Open water swimming can be in any open body of water whether it be a lake, pond, river of the ocean. It can be a quick dip or a 10km swim.
Given life’s stresses and unpredictability, more and more of us are turning to open water swimming as a natural tonic.
Whatever your reasons for giving it a go it’s a great way to push your fitness, meet new people, laugh a lot and it won’t break the bank. However, beware- it is addictive and once you try it you may get hooked.
There are plenty of Facebook groups to join where you can post and get advice e.g. South Wales outdoor swimming who have over 2k members! Or have a look on the wild swimming website.
Here are some tips to swim safely!
- For wild swimming especially – check the surroundings of where you want to swim. Good signs are flowing water, curves or bends (means the water will slow at some point), clear water or you can see the bottom to a certain depth, bugs such as pond skaters/dragonflies, fish, decent entry and exit points. Bad signs are slow or stagnant water, rapid water swirls or drift due to a number of currents – these can sweep you away or pull you under. Cloudy, smelly or heavily sedimented water, no wildlife (bugs in particular), no fish and poor entry and exit points.
For both wild and open water:
• Know your entry and exit points. These may be the same place, but it’s always good to scout alternative exits from where you enter. Particularly if you are leaving stuff at your entry point to collect later.
• Invest in a bright swim cap or tow float – Puffin do excellent tow floats at competitive prices that are fully biodegradable (bonus point on eco-friendly!). Tow floats make you visible in the water to other users and can potentially save your life if you suddenly get cramp/fatigue/injury. You can carry a phone in most of the dry bag areas (but get a waterproof bag to put the phone in!).
• Don’t jump in! I know it’s tempting, but a slow and steady entry to help the body acclimatise is essential to stop cold water shock and potentially hypothermia.
• Invest in a wetsuit if you want to swim all year round – but look at open water ones, as these have a thinner neoprene in the arms and legs to support swimming. Also a swim cap – your body will defensively stop you from putting your head under water as a protective instinct, so if you’re swimming in temperatures lower than 11 degrees, it’s worth getting one!
• If in doubt, don’t go in. Listen to your sixth sense – if something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. A lot of wild swimmers become attuned to their environment and will instinctively know if they shouldn’t enter the water, even if it’s somewhere they’ve been regularly.