Stories of Merry People: Joyful Swimming with Sophie Hellyer

Stories of Merry People: Joyful Swimming with Sophie Hellyer


Since Merry People's beginnings, we've had the joy of meeting people who live adventurous, joyful, and merry lives. This Stories of Merry People series is all about sharing the amazing stories of the people who do just that!
Introducing Sophie Hellyer @sophiehellyer, the visionary behind Rise Fierce and its cold-water swimming communities and retreats for women in the UK. She's not only passionate about cold-water swimming, but also about making it approachable for beginners who are looking for connection with themselves, and with nature.
Dive into the world of this fearless entrepreneur and passionate water enthusiast as we explore her dedication to the cold waters, her keys to resilience, and the cherished hidden spots in her life.

Starting Rise Fierce has been a transformative experience for you, and through the initiative, many other women have experienced that same journey of empowerment. Since starting Rise Fierce, what have been some of moments of joy when you knew you’re in the right place, doing the right thing?

There are so many joyful swims; it's hard to name just a couple. But one of the most vivid memories since starting Rise Fierce is of a woman who, on day one of the retreat, was scared of the water and the cold, and only dipped her toes in. By day two, she held my hands, and we edged in a little deeper. By day four, we were jumping off the harbor wall, skinny-dipping under the full moon, and all howling with laughter and joy. Seeing the transformation in her once she knew she could do it, she could brave the cold water in the middle of winter, was a really moving experience for me. My passion is introducing women to the water in a safe and playful way, and I can't believe it's now also my job!

meeting at the beachwalking on sand

The 2022 Rise Fierce Retreat

Time for a fun one! If you could design a Bobbi Boot inspired by a cold plunge in the ocean, what would you name it, and what colour would it be?

My Bobbi Boot would be a dusty pink colour, the same colour as those cold clear mornings where the sunrise sends the sky hazy pink. I think I’ll simply call it 'Sunrise'. 

clogs and bikini on the riverportrait on beach rocksSophie visiting her favourite swimming spot, wearing Billie Clogs in Sky Blue

How do you bring in and embrace merriness into your everyday life? Into your work?

It’s not hard to bring merriness into my everyday life, I have a 1.5 year old, his name is the Cornish word for joy and he really is little ray of sunshine. With regards to work, for me being in the ocean is playtime. I behave in the ocean the exact same way I did when I was a child, diving through the waves, bodysurfing and swimming underwater. My work is a lot about getting other people relaxed and calm enough to enjoy the ocean in the same way too. What could be merrier than that?!

different colored boots

Earlier this year, on one of your winter retreats, the women who came along were all gifted a pair of Merry People boots. What inspired you to have the women on your retreat wear Merry People?

The Merry People boots and clogs are such perfect footwear for pre and post swim. Your feet can get epically cold in the sea so you really need a shoe you can slide on easily, ideally with a thick wooly sock underneath. You also want a weatherproof shoe. It’s England, it’s likely raining, or you have to cross a stream to get to the beach. Merry People really tick all the boxes - warm, comfortable, practical and stylish.

How would you encourage someone who has never gone cold-water swimming before, to give it a go?

It’s a great time of year to start, September in the UK is actually when the water is warmest as it’s been heating up all summer. It’s really important to know about the location you’re swimming, so either speak to local water users or go to a lifeguarded area. Find a friend to go with too, it’s more fun together and safer too. And make it a very quick dip, just a minute or two max is plenty. The cold water can be dangerous so don’t push your limits. Have fun!

sophie swimming

Find out more about Rise Fierce and what retreats are coming up, or follow Sophie on her merry (and often cold!) adventures on Instagram.

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