious to the ridiculous – Bad Photography.com was a personal favourite but it didn’t go down well with the rest of the family.
Someone suggested Swimstones.
It was named after a little swim I do, a swim that started back in 2009 after an operation on my dodgy knee.
It began talking to another photographer. We stood, facing the estuary and the golden beach North Sands, and he suggested a good wild swim would be around to South Sands, past a jagged outcrop and inwards to where the beach lay. Perfect for building the muscle back into my leg.
So the following day I set off. I swam first towards Fort Charles – in the opposite direction – to make it a little harder then as I got to the rock with the red and white post on it (Pound Stone), took a right turn to head towards South Sands.
This was when I spotted an empty little beach I now know is called Splat Cove. Being a bit of a competitive soul even with myself I began talking myself into the longer swim. It's eerie with that much water beneath you. There's a much different feel to the sea than swimming near the shore. You can feel the depth and weight of the water.
It was a little choppy but I got there. I stood upon Splat Cove looking back over what can only be described as one of the most beautiful spots in the UK. I felt such an achievement, and it’s one I’ve been replicating ever since.
But about three years ago as I got over to Splat Cove, someone asked had I just fell off a boat. They couldn’t believe where I had come from.
“How many times have you done that?” they asked.
I had no response. I didn’t know. Maybe a hundred. Maybe more.
That was when I came up with the idea to collect a pebble. I dove down a few feet and from the base of the sea picked one up. I carried it back, put a number on it, and ever since those pebbles have been tracking my swims.
I keep them in a jar on my desk and call them Swimstones. Hence the name.
The swim is about a mile, but after I play about in Splat Cove searching for a pebble it's probably a little more.
I have had a few interesting moments doing it. On the 13th time over – good job I'm not superstitious – I was half way across, when a seal popped up in front of me. I don't want to say I panicked but I did – a little. These boys are quite big when you’re on his eye level.
But I realised he looked like my dear old Labrador Duke.
I started talking to him like I did to Duke – “hiya boy, who’s a good boy” – followed by “please don't eat me.”
He just looked at me and dived down. I ducked underneath to see where he went and watched him swim away. I could not believe how fast he was or more importantly how fast I was getting to the other side with the jaws theme ringing in my head.
It's been a wonderful thing to do, something I'll never forget.
I'll be 80 years old standing on North Sands telling everyone who will listen I used to swim all the way over there.
Ps: My six year old named the seal Lucky. He said it was because it's lucky he didn't eat me.