My story

I like to think that my story is one of metamorphosis. Maybe that’s what anyone who has hit rock bottom and returned to tell the tale would say. But for me I really do believe this is the case. Where I am now is not somewhere I ever thought I would be. Yet if I did not have a history of chaos and self destruction, my life might be very different now. I could not be the man I was meant to be until I stood at the gates of hell and met my rock bottom. Here I started my journey, with an uninterrupted view of what lay ahead… the ocean.

My early years were dedicated to sports. I was not a natural academic, but I was a gifted athlete. So I devoted myself to athletic achievement, and had success across many disciplines from Basketball to Athletics and Swimming. I could turn my hand to most areas of physical exercise and even led the school football team to five consecutive league titles. Sport, as it would turn out, was my saviour.

I left school at 16 to become a broker in the city, where I stayed for 17 years. It was here where I started to forget about sport and became more interested in the darker pursuits of drink and drugs. In 2008 I left the City to pursue an alternative lifestyle. It was this move, a pivotal decision, a turning point that lit the line of gunpowder which became my internal explosion, my rock bottom moment seven years later.

I remember the day clearly – as clearly as an alcoholic can. I had been to Wimbledon to watch Andy Murray. Instead of taking it easy, enjoying the sunshine and watching the tennis, I decided instead to focus my energy on enjoying the Pimms and champagne. Suffice to say the day ended just like many others had, but this time there was an intervention, one which ultimately saved my life. 

So after 39 years of Alcoholism and Addiction I came into recovery midway through 2014.

I spent some time surfing, swimming and convalescing in Australia and I returned home to the UK with a renewed lease for life and a feel for the open water that previously had been drowned out by my addictions.  

As a competitive IM swimmer in my youth I always felt comfortable in the water, fish like even, so as I stepped up for my first ever open water event it was the most natural of transitions for me. I was in early recovery and I was so to speak ‘back home’. 

There were big smiles all round that day. Unknown to me at the time, I had started a chain of events which would realise my transformation and lead me to where I am today and the inception of The Open Water Swimming Coach brand. 

I am the eldest of 4 siblings. I live with my partner Lucia in our apartment overlooking the sea in the UK. I have 2 children, Amelia and Sebastian who are currently both at University.

I’m a committed naturalist, and when not swimming in the Ocean, blogging or attempting a yoga practice with Lucia I’m exploring local hedgerows and ancient woodland trails either on my bike or hiking. My passion for the outdoors has no boundaries and my appetite for natural history is never exhausted, in fact it’s a driving force throughout my world of recovery.

I’m a dedicated mental health advocate and promotor of outdoor living. I practice the immersion of nature as a tonic towards a more peaceful head space. 

Mat Hawkes smiling and wearing TOWSC rash vest

Through my blog I share my thoughts and feelings on the topics most close to my heart; open water swimming, wellness and recovery. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I believe in being honest and authentic. I hope to inspire others to engage their innermost feelings, exploring themselves more freely where once they were blocked.

Recovery from Addiction and alcoholism is the driving force of my outlook. The power to aid healing through words and actions a key focus and the common shared experiences that only true recognition and acceptance can highlight. ‘There is a solution’.

You can get in touch with me using the details below. I always enjoying speaking with new people about my experience with open water swimming and recovery.

Peace ✌️