After recognising the physical and mental symptoms of stress from burning out at work, Cath Brown and Kath Ferguson met up regularly for a swim in the sea, and noticed the huge benefits of being in, on or near the sea, as they bobbed, swam and drank tea post-dip.
They set up Seabirds, a swim shop and social enterprise in Brighton and Hove, to promote outdoor swimming as a way to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing all year round.
Good for the soul
Cath said: “The cold water gives you a buzz and a ‘reboot’ and being in a large body of water and immersed in nature is so good for the soul.”
They started a Community Interest Company, aiming to get more people into the water and realise the benefits it had, funding their community work through selling a number of sourced and tested swimming products (robes, goggles, hats, tow floats, etc.) on eBay.
“Swimming regularly re-sets my stress levels and gives me a reboot. The community and fun that goes with being part of a swim gang lightens life and makes it more fun, giving me more resilience,” said Cath,on the effect swimming and Seabirds has on her life.
Improving mental health
Seabirds swim community, ‘Salty Seabirds’ stands at 3,700 members, encouraging and helping everyone to discover the positives of the sea, from paying for swim kits to offering swimming lessons.
Cath and Kath also run women and wellbeing courses for those who self identify with mental health issues, to gain the confidence to get into the water and overcome their anxiety about it – using swimming as a tool to maintain better mental health.
Making a change
With social impact at its core, Seabirds work with a number of environmental organisations, including Surfers against Sewage, Leave no Trace Brighton and has signed up to the Black Swimming Association’s DIPER Charter, to support wellbeing, inclusion for all and community resilience.
Seabirds forms part of the ‘eBay for Change’ hub which connects the platform’s 29 million shoppers with up to 50 small businesses, each with a clear social mission. Shoppers are able to access a broad range of products from clothes to homeware, and jewellery to collectables.
Cath said: “Generally running a social enterprise is great – feeling like what you are working for has meaning and benefits others is a good feeling and keeps us motivated.
“Working for ourselves and running a social enterprise has made us feel like anything is possible and opened our minds to a lot of possibilities.”
On what advice they would give their younger self, Cath said: “Care less about what people think and what your body looks like – focus on what it can do for you.”