This question can have as many answers as the number of swimmers out there. It is a quite personal activity and each and every one of those who practice it understand it and use it differently.
Myrtle McGraw, the author of Swimming behaviour of the human infant, for instance, gives a very academic and literal definition to the swimming process:
Human swimming is the self-propulsion of a person through water or another liquid, usually for recreation, sport, exercise, or survival. Locomotion is achieved through coordinated movement of the limbs, the body, or both. Humans can hold their breath underwater and undertake rudimentary locomotive swimming within weeks of birth, as an evolutionary response.
The interesting fact is that recreation is the first thing McGraw decides to state as being the reason behind swimming. Obviously, that idea is as debatable as the Chicken/Egg dilemma, since many of us would assume that swimming was first a necessity, long before becoming a recreational activity. But since we no longer find ourselves swimming for our lives as much as our ancestors probably used to, we can indulge to this statement.
For many, swimming is the closest thing to a superpower. Just like flying. That’s most likely because humans are land creatures, so air and water are environments where we’re not supposed to survive in. Well, challenge accepted, we said, and went on to conquer the sky and the sea. Yet another proof of how wonderful humans are.
Furthermore, since the first records of swimming in human history, there have been many referrals for why this activity should be seen as an art. People have always found poetry in the direct contact of water and skin, in the silent dance of water movements and expressed it through art.
Nowadays, swimming is extremely popular and highly appreciated among people of all race, social status or age. So swimming can easily be an universal language that the whole world understands and can relate to.
Why do we relate to it?
Some of us feel free when submerged into the blue. Others look for a way to break the daily pattern and change environment. And there are the ones who seek self-improvement and limit-braking through swimming.
No matter the reason, it seems that it’s never a bad time to dive in and let go.