Empowerment through cold water swimming: interview with Rise Fierce founder Sophie Hellyer

COVER IMAGE Sophie Hellyer
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Sophie Hellyer is an athlete, entrepreneur and activist. Here she speaks about her love of swimming in cold water, the fundamental place it has in her life, and how it relates to empowering women.

Can you tell me a bit more about yourself, why are you ‘mostly found in cold water’ (as your Instagram profile says)?

I’m a surfer, swimmer, freelance creative producer and the founder of Rise Fierce, a global swimming community that encourages women to jump in and rise up. 

What are the benefits of spending time in cold water in your experience? 

There are lots of health benefits to swimming in cold water but I do it just because it feels amazing, it makes me feel like a superhero. I love the rhythm and routine of going everyday and challenging myself to keep going through winter. 

What is Rise Fierce and the philosophy that drives it?

Rise Fierce is a cold-water community which empowers women through wild swimming and kinship. It began during an icy winter on the west coast of Ireland when I took a dip with several friends in the Atlantic Ocean without our wetsuits on. Two very chilly minutes later, I realised the transformative power of cold water on my body and mind, and the value of spending a few precious minutes each morning bobbing in the ocean with other women. Rise Fierce is now a platform to connect women around the world and I regularly hosts Rise Fierce retreats across the UK – incorporating wild swimming, surfing, yoga and women’s circles.

What does your morning routine look like?

I normally wake up and have a cup of tea and jump on my bike down to the beach, meet friends for a quick dunk and then head home to have breakfast and start work. Hopefully work is planning a rise fierce retreat or something fun!

What has COVID 19 changed for you?

It’s stopped me travelling and slowed me down, which I’m really grateful for. Last year I was never home for more than a week at a time and I took 27 flights. This year I’ve hardly left our village and have had a flight free 2020. 

You practice many sports, from surfing to yoga. What role does each of these activities play in your overall balance?

I get different things from all my sports, I love the exhaustion from swimming in the pool, the thrill of cold water, the calm yoga brings, the camaraderie of football, the views I get whilst running the coast. I love mixing up my daily activities. 

Aches and pains are part of an active routine like yours I suppose. How do you manage them?

The cold water really helps actually, it’s just a big ice bath really. Yoga is really important for me, without it I feel really stiff and achey. 

What is your diet like?

I eat a mostly organic and vegetarian diet, which sounds very healthy but I do love my snacks and I probably eat way too many crisps and drink way too much tea. 

What are your favourite self-care products?

I use the Centred recovery scalp treatment, the WholyMe Relief Balm, Boissance’s probiotic gel moisturizer and Ren sckincare’s overnight recovery balm.

How do you keep positive and productive?

Mostly because I love my work, it’s also my passion. You can keep an eye on upcoming retreats here: https://risefierce.com/risefierceretreats.