Open-water Swimmer Edie Hu Shares Her Beauty Routine
Twenty years in the trenches of the cut-throat worlds of fine arts and antiques—with more than a decade at Sotheby’s under her belt followed by a long stint as an art advisory specialist to the uber-elite at Citi in Hong Kong—prepared Edie Hu well to forge her own path. This spring, she launched Centerpiece, an art advisory and appraisal partnership, with co-founder Katherine Don, the former head of arts and cultural development at the Asia Society in Hong Kong, who is now based in Los Angeles. Working in tandem across the Pacific, they are pushing the boundaries of accessibility when it comes to appraisals and auctions.
“I think there is a need for that—for someone to go through and give people proper valuations,” Hu says, noting many collectors need help sorting the really important pieces from those that might not be worth the storage space. “If it’s junk, you can throw it away. You have to have somebody to tell you it’s not worth anything—and then you need to get rid of it.”
Making A Splash
When Hu isn’t sorting through vast lots of family heirlooms, Antiques Roadshow-style, she’s making waves as one of the most accomplished open-water swimmers in Hong Kong. In late 2018, Hu became the first woman since 1976 to swim around Hong Kong Island, raising money for Splash, a charity that gives foreign domestic workers and underprivileged children a chance to learn how to swim for free.
“I used to be a competitive swimmer when I was younger—I swam all the way through college,” Hu says. “After that sort of intense training, I got tired of all the competition. I didn’t actually enjoy racing; I think it just burned me out. So I took 15 years off swimming until I got to Hong Kong—there were a couple of races I’d heard about in the open water and I thought I’d give them a shot.”
Over the past decade, Hu has been a regular at Hong Kong’s Clean Half and Cold Half seasonal races—sometimes swimming them “double,” she says (and that means exactly what you think it means). “I start in Deep Water Bay, at the finish line, and swim to Stanley in the early morning, get there around the start or before the start, and then swim back.” She swam the English Channel, relay-style, in 2018; earlier this year she swam from Sri Lanka to India on a lark; and she is registered to circumnavigate Manhattan later this summer.
As an athlete who can spend upwards of 12 hours at a time in salty ocean water under the direct heat of the beating sun, Hu is an expert on skin protection. For casual swims, she recommends light waterproof commercial sunscreens, such as a matt zinc formulation from SolRX—“A lot of swimmers like it,” she says—and the Thinksport Face & Body Sunscreen Stick: “I carry it with me when I swim; it’s the only sunscreen that can actually still be applied in the water [on wet skin].”
For anyone with a diehard commitment to pallor, Hu suggests considering what avid open-water swimmers use to protect their skin from the elements. “If you’re doing really long swims, what I do is I use baby diaper cream—Desitin Maximum Strength,” she says. “It’s basically 40 per cent zinc oxide. I mix it with lanolin and, because I don’t really like the smell, I put a little peppermint oil in. It’s super-white. I have to have someone else apply it for me—they put on latex gloves and just coat my entire body with it: everything, head-to-toe, around the goggles. I can’t get it on the palms of my hands because I need to grip the water. But it stays on—and once it’s on, you can’t sit, you can’t touch anything, so it’s usually the last thing I do before I get in the water. But it’s pretty good for 10 to 12 hours.”
Besides braving external elements like the sun and the sea, Hu says some of the most challenging aspects of long-distance open-water swims come from within.
“It can be maintaining focus,” she says. “You can be super-tired, but want to just get there, and you just want to finish it. It can be very boring, too. So you have to have some kind of way to keep your brain engaged. I don’t practise regular meditation, but I think, for me, swimming is like meditation—I just go into this zone where I’m just breathing, just moving. That’s why I can keep going during these long swims. Anybody who does these extreme sports, they train their bodies to do these things. I’m not competitive any more, I kind of got that whole thing out of my system. I’m just doing it for completion.”
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- PhotographyAffa Chan/Tatler Hong Kong
- HairCat Yeung
- Make-UpCat Yeung