Max Campbell is swimmer, surfer and sailor from Cornwall. Along with two friends, he co-founded Wild Swimming Cornwall, a project aiming to promote the mental and physical benefits of cold water swimming. In this blog, he discusses the importance of cold water swimming whilst recovering from a fire on a sailing boat, and how this led to the beginning of Wild Swimming Cornwall. 

wild swimming cornwall
Max Campbell from @wildswimmingcornwall

The fire had left me scared and frightened. If the inescapable small talk of day-to-day interactions was difficult before, now it was unthinkable. In the doldrums of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, all I wanted to do was escape from the harrowing incident that almost cost me my life. Yet, with a new array of scars and an almost unbelievable story to go with it , it was impossible to discuss anything else. 


I found myself constantly justifying being alive. My insensitive acquaintances made light of my trauma, jabbing at my self esteem. “You’re lucky, aren’t you?” was a common statement. “You won’t be doing that again” stung a bit, and by far my least favourite, ‘You’d better get a new cooker next time!’.   

For the six months following the fire, I found myself actively avoiding these social interactions. My safe space was anywhere I could be alone, away from the cumbersome words striking blows to my frail self-confidence.

Wild Swimming Cornwall

“Alone with my boat, in my wild place, somewhere between the Azores and the UK” Max Campbell

The loneliness was suffocating, yet how could I escape? The suffering had come to define my life, and everything was gloomy. Almost a year after the fire, I struck upon an idea that would change the course of my life. ‘Have you tried cold water?’.

Concealed in that simple question was everything I needed to drag myself from my miserable situation. The cold water made me feel good, but it was so much more than that. Through cold water swimming, I discovered my ability to push through uncomfortable situations. It taught me to embrace discomfort, and genuine confidence can only really be gained by stepping outside of your comfort zone.

With that simple idea, I felt unstoppable. Within months, the sullen introvert who skirted the edge of any social interaction, was actually talking to people! My thirst for cold seawater led me to groups of people with similar stories. All of us, addicted to that fleeting connection and grounding found in the chilly Cornish seawater.

Despite the community of avid cold water swimmers in Cornwall, we found there were few resources available for newbie swimmers. It was this realisation that led to the start of Wild Swimming Cornwall, founded by my two friends Beth, Lydia and I. Our idea was to make the ocean more accessible, by sharing locations, resources and events; ultimately hoping that others can find the same respite in cold water.

It was an amazing journey. We published A Guide to Wild Swimming in Cornwall’, worked with a handful of inspiring brands, and ventured all over the county meeting swim groups, and re-discovering Cornwall’s beauty. 

The openness and warmth that we found in the wild swimming community was humbling; and all over the county, groups of ocean lovers are regularly meeting to brave the frigid waters of the North Atlantic together. The Blue Tits, Blue Balls, Salty Sisters, Briny Bros, Salt Sisterhood and SwimminWimmin, to name a few!

In order to connect swimmers to groups, we’ve created an interactive map of all of Cornwall’s swim groups. We also run a blog, where we feature interesting people and stories within the wild swimming community. And of course, our guide book contains 54 wild swimming locations within Cornwall, as well as detailed introduction, including the mental and physical benefits of cold water swimming, as well as safety information. 


If you’re new to the idea of cold water swimming, searching for a swim buddy, or simply want to learn more, then please reach out! 

Wholesome World App

Wholesome World provides digital access to healthy lifestyle information and medical research. It is approved by the National Health Service (NHS) and features in the app library. Download the app here and follow us on Instagram.