Open Water Swimming Safety Guide

Transitioning from the pool to open water swimming can be intimidating, but with a few simple safety measures, you can enjoy the pleasures of swimming outdoors. The main difference you'll notice is the temperature, as open water is generally cooler than a pool, ranging from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius in summer. Don't be discouraged by colder water; you can opt for a specially designed swimming wetsuit that provides warmth, buoyancy, and unrestricted movement. Alternatively, many swimmers choose a standard swim suit and gradually acclimate to the water's temperature before starting their swim.

Choose a Suitable Location

You can engage in wild swimming in rivers, lakes, and the sea throughout the country. While official swimming venues are increasingly available, most swimming spots are in their natural state and unsupervised. The exception to this would be patrolled beaches, where lifeguards can provide advice on swimming conditions.

Find a Swim Group

If you're swimming in an area without lifeguard supervision, always swim with a companion and inform others of your expected return time. Plan your swim in advance, taking into consideration factors such as currents, tides, and the weather forecast.

When searching for a swimming location, it's beneficial to connect with other open water swimmers in your area. Social media platforms like Facebook are great for finding passionate groups of like-minded swimmers who share tips and advice. Local knowledge is invaluable for finding safe swim spots, and you may even find fellow swimmers to join you.

dry bags

Take it Easy

Enter the water gradually, allowing your body to adjust. Sudden immersion in colder water can lead to reduced blood flow to your extremities and a reflexive increase in your breathing rate. Jumping in might seem tempting, but it increases the risk of cold water shock and potential collisions with submerged objects. It's safest to take it slowly.

Stay Visible for Safety

Visibility is crucial in open water, especially when sharing the area with boats and other water users. Wear a brightly colored hat and consider using an inflatable tow float swim buoy. This buoy serves as a clear indicator that a swimmer is present and can also provide support during rest breaks. Some models, like the Swim Secure Tow Donut, even have a waterproof compartment to keep your valuables safe while you swim. Inflatable dry bags are also available to carry your belongings during your swim.

tow donut

Begin with shorter swims and gradually increase the distance as you gain more experience and adapt to the conditions. When in doubt, start small and progress at your own pace.

Know Your Limits

Always stop your swim if you start to get cold or you feel yourself getting tired, both are signs that your core temperature could be dropping. Make sure you have some warm clothes waiting for you on shore as you will continue to cool down after you have exited the water as blood returns to your cooler arms and legs. A hot drink at the end of a swim is a great idea but avoid alcohol as this will cause you to lose heat.

  • Wear appropriate swimwear or wetsuits for the water temperature.
  • Swim in locations suited for open water swimming.
  • Swim with a companion and inform others of your plans.
  • Enter the water gradually to acclimate to the temperature.
  • Stay visible with bright hats and inflatable tow float swim buoys.
  • Consider using inflatable dry bags for carrying your belongings.
  • Start with shorter swims and progress gradually.
  • Stop swimming if you feel cold or tired.
  • Have warm clothes and a hot drink ready for after your swim.

Here is a quick recap of the above guidelines: