In pictures: the unlikely rise of wild synchronised swimming

Growing up on the Pembrokeshire coast, many of photographer Eva Watkins’ happiest moments were spent in the water – surfing and swimming. But for the final project of her BA in photography at the University of the West of England, she wanted to capture a more unusual water-based activity – wild synchronised swimming. 

It was serendipity that one of her tutors was in a group that had formed for the 100th anniversary of Henleaze Swimming Club in Bristol, in June 2019, intent on combining the mental-health benefits of cold-water immersion with the camaraderie of synchronised sport. From the original 80 swimmers, aged 11 to 76, a hardcore group, calling themselves Almost Synchro, had carried on.

Shortly before the first lockdown, Watkins began photographing them in the woodland setting of Henleaze Lake. Jumping into the water helped the 23-year-old build a rapport with her subjects as they introduced her to some of their basic moves.

Her photos shy from showing the usual raised legs and star shapes: ‘I wanted it to be less about action shots and more about hints of synchro. It’s more subtle than showing a performance.

‘Building of friendship is a really deep aspect of being in a synchro team. They were strangers in the beginning, but now they go on holiday together. As well as beautiful shapes, they’ve formed beautiful friendships.’

In the swim

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