Before he goes to work, Benjamin David bids adieu to his kids, walks out the door and — jumps into a river.
“I commute to work not by bus, not by car, but by swimming down our river, the Isar,” David, who lives in Munich, Germany, recently told the BBC.
His swim isn’t short. It spans more than 1.2 miles, but David said it both saves him time and gives him peace of mind each day.
“When I’m swimming, I am indeed quicker, and also more relaxed,” he said.
The current, which sweeps him into the city, certainly helps. At times he can just float, while enjoying the greenery that surrounds the river that recently underwent a major cleanup.
“You kind of really are in a natural, almost wild river in a very urban context,” he told Canadian public radio’s “As It Happens” this week. “And once you get further into the city … it becomes more like a pool actually, the atmosphere, and there’s beautiful historic buildings to the right and left of the river, and I just drift by those and enjoy the view.”
The entire trip takes David, who works in the city’s nonprofit sector, about 20 minutes or so. He keeps his belongings dry by sealing them in a waterproof bag that floats next to him, and to keep himself warm in the colder months, he dons a wet suit.
While David told “As It Happens” that he’s beginning to encounter other swimmers in the river, he said most human interaction on his commute still occurs between himself and shocked onlookers.
“Every now and then people look down from the bridges and laugh or ask what I’m doing,” he told the BBC.
David, however, doesn’t see what’s so different about his actions and what people in the city two centuries ago did to get around.
“This idea came to me as the Isar used to be used as a waterway for over 150 years,” he said. “It was … one of the most important transportation routes from Rome to Vienna. They went by rafts on the Isar. This has all disappeared in the last 100 years.
“Nobody uses the Isar anymore as a mode of transportation, so now I’m there by myself to jump in.”
David doesn’t expect to be at one in the river forever, though. He said he thinks more people will start commuting that way as traffic continues to grow more dense in the city.
Luckily for him, however, he doesn’t expect the river to become too crowded anytime soon.
“I can assure you that it’s going to take about 100 years before the river gets congested,” he told “As It Happens.”
David is not the first urbanite to swim to work in recent years. In 2010, artist Vanessa Daws experimented with her own commute in Kilkenny, Ireland, to get to the her artist’s residency at Kilkenny Arts Office. The quickest route involved a short dip in the River Nore. Daws documented her commute on video, which she said also served “to highlight alternative modes of commuting and also show the tranquility and beauty from a unique perspective of the River Nore.”
The wackiest swim commute idea, however, came from a London design studio, which in 2012 proposed to turn a series of city canals into swimming lanes.
“The canals used to be functional routes for industry, but now they’ve become purely recreational,” Alex Smith of the Y/N Studio told the Guardian at the time. “We thought, why not turn the waterways back into something useful, connecting people with the places they work?”
Even better, maybe: In the winter, the studio said the lanes could be transformed into high-speed ice-skating paths. What could possibly go wrong?
Y/N came up with the watery commuting plan as part of an ideas competition. The studio came in second place, the Guardian wrote, just behind the winning submission of turning an old, abandoned tunnel under the city into an urban mushroom garden.