Diving Deep with Sarah Walsh: A Kelpie's Journey

Diving Deep with Sarah Walsh: A Kelpie's Journey

Sarah Walsh is a remarkable Cornish Kelpie with an adventurous spirit that knows no bounds. Sarah is gearing up for the Cold Water Swimming Competition in Tallinn, and we couldn't be more thrilled to get an inside look at her preparation and what drives her to take on such a challenging feat.

Sarah, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to take up cold water swimming?

I’m a 53-year-old mother of three. I have always been a lover of the sea and moved to Cornwall in 1994 after getting my first permanent primary school teaching post. I have always sea swam, surfed and all my children have been part of Surf Life Saving Clubs.

In January 2020 Sophie Reeves and I started the Perranporth Bluetits. The founder of The Bluetits, Sian Richardson, is based in Pembrokeshire. It was after seeing Sian on a "BBC Menopause Week" that the seed to Perranporth Bluetits was planted.

Sian was fundamental in encouraging us to set up our group. Due to my enthusiasm I set up many other Bluetit groups in Cornwall - Newquay, St Austell, Bodmin, Falmouth, Portreath and Porthtowan, and others, and many other swim groups started. It was incredible and our swimming groups grew very quickly. During the pandemic our community was a lifeline to many people, following guidelines we swam in pairs, pods of 6 and flocks.

I swim every day of the year, conditions permitting.

Could you elaborate on the transformative impact of cold water swimming on both your life and the Bluetits chill swimmers, particularly with the notable growth in Cornwall?

I feel so privileged to be doing something that I absolutely love. Not only has sea swimming changed my life for the better,  it has changed thousands of Bluetits chill swimmers -  we have over 20,000 in Cornwall alone. I feel so very proud to have been a part of that, and the rapid growth of cold water swimming in Cornwall.

It's this love, passion and enthusiasm for the positive benefits of cold water swimming that has led me to train as an "Open Water Swimming Coach' - STA Level 2 and Outdoor First Aider. There have been many links to the benefits of cold water swimming helping with the menopause, mental health issues, and now with dementia - it is exhilarating and life affirming, and is very much a fabulous natural healing tonic!

The Winter Swimming World Championship in Tallinn sounds like an exciting challenge. What motivated you to participate?

When another coach enquired about my interest in joining the ice swimming world championships in Slovenia last year, I was unable to seize the opportunity due to conflicting commitments.

Fortunately, Sian Richardson, the visionary founder of Bluetits, recognised my enthusiasm and determination to partake in such an extraordinary event. Last summer, she approached me with an invitation to be a valuable member of the global Bluetits swimming team for the 2024 Winter Swimming World Championship in Tallinn. Overwhelmed with excitement, I enthusiastically embraced the chance and promptly said yes. The prospect of representing the Bluetits community in this international competition resonates deeply with my passion for swimming and the camaraderie fostered by this remarkable group.

As a Cornish based Kelpie, do you think your lifestyle gives you an advantage in cold water environments?

As a swim coach I offer "Introductory to Cold Water Swimming Sessions". I also run swim sessions/adventures three times a week in various locations throughout Cornwall - trips are very planned and tide/conditions and weather dependent. Through my work with the Bluetits sea safety is paramount and this is an important part of every session. Sessions are great fun, risk assessed, exhilarating, and celebrated with coffee and cake!

What kind of training regimen do you follow to ensure you're physically and mentally prepared for the competition?

I am really lucky as I absolutely adore my job and I get to swim in cold water every day. From a training point of view I have been in cold water but not ice water which I’m really looking forward to. Unfortunately for us in Cornwall we haven’t had really cold water temperatures this year, I think the coldest I’ve swam in is 7°, and that was in a sea pool.

I’ve also been doing swim training twice a week in a swimming pool, focusing on technique and stamina.

Tallinn’s cold waters can be unforgiving. How do you plan to overcome the challenges posed by the low temperatures during the competition?

Facing the chilly waters of Tallinn is no joke, but the adrenaline and support and enthusiasm from our fellow Bluetits will hopefully get us through it!!!

Since I started cold water swimming, I was really intrigued by ice swimming, and again inspired very much by Sian Richardson, who has swum an ice mile. I would absolutely love to do this however it takes a big team around you and lots of time and training - and more importantly, and obviously very cold water to swim in which in Cornwall we haven’t had!!

Heading to Tallinn feels like stepping into a dream. It's the chance to make that dream of swimming in seriously cold water a reality. So, let's do this – with the Bluetits spirit, a bit of craziness, and a whole lot of excitement, Tallinn, here we come!


Any advice for aspiring cold water swimmers or individuals looking to challenge themselves in unique ways?

My advice for cold water swimmers would be to join an already established swim group and never swim on your own. We are coming up to spring now which is a wonderful time to swim and the water temperature will start warming up. Starting to swim in late spring or summer is wonderful and then you can carry on through the winter. Joining a group is a wonderful way of being part of the cold water swimming community with advice and tips on how to swim safely.


Sarah will be taking part in the Cold Water Swimming Competition in Tallinn from 4 - 10th March 2024. Keep up with her remarkable aquatic adventures by following her on Facebook - Cornish Kelpie Open Water Swim Coaching.