This week on the podcast you will meet Neanna Alnafta.
Neanne and I swim with the same ocean swimming club - 4Seasons Swim - though we haven’t met yet.
Neanne mentions in this conversation that she hates labels, but it is hard to introduce someone without them.
So for this moment, I will share that she is a proud Muslim woman, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, an ocean swimmer and a volunteer surf lifesaver.
She is also someone who is (and I quote) “freakishly scared” of the ocean.
I came across Neanne’s story after reading an article about an organisation called ‘Swim Sisters’ which is an all-female swimming squad that empowers women, especially those from Islamic backgrounds, to feel more confident and comfortable in the ocean.
You may know Swim Sisters by its former name - Burkini Babes, a group launched in France in 2016 by a group of women who were banned from wearing burkinis on the beach.
In this conversation, Neanne and I discuss:
- her love of soccer growing up,
- why she felt like swimming and beach life weren’t for her after she started wearing the hijab,
- the power and importance of representation,
- how she came to be involved with ‘Swim Sisters’,
- the role swimming played in her rehabilitation after a serious health condition
- what prompted her to become involved in ocean swimming and then surf lifesaving (despite being “freakishly” scared of the ocean),
- the tactics she uses to focus her attention away from her fear
- how she got back in the water after a close encounter with a shark (and what her mum said),
- the healing impact of ocean swimming on mental health,
- the challenge of finding ways to honour and respect the different parts of your identity (in her case, her religion and her swimming) without compromising one for the sake of the other, and
- why fear is not a bad thing.
Notes and resources: