HUNDREDS of hardy souls braved the UK seas this weekend after two English pioneers sent a swim at sunrise challenge out to the world.
Over 1,000 people from 25 different countries signed up to run into the sea at the break of dawn as part of the Global Swim Rise initiative from the Human Excellence Project.
Paul Holliday, who moved to Perth in Western Australia 11 years ago, set up the worldwide movement as a way of coping with the grief of losing his beloved father to cancer.
He explained: “There is an epidemic amongst men who are taking their own lives because they don’t know where to turn or what to do.
“People who are depressed and suicidal can’t see a way, they are lost.
“I have been in the construction business and there is a real problem with depression and suicide. People can’t see a good future because they have a bad now. We are working to change that, one run into the sea at a time.”
Father-of-two Paul emigrated to Australia from Kirby in Liverpool with his wife Mel in 2008 after their estate agency business virtually collapsed overnight.
He said: “We had 12 houses and a Porsche and within the space of two weeks we had nothing. It seemed like such a massive blow at the time but having travelled for five years in my early 20s, I had always had a desire to come to Australia and so we took the opportunity to move out. It turned out to be a huge blessing.”
Paul met his now business partner Michael Henderson, 31, who emigrated from Middlesbrough, at a workshop for men’s mental health. Michael joined the Human Excellence Project and together they have created the Human Excellence Academy. They are now taking the philosophy of the project to the corporate world through workshops and talks.
He said: “There is a lot of disconnect at the moment. A lot of this is down to things like mobile phones. People are looking for instant gratification. We are not teaching our kids delayed gratification, that if they make the right choices and do the right things on a daily basis, there will be a much bigger reward in the long run, such as their good health.”
The pair come together each morning to swim in the sea and have been joined by a growing number of people, and immediately saw the health and wellbeing benefits.
Paul explained: “The group quickly grew as word spread. To date over 6,000 people have jumped into the sea as part of the Swim Rise project. It is just amazing.
“We have had people from all walks of life, millionaires who want to find themselves again and people without a job who feel lost. Once we get in that water we are all the same, we share a great bond.
“Once we have been in the sea we get out, grab a coffee and a chat, warm up and some amazing conversations happen. I believe this will change the world. Community is what we need right now.”
Rebecca Teasdale, a 32-year-old mother of two from Billingham, led a charge of people into the waters at Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, on Saturday morning.
Rebecca, who works as a social media marketing executive at Colehouse Media in Middlesbrough, said: “It was cold at first but after a few seconds you just embrace it, it felt good.
“We ended up doing three separate dips as more people turned up. It was quite emotional actually, there was a great sense of togetherness and everyone felt like they had really achieved something.”
To find out more search for The Human Excellence Project on Facebook or Instagram.