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Sandgate sea swimmer Kirsty Hogben aiming to complete another challenge

A Kent sea swimmer who is on course to complete a 1,000-day challenge is now making a living out of her passion.

Kirsty Hogben hasn’t missed a swim since July 1, 2019 and after losing her job in marketing she decided to help coach others to enjoy the open waters off the Kent coast.

Kirsty Hogben has turned sea swimming into a full-time job
Kirsty Hogben has turned sea swimming into a full-time job

Hogben. from Sandgate, has been out in all weathers as she looks to complete a personal challenge that she hopes to complete in early April. She first started swimming in 2019 as a way of recovering from an injury sustained in the London Marathon, initially swimming every day for a year. She hasn’t stopped since.

She said: “There were a couple of times I didn’t feel like swimming, like when I got a bad ear infection but I just put the wetsuit on and swam about for a bit.

“I was also on crutches for a while as I sprained my ankle, the same ankle I had previously injured (at the marathon), but my friend drove me there and I managed to continue swimming.

“There was one time a woman came to check on me when I was swimming during a storm, she must have thought I wasn’t right in the head, but I told her I was a sea swimmer. It’s just super addictive and I don’t know if I will stop at 1,000, maybe I will just carry on and not count anymore.”

Her passion for sea swimming has now turned into a career, having decided to start lessons after losing her regular job. It was an unexpected career change that has turned out for the best.

Hogben said: “I have given 60 people lessons since starting in August and I now see people swimming who might not have done it for years.

“I was let go from my marketing job in June and I was amazed how that could lead to something so good.

“I was really down because I loved my job, I thought it was stable and secure, working for a marketing agency, but they lost a big client and I was last in the door and was let go. I decided I would try and do something I liked (for a job) and gave swimming a go. It has led to something amazing.”

Sea swimming isn’t for everyone. Sea temperatures at present are around 13 degrees, down from 18 in September but a lot warmer than back in March when she was trudging through snow to get to the water.

But Hogben says it’s great for the mind.

She said: “It it great for helping mental health and for people to challenge themselves. There are so many benefits from sea swimming.

“People do look at you from the promenade, all wrapped up in their winter coats, thinking you are mad.

“But I feel it can reduce anxiety and depression and I know I feel so much calmer and able to deal with things.”

The Covid pandemic sparked a big interest in sea swimming and the Sandgate Sea Birds were formed earlier this year while the Folkestone Sea Swimming Club remains popular.

Hogben is happy to swim on her own but knows her limits and is always aware of the risks. Sea safety is at the forefront of her lessons.

She said: “You need to know your limits. You do always have to be respectful of the water and it doesn’t matter how experienced you are, you can’t ever be complacent.

“You learn about the currents and the tides and the cold water and those are things I teach, about being safe in the water.”

Even she had a moment, recalling: “People do panic and I did it myself when being caught in a rip current, it was frightening to be momentarily out of control but as soon as I took a moment to calm down it was fine.”

Swimming around Mermaid Bay means she is protected from some of the severe weather although swimming through Storm Dennis was a challenge. She’ll face another winter before being able to complete her challenge.

“The sea just calls me in,” she said. “I feel the benefits for the rest of the day, the adrenaline rush can stay with you if you haven’t overdone it in the water. I feel really healthy and I am sure that is down to swimming. I feel so energetic, although that can be a bit too much for people!”

Hogben doesn’t generally swim long distances but hasn’t ruled out the Channel Crossing, although she might do it above water first.

“Maybe in 20 years I will do it,” she said. “I probably will try it in years to come, but I also like to paddleboard and will probably try that first, it might be a bit easier!”

You can visit Hogben’s website to find out more about sea swimming at kirstyhogben.com.

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