Are you intrigued by open water swimming? Whether it’s the thrill of being closer to nature or the appeal of the reported health benefits of cold water swimming that draws you in, we can help you get started. In our wild swimming guide, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know – from what the activity is to what to wear while you’re doing it. Discover more below.
What Is Wild Swimming?
So, what is wild swimming? Also known as open water swimming, wild swimming can be defined as the act of swimming in any natural body of water. This includes lakes, rivers, ponds and the ocean. Although it might only be starting to get popular again now, people have gone wild swimming all throughout history – so why not give it a go yourself and see the world from a new perspective?
Is Wild Swimming Safe?
Although open water swimming can provide you with many health benefits, such as boosting your immune system and improving your circulation, there are some safety precautions you have to follow. Before you take the dive, you’ll need to:
• Cover up any cuts or abrasions with a waterproof plaster.
• Check the temperature. If it’s a particularly cold day, it’s worth wearing a swimming cap and a wetsuit to keep you insulated while in the water.
• Make sure you’re permitted to swim there. Wild swimming is technically not allowed everywhere in the UK, but having said this, most lakes and rivers are fine to swim in – so just keep an eye out for any trespassing signs when you’re there.
• Always tell someone where you’ll be swimming, or even better, swim with a partner.
• Check the depth before you jump in. You should do this every time you go, even if you always get to the same spot, as depths can change and there could be new obstructions under water.
What To Wear For Wild Swimming
Now we’ve covered how to go open water swimming safely, there are a few key pieces of kit you’ll need before you start. Although what you need to wear can depend on the climate. Here’s what to wear for wild swimming in a warm climate:
• Swimwear. Wild swimming in the summer months is one of the most refreshing and cost-effective activities you can do – although the mosquito bites can get pretty annoying. So to avoid this, invest in some of our men’s swimwear and women’s swimwear with anti-insect technology built in.
• Goggles. If you’re planning on doing more than a leisurely breaststroke, make sure you have some high-quality goggles with you – and you might even be able to spot some wildlife swimming alongside you!
• A towel. This will be the first thing you reach for when you emerge from the water, and then dry the rest with a little sunbathe.
Now when the weather’s a little chillier, you’ll need a few more layers. We’ve listed what to wear for wild swimming in the cold below:
• A wetsuit. A wetsuit will keep you warmer for longer, provide you with more protection from any cuts along the way and keep you more buoyant in the water.
• A swimming cap. As mentioned previously, you’ll need a swimming cap to help you retain any vital body heat you may lose from your head. Meaning you can keep swimming for longer.
• A rash vest. If you’re a beginner, you may not have come across one of these before. But a rash vest will provide an extra layer of lightweight insulation under your wetsuit – perfect for swimming adventures in the depths of winter!
• Socks and gloves. Much like a rash vest, a pair of socks and gloves made from neoprene will help to keep your hands and feet as warm as possible in icy waters.
5 General Wild Swimming Tips
1. Do a bit of training first. When you take a dip for the first time, it can come as a shock to the system. Ease yourself in by improving your swimming fitness before and boost your cold water tolerance by repeating your exposure in the run up to your first big swim.
2. Don’t feel embarrassed. Cold water swimming can seem like an odd activity to do, with most people opting to do their swimming in the gym. So to get over the initial fear, trial taking a dip at the seaside and remind yourself of how fun it can be!
3. Focus on your breathing. Practicing some breathing techniques beforehand is always a good idea, then you can utilise what you’ve learned to prevent the shock from getting to you.
4. Ease yourself in. Although it may seem like a good idea to jump straight in rather than dragging out the unpleasant sensation, easing yourself in slowly helps your body to adjust to the change in temperature.
5. Don’t give up. Our final wild swimming tip is to not give up. You might struggle on your first time, but the more you try it, the easier it becomes.
And that wraps up our wild swimming guide! Feel like giving it a go? Follow our advice and tips so you can stay safe on your open water swimming adventures. If you’re looking for inspiration on where to give this a go, check out our blog on the top 10 most beautiful lakes in the world to get you started.