When Norman Todd and videographer Steven Gourlay set out on Loch Glascarnoch on a chilly Sunday in the middle of January, they had no idea that they’d wake up Monday as overnight sensations.
Todd, a 45-year-old offshore oil worker, is training to swim “The Minch,” a 27-mile body of water between Scotland’s north-west mainland coast and the Western Isles this summer. Under the direction of Coach Emma Levy at the Edinburgh Swim Studio, he trains in Terry Laughlin‘s Total Immersion technique and varies his outings between endurance training and cold water acclimation.
On the day of his now-viral 10-minute dip, the outside temperature was about -8 Celsius (17.6 Farenheight). In fact, after a massive snowfall days prior, Loch Glascarnoch was “plan B” after their first choice (Loch Droma) was frozen solid. “We didn’t really know how good it looked until we got back, and then we realized we had something quite special,” Todd told SwimSwam.
“In that particular area, there are no houses — as you can see, it’s totally remote. Just having all that snow there — and there weren’t any other tracks — and there weren’t any clouds in the sky either, and there wasn’t a breath of wind,” he said. “From an artistic point of view, the conditions were absolutely perfect.”
And from a pool swimmer’s point of view? Far from perfect — but therein lies the distinct allure of “wild” swimming.
“People look at what I did and just think ‘this is incredible,’ but I’m not the only person doing it,” Todd explained. “Some people are questioning the danger of it … but if you go out, just don’t go in too deep and always go with someone, particularly in these ultra-cold waters. Make sure you warm up properly afterward, but then just enjoy that great feeling you have for the rest of the day.”
In chasing that internal “great feeling,” Todd has an exterior motive: “Really what we wanted to do was promote wild swimming and show the area where we live.”
Within hours of sharing the video to social media and a few swimming-focused sites on January 21st, the BBC got ahold of it.
When we spoke with Todd last week, the video had reached 1 million views on the BBC’s Facebook page alone. It has since reached approximately 50 million, thanks in part to earning a Twitter Moment.
“There are people who I’d lost touch with years ago reaching out saying ‘Great to see you.’ People from all over the world are getting in touch. It’s overwhelming,” he further explained. “I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined how fast this has gone.”
Perhaps swimming just has that way of bringing people together.
Watch the full video below:
For his summer swim, Todd will be fundraising for the Living Seas Scottish Wildlife Trust, which seeks to “provide accessible information on local biodiversity,” and helps to implement programs to restore and protect marine life.