Bonnie Tsui visits the Serpentine Swimming Club

New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui is a swimmer herself.

“Buoyancy, floating, weightlessness. Freedom. These are the words we use to talk about swimming. Is it a coincidence that this is also the language we use to talk about the lightness of being, the wellness of being, that we strive for in this corporeal world?”
― Bonnie Tsui, Why We Swim

Why We Swim

Published in 2020, Why We Swim is a book propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. 

New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what about water—despite its dangers—seduces us and why we come back to it again and again.

When we learned at the Serpentine Swimming Club that Bonnie Tsui was planning a European book tour with a stop at London's Finisterre store, we naturally invited her over for a swim at the club. In return, she invited us to her book reading at the Finisterre store on the night before her swim.

The Serpentine Swimming Club has a long association with the written word, from author events for members such as Tristan Gooley's How To Read Water, to collaboration with RCA students for a charity fundraising book on cold water swimmers, or book events from within our member ranks (quite a few of our members are published authors).

On the morning of Bonnie Tsui's visit, a line of impatient swimmers clutching their beloved copy of Why We Swim was at the ready before Bonnie arrived. By coincidence, some members had finished the book on the night before and were excited to meet the author of their bedtime read. Wardens were not the last in line either, and about a dozen members (possibly more) all had their book autographed with a personal note.

Following the beach-side book signing, a few of us went swimming with Bonnie which proved easier said than done as she's a very speedy swimmer and gave everybody a good workout. Mid-swim, serendipity placed member Simona Sharafudinov, artist, in our way and with her GoPro, she captured the swim.

Enjoy these pics and if you haven't, read Bonnie's book! Rob Ouldcott placed a signed copy in the changing room if you would like to borrow it from the club.

On 7 July 2022, Bonnie Tsui gave a book reading at the Finisterre store at Leicester Square. It was a sold out event in front of a public of swimmers, surfers, and ocean lovers.

On 7 July 2022, Bonnie Tsui gave a book reading at the Finisterre store at Leicester Square. It was a sold out event in front of a public of swimmers, surfers, and ocean lovers.

Bonnie Tsui in conversation with Lawrence Stafford after the book reading. Photo credit: Laure Latham

On 8 July 2022, Bonnie Tsui visited the Serpentine Swimming Club and signed books for fans.

On 8 July 2022, Bonnie Tsui visited the Serpentine Swimming Club and signed books for fans.

Bonnie Tsui, proudly holding her book, between Laure Latham and Rob Ouldcott. Photo credit: Stanley Ulijaszek

Buoyancy, floating, and weightlessness were (successfully) put to the test in the Serpentine.

Buoyancy, floating, and weightlessness were (successfully) put to the test in the Serpentine.

Floating from left to right in the Serpentine: Laure Latham, Hon. Secretary, Jonathan Bashforth, Bonnie Tsui, Jonathan Neal, Rob Ouldcott, President. Photo credit: Simona Sharafudinov

Eventually, we did swim. Why oh why do we swim? First off, to catch up with Bonnie.

Eventually, we did swim. Why oh why do we swim? First off, to catch up with Bonnie.

Bonnie led members of the Serpentine Swimming Club in energetic front crawl. Photo by Simona Sharafudinov.

Jonathan Bashforth and Bonnie Tsui after the swim

Jonathan Bashforth and Bonnie Tsui after the swim

Jonathan was one of many enthusiastic members who came specifically to meet Bonnie Tsui that day.

Extract from "Why We Swim"

“Over time, swimming has shifted from mere mechanics and survival—a military skill, practiced by men—to achieve a more intangible significance: a form of recreation, a pleasure, something that can sharpen your spiritual as well as physical health. This idea of swimming for wellness, emotional resonance, whole personhood, rings true to me. The physical is intertwined with the psychological.”
― Bonnie Tsui, Why We Swim