In the context of the increased frustration and anxiety around managerialism of universities, this article explores how a group of 11 academics, from three different universities, diverse disciplines and levels are responding collectively outside of their work. Moreover, it tracks the enactment of the ‘Slow Swimming Club’, initiated by the author and jointly participated in and shaped by these academics. The club represents a particular form of leisure crafting, called slow swimming. Using an autoethnographic approach, the impact of the Slow Swimming Club was explored over a 10-year period. The article reflects on the initial effect of this practice, around an individualised compensatory respite from the academics’ feelings of frustration and insecurity. This respite was framed in terms of temporal and aesthetic task crafting. The article then reflects on how the external, counter-performative nature of leisure crafting has opened up time and space for job crafting, back in their universities. The differentiating feature of this research is around the role of academic agency in moving beyond respite towards structural contestation and more systemic change. It also highlights the importance of the relationship between leisure and work within this crafting process. Through placing the aesthetic and temporal dimensions in the foreground, the article offers a significant conceptual contribution to crafting typology. It also extends slow scholarship, by advocating an embodied, sensual and experiential response to the fast pedagogies of managerialism.