Monday, April 18, 2016

Beneath The Surface of Masters: Christine Howson (Tranent ASC)

We are looking deeper into the lives and personalities at the heart of the Scottish Masters community through our ‘Beneath The Surface’ feature. 

Enjoy our final interview with Masters swimmer Christine Howson, a self-employed Marine Biologist who swims with Tranent ASC. 

How did you get into swimming?

My dad was a tax inspector with the British Overseas Aid Programme and so we lived abroad a lot when I was growing up.  We were in Malaysia just before independence before I started school and I think I lived in the swimming pool.  After Malaysia  we moved back to the UK and to Hove in Sussex where I swam with the Shiverers Swimming Club.  We weren’t shivering quite as much after that as dad was posted to Jamaica and I swam with a club called the Marlins.  After that, I went to boarding school and swam there.  I swam on and off over the next few years but when I was in my 30s and married with children, I was looking for ways to keep fit and that brought me back to swimming. 

How did you get into Masters swimming?

I was swimming at my local pool regularly and got talking to another regular who suggested I should come along to the triathlon club.  I joined that because there wasn’t any Masters club locally.  I trained with the triathletes for several years and eventually completed one.  Then the Masters club started at Prestonpans so I joined and have been swimming three or four times a week since then.    I’ve competed at the East District Masters a couple of times and the Scottish Open as well – a got a few medals.  I like the distance events and front crawl and butterfly.  I’m not so keen on breaststroke.

What do you love about swimming?

I love being in the water, whether it is swimming or diving.   I like the repetition of swimming up and down for long periods – I think it’s a bit like meditation.  I find it very relaxing when you put your head in the water and the sound changes and it becomes your time without other distractions. 

What do you dislike about swimming?

Getting into the pool on a cold winter night when you’ve only just managed to drag yourself out of the house and into the swimming pool!

What are you most proud about in and out of the water?

Out of the water is easy – having a happy family.  In the water, it would have to be swimming from the West Coast to the East Coast of Scotland using the many lochs along the way (look out for Christine's Open Water Blog coming soon!). 

You are a marine biologist – are you ever out of the water?

Yes!  Most of my work is spend writing reports rather than in the water.  I’m a self-employed marine biologist and I do contract work with organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage.  I specialise in marine conservation issues, so as part of a small group we might undertaking diving or camera observations of areas around the coast to see what’s living there and what might need some protection or further study.  If we go out on a two week field study, that might generate three to four months’ worth of data and reports.   

Where is your favourite place to dive in Scotland?

There are so many interesting things to see just off the coast at so many different locations.  Loch Sunart is near to Mull and has some of the most extensive flame shell beds in Europe.   Flame Shells have a bright orange fringe and can form huge reefs over times and are amazing to watch.   Last year I got to dive into the sea caves at St Kilda which was both exciting and spectacular.  We’re lucky in Scotland that we have so much choice for divers. 

What would you say to anybody thinking about Masters?

Just give it a go.  You don’t have to be a good swimmer to join a Masters’ club.  If you’re a beginner, you can start off completely unfit and you will get better.  Unlike running on your own or going to a gym on your own, Masters’ club swimming is structured and you will quickly start to see an improvement.  As long as the thought of swimming puts a smile on your face, you’ll be fine.

Christine was interviewed by Chris Kane. Read more Swim Social Blogs/Interviews here