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In ‘Soul is Waterproof,’ swimmer and writer Matt Moseley dives into "the most critical issue of our time"

Matt Moseley swims a stretch of the Green River through Canyonlands National Park in Utah in 2021. Moseley’s long-distance “adventure swimming” efforts are tied to advocacy for water and conservation issues.
Pete McBride
Courtesy Photo
Matt Moseley swims a stretch of the Green River through Canyonlands National Park in Utah in 2021. Moseley’s long-distance “adventure swimming” efforts are tied to advocacy for water and conservation issues.

Matt Moseley tells people he has three jobs, really.

By day, he’s a public affairs consultant based in Boulder, running point on “high stakes communications and crisis management” with Ignition Strategy Group.

By night, he’s a writer, “ trying to make sense of the world around me and giving it meaning.”

And, by “early morning,” he’s a swimmer, training for long-distance adventures on open water: 25 miles in one swim across Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana in 2014, then 47.5 miles in one swim down the Colorado River in Utah in 2015, then 40 miles on the Green River in Utah in 2021 and almost 13 miles across the Sea of Galilee in Israel last year.

“When you're in [the water] for that long, there's something that's very special and magical about it and why it's so important to our survival as a planet as a species,” Moseley said in a Zoom interview.

Moseley dives into that “special and magical quality” in his latest book, “Soul is Waterproof,” which he’ll share at Explore Booksellers in Aspen on Saturday. (He’s also the author of “Ignition,” about his communication work, and “Dear Dr. Thompson,” about his effort with Hunter S. Thompson to free Lisl Auman from a wrongful murder conviction.)

“Soul is Waterproof” is about adventure, and about Moseley’s connection to water — but it’s also about advocacy for what Moseley sees as “the most critical issue of our time.”

He works with organizations like American Rivers, the Colorado River District and the Water and Tribes Initiative, and considers himself “an ambassador for water” of sorts; Moseley’s wife, Kristin, is a prominent water rights attorney. And his swimming adventures serve as a mechanism to raise awareness about water issues like drought, exacerbated by climate change.

“Because I'm in it so much, and around it, I feel like I have a responsibility to give it some kind of voice,” Moseley said.

But people don’t need to have such an intimate familiarity with the water world to gain something from it. The title of his book, “Soul is Waterproof,” stems from a phrase he saw emerge after Hurricane Katrina to represent resilience in difficult times.

“I’m really talking about good old fashioned grit and toughness and getting in there and doing the work that needs to be done,” he said.

For those inspired to immerse themselves in water issues — without, say, swimming 40 miles through a river canyon — Moseley said getting involved with an advocacy organization like American Rivers or the Inland Ocean Coalition is just one of many ways to engage.

“One of my goals of writing this book was to connect people with water in whatever ways that might be,” Moseley said. “I realize that this is a very unique sport, and that there are not many open water adventure swimmers out there in the world, but I do believe that it gives us a platform to talk about why people should care about water. … Where does that come from? What does it mean to your survival?”

According to Moseley, it means everything.

“Nothing can happen, really, without water. There is no planet, there is no us without water,” Moseley said. “But somehow I think we've forgotten that fact, and I think that we need to have a new respect and a new reverence for life's greatest substance.”

The eventat Explore Booksellers begins at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Moseley will be joined by Aspen Mayor Torre and renowned photojournalist Pete McBride, who has documented some of Moseley’s swimming endeavors.

Copyright 2023 Aspen Public Radio . To see more, visit Aspen Public Radio.

Kaya Williams