“Do not attempt to train using the swim to Worm’s Head. There is a real risk to life if the route is used at the wrong time due to the dangerous currents and tidal flows in this area”. So began a safety warning I sent recently to our Breca Gower competitors. The missive was prompted by our event licensor the National Trust, who were concerned after some attempts to practice the swim to Worm’s Head.
Worm’s Head is a sea-serpent shaped tidal island at the most westerly edge of Gower. Given the name “Wurm” (dragon) by the Vikings, it’s replete with natural wonders such as caves, blow holes and the Devil’s Bridge. Normally it’s accessed via a rocky causeway that emerges from the sea at low tide, but the route we’ve chosen is more daring - swimming to the promontory, running a circuit around the island then leaping among the rocks and pools to cross the causeway.
To ensure the crossing is safe we’ve chosen a date where the tides are supportive and timed the swim carefully. We’ll have marshals, guard boats and medical teams; these measures are in place for all our courses. But teams practising before race day may not be aware of the dangers and lack the comprehensive swim safety cover we provide.
Even the “normal” pedestrian crossing is not without its risks. Powerful swimmers have drowned in the dangerous tidal currents that sweep over the causeway with the shifting tide. Dylan Thomas was once forced to spend a night on the island after being cut off by the sea: “I stayed on that Worm from dusk to midnight, sitting on that top grass, frightened to go further in because of the rats and because of things I am ashamed to be frightened of. Then the tips of the reef began to poke out of the water and, perilously, I climbed along them to the shore.”
We don’t want people putting themselves at risk. Nor do we want to lose the event licence. As a preventative measure, we’ve created a disincentive: anyone caught training this swim will be blacklisted from this and all future Breca Swimrun events. Our goal when designing courses is to find the most interesting and exhilarating lines we can; often this means using untested routes in wild places not known for swimming races. But creating these experiences is not sustainable unless competitors participate safely and landowners’ requirements are respected. This is important for not just our events but for the development of the sport.
Important notice to all Breca Gower Competitors
We’ve been asked by the National Trust (the Gower licensor) to circulate the following notice. Please read it and make sure your teammate has too:
Do not attempt to train using the swim to Worm’s Head. There is a real risk to life if the route is used at the wrong time due to the dangerous currents and tidal flows in this area. During the race we will have safety cover present and have timed the swim to take place at the safest time.
An incident involving a competitor training at this location would result in the cancellation of our license. As a result, any competitor found to have practised this swim will be eliminated from Breca Gower and all future Breca Swimrun events.
We’ve had to take a hard line. Coastal swimming can be dangerous, do not assume that because a swim is on a course it is safe to swim there unassisted. This and all our future events rely on your compliance - if we create risks for landowners we will not receive permission to hold our races.