Get into Wild Swimming

By Alpkit

"We promise to strip and dip wherever we can" is just part of the Outdoor Swimming Society's manifesto.

Well, even if some of us prefer to strip and put on a wetsuit before we dip, there's no denying the pleasure that wild swimming (or open water swimming, if you prefer) can bring. From a plunge into an icy cold pool after a hot day on the hill to a two mile round trip out to remote islands, there's something for everyone when it comes to connecting with water and your inner dolphin... or fish, or lobster...

The benefits of wild swimming

Why we think you should take the plunge in wild waters...

  • Swim now, glow later: Tingle all day long after an early morning dip. Or plunging into natural pools on a warm day after a walk, run or ride is ace.

  • A new view: Seeing those places you know and love from the water lets you look at them anew. Experience hidden spots away from the tow paths and car parks.

  • It can be quick: It doesn’t take long to feel alive with a quick dip - no long slogs necessary.

  • Incredible exercise: If you do swim for longer you’ll get fit quicker.

  • Getting dry: Warm and dry afterwards with a flask of hot chocolate could be the best thing ever.

  • The deep friendships you make: Swimming is a social activity, but can also be a great leveller… everyone is equal in the water!

  • It’s a bit naughty: Grown-ups always said don’t swim in open water - now you get to decide for yourself…but stay safe!

We asked the Wild Swimming Brothers why they think you should swim

They certainly aren't shy of hitting the open water, but when asked why they love swimming so much they can never think of a good answer! Wild Swimming Brother Jack Hudson jotted down 50 reasons to start wild swimming in the hope that he could give a better answer next time. Here are a few...

What it does for your head…
  • It puts you at water level and allows you to experience the natural world on nature’s terms.

  • It causes a decrease in cortisol and other stress hormones.

  • It removes the headache of swimming lanes and bumping into devil-may-care sprint swimmers.

  • It breaks up your routine and gives you time to clear your head of humdrum, everyday business.

What it does for your body…
  • It teaches you to control your body temperature and improves your ability to manage the cold.

  • It boosts the immune system, increasing your white blood cell counts. The cold water acts a mild antagonist, activating and training your immune system.

  • It immerses you in cold and allows less strained movement, soothing any vestigial muscular aches.

  • It shuffles your exercise regime. Physically, the act of wild swimming puts you in an environment you’re not used to. This adds an element of fun and exploration that can encourage you to do more exercise.

What it does for your heart…
  • It instils a sense of adventure in you, taking you down the road less travelled and gives you a taster of the pioneer spirit.

  • It enhances your knowledge of biodiversity – travelling down waterways you’re much more likely to encounter rare flora and fauna.

  • After swimming in rivers, ponds, tarns and lakes, it eventually brings you to the ocean. It’s hard not to fall further in love with our blue planet when you start dipping your toes in these colossal expanses.

  • It’s a good laugh.

How to stay safe when wild swimming

Suzanna Swims has a quick few pointers to offer. If you are unsure or want to give it a try in more of a social situation, hunt around for local groups and guides in your area. In fact, Suzanna just happens to run guided sessions from Alpkit Ambleside - contact the Ambleside Store to get involved.

1. Never swim alone

It is more fun swimming with a friend! Always let someone know where you are.

2. Know your limits

And don’t stay in too long. Beginners should allow one minute per degree of water.

3. Take appropriate clothing

Warm gear for after your swim and suitable footwear – swim shoes make it easier to get in and out of the water.

4. Never jump straight in

Get in slowly and inspect the area you intend to swim in for hidden hazards like rocks or branches.

5. Get the glory shot.

Always make sure you have an SD card in your camera!

Where to go wild swimming?

Finding patches of blue on the OS map, hiking to them and hopping in is a great way to sprinkle some added spice onto your weekly adventure.

The Outdoor Swimming Society have a great crowd-sourced wild swimming map to give you some pointers. Check it out, pack your dry bag and head off on a new adventure!

What to take and wear wild swimming?

Well, in all honesty, you don't have to wear anything! But some discretion may be needed in these circumstances and we certainly wouldn't suggest it for the local Lido... That's the beauty of wild swimming, you can take as little as you want.

"You learn to love the Speedo. I used to be embarrassed in anything other than baggy board shorts – now I rock my Speedos with pride. This is the skimpy, unflattering uniform of all swimmers and you should enjoy being part of the tribe!" - Jack Hudson, Wild Swimming Brothers

We'd recommend a pair of speedos or a swimming costume as a minimum. Some warm clothes to change into after the swim come in handy too, and why not a BruKit to make yourself a nice warm drink when get out again. If you're in for longer periods, or the water is particularly cold, we'd definitely recommend a wetsuit.

We have developed a range of wetsuits (Women's | Men's) to cover most needs: from the Lotic (which encourages a more natural swimming position), to the thermally-lined Silvertip for particularly cold waters. You can explore our whole range here.

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