365 days in the sea

Photo: John Borren.

The ocean is forever changing its form.

Weather, tides and currents all help to transform the landscape of the sea, making it wild and unforgiving one day, and a scene of tranquillity the next.

Papamoa resident Hayley Muckle knows all about the ocean’s ever changing moods, as every single day for 365 days she has gone into the Pacific to swim.

For Hayley, 25, and her friend Jenna Mueller, what started as a play on dry July – a month-long initiative to stop drinking alcohol – became something that Hayley has no plans to stop, even a whole year later.

“It was July 1, 2020, and we made a pact that we would do wet July instead of dry July,” she says, “so everyone stopped drinking and we started swimming in the ocean every single day.

“I personally decided that I was going to continue on and then Jenna did as well. I thought ‘I’ve done a month, I might as well try and make it to 365 days’.”

Hayley says that although she and Jenna don’t physically complete all the swims together anymore, they have supported each other constantly on their journey.

“We’ve been each other’s accountability. Having another person where you’re like ‘did you go for your swim today?’ and encouraging each other has been really important.”

Hayley’s morning routine, or morning flow as she calls it, has become time for her to take a moment to connect with herself and her surroundings before the day begins.

“I wake up at 5:30am and I’ll do meditation, a yoga stretch and then that will lead me into my morning swim,” says Hayley.

“Once the world wakes up, things get really loud. People are busy and everyone’s rushing around, so I really value this time to connect to myself.

“Taking that moment to express my gratitude to the ocean, and getting to swim in the sun that is rising in front of me and noticing all the different colours and beauty of the earth, has become so meaningful to me.

“I have no plans to stop. It’s become a part of my daily routine.”

Hayley says in the colder months, it’s easier when the air temperature is colder than the water.

“Once you’re in the water, you’re in and then the hardest part is done. Getting in is the hardest part and I always used to tell myself ‘you never regret a swim’.

“Some mornings though, it’s gnarly out there. The ocean can be really aggressive.”

At times like these Hayley plays it safe by staying close enough to the shore and carefully picking out her point of entry.

The dark weather doesn’t stop Hayley, and neither does a dark mood.

“I could get in feeling low or anxious or worried or stressed about something, and then I come out of the ocean and I'm like ‘oh man, I got this’.

“I would realise that what I’m going through is not as big as what I was making it out to be. My swims give me the mental clarity to work through these feelings.

“It’s also created a lot of self-discipline for myself, because it is so easy to stay in bed all cozy and then go straight into mahi, but I think that it’s really important for us as humans to nourish our souls outside of the grind.”

Although most of Hayley’s swims are carried out in the salt water of Papamoa Beach, going on holiday in the lower South Island didn’t stop the daily occurrence.

She traded sea water for the fresh water from glacier-fed rivers and lakes.

“It made me realise that everyone can do this,” says Hayley.

“There is always a body of water nearby, whether that be the ocean or a lake or even a creek.”

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