I've written about them on this blog before, this group of people from endangered pools forming a community to work together. It's a fantastic initiative.
Best swim competition
I started the year at the Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec lido in south London – always a great event, full of camaraderie and a hog roast. I came ninth in my heats and like to pretend I did it on purpose so I didn't have to get in again for the finals, but I'm not that clever. This was closely followed, in summer, by the Hampton Court to Kingston Bridge 3.8km race. I really enjoyed that, and recommend it for 2014 if you want to swim that bit of the Thames. You don't have to race, just do it.
Ohmygod (hyperbole alert) this is the best invention of the last 20 YEARS. A slide … on a pedalo. A slide! On a pedalo! I was on a Streamline Swims holiday in Mallorca (and if you get a chance to swim or train with Streamline, I heartily recommend it) and on our day off, we hired one of these. It is more fun than LITERALLY ANYTHING. You can go down the slide head first, backwards, any way.
I laughed so much I was bent double, trying to pedal at the same time. One person laughed so much she nearly drowned. I laughed more on the hydrobeetle than I ever have and I have laughed A LOT. Top of my Christmas list.
The renovations on this traditional 1930s lido in south-east London started this year – they'll be completed next year, and the hope is that the pool will stay open all year round. Fingers crossed. It is fabulous – and heated, but not too much. (The company running this and many pools round London is called Better, if you're looking for an example of a name that came out of a poorly attended management meeting.)
Best new outdoor venue
Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre.
I reviewed it on my swimming blog, here. It's in Hackney with a beautiful converted building providing fantastic facilities. If you get a chance next year, give it a go.
Best secret swim
I'm not telling you.
God, it's so annoying when people do that. If you find somewhere lovely, you're not supposed to share it because, what? It might become popular? How dreadful ... Share the knowledge, people! In that spirit, I will tell you about Pissarro swims. They happen between Hammersmith and Chiswick, on very particular tides in summer. You just pitch up, get in, and someone kind takes your bag to the end, which is at the Pissarro bar and restaurant. You do have to change on the pavement on the river walk, and it's at your own risk. But it is absolutely lovely, low-key and very mellow.
Birmingham City Council wants to close this pool, which is a hugely significant part of our communal swimming history. The fight goes on, but it looks bleak for this stunning Edwardian building.
Best swim campaigner
Mark Portwood, who until July of this year was chair of the Friends of Shoalstone Sea Water Pool group in Brixham, Devon.
Mark launched what was virtually a one-man campaign in 2012 to save the pool, and he was instrumental in 2013 in getting it clean, ready and open for the summer. All this was done completely voluntarily – he would often be down at the pool for 12 hours at a time, catching the tides needed to empty, clean and refill it or working against the tides and weather to get painting and refurbishment completed.
He made an enormous contribution to Brixham. Mark Portwood – I salute you.
Saltdean Lido in Brighton will open again, run by a community interest company. It's the culmination of three and a half years of hard work of a few committed individuals – much thanks due to them. The long-term future of the pool for the community is assured. How great is that?
I'll write about it more fully in the coming months, both this particular lido and CICs, which are becoming a popular way for groups to keep pools open, or out of the hands of unscrupulous private developers.
Best coming-out speech from a diver
I went to a recording of Splash! this year, and was amazed at the practically hysterical audience reaction. For a young guy to be the focus of that, cope with the pressure of fronting an ITV Saturday-night show on top of doing his A-levels and not be a total knob – that's pretty special. There was a low-level hum of gossip surrounding him, and that may be dull to me and you but must be demoralising, at the very least, to deal with. I wouldn't fancy it, and I'm tough and old. Him saying it out loud will have made it easier for other young men and women, maybe even other sportspeople, to say the same.
That's worth a lot.