Over the past few years, wild swimming has been experiencing a dramatic surge in popularity, with more people than ever now choosing to take the plunge in lakes, rivers and the Ocean for a refreshing dip and a spot of exercise, to boot.
Young or old, wetsuits or swimwear, it seems that it has fast become an appealing and inviting activity that we all want to take part in – even if we haven’t quite worked up the courage to dip our toes in during the winter months.
Whether you are thinking about taking the plunge or are already a daily dipper, there are plenty of reasons why starting your day with a morning swim or diving in after a long day of work is a good idea – and best of all, it couldn’t be easier to get involved.
Here, Lewis Brown, Schools Outreach Officer for Wales and a keen wild swimmer himself, takes you through the hows and whys of becoming a regular wild swimmer. Why not get started today?
What Do You Need?
The purist open water swimmers out there will tell you that there are only three things anyone needs to take part in wild swimming: swimwear, a swimming hat and a pair of goggles. Over my past few years of wild swimming, I have met swimmers who choose to wear wetsuits and fins, while some don’t wear anything at all! But fundamentally, this is an outdoor pursuit that requires very little money to get started, with free swimming spots available to you all over UK. We are an island nation, with a spectacular coastline and numerous inland waterways– so luckily for us, there is always somewhere to get in and swim.
Where should I swim, and with whom?
Since the boom in wild swimming the United Kingdom has led the way with advice and support for those looking to take the plunge. Thanks to organisations such as ‘The Outdoor Swimming Society’ (OSS) wild swimming has a representative voice and a wealth of publicly accessible knowledge on the topic (https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/). With their ‘Swim Map’ the OSS have created a platform for locals to share their favourite swimming spots and through social media they encourage swimmers to meet each other on local swimming groups’ pages.
Why Should You Try It?
Wild Swimming is all about harnessing that sense of adventure and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Away from the confines of lane ropes and the inviting warm waters of your local leisure centre swimming pool, wild swimming is a journey into the unknown. Whether it’s swimming in murky brown waters on moorland or plunging into the icy sea during dark winter evenings, there is always a way that the environment can challenge you. Of course, you don’t have to go to such great lengths to be a wild swimmer though; a refreshing dip in the Ocean is enough. Each swimmer picks their own battles, and the challenges you will face vary from person to person.
Even so, regardless of the creeping doubts from our inner voices, wild swimmers get in anyway, and whilst towelling down after your swim, you realise that you have overcome the fears and concerns you had beforehand. You did it! This sense of empowerment and achievement is addictive, often driving wild swimmers to plunge into the temperate British water day after day, all year round.
What Will You Get From It?
To connect with nature. Each time we enter the water as wild swimmers, we’re not just jumping into a body of water – we are entering a habitat. Surrounded by the flora and fauna of that environment, whether freshwater or marine – we are immersing ourselves into another world. Those who swim in rivers and lakes may have encountered ducks, freshwater fish species or even otters – whereas if you have swum in the sea, you might have encountered kelp, jellyfish, marine fish species, seals or even dolphins. The best thing about swimming in a wild habitat is that you never know what creatures you might come across on your next swim – but each time you are lucky enough to see wildlife, you get the unique perspective of being in the water amongst it – and you will never forget those swims.
It’s not just about the animals you may encounter though, and spending time in, on or near the water has been shown to offer a host of additional benefits. From reducing stress and improving mood to boosting your overall wellbeing, wild swimming can have an immensely positive impact on your overall health. And, as we all know, getting a bit of extra exercise is always a good idea.
If you do decide to take the plunge, pause for a moment to take in the sights, sounds and smells around you and really immerse yourself in the experience; you’re guaranteed to leave feeling replenished, rejuvenated and refreshed.
Thanks to the kind, friendly and supportive attitude of wild swimmers, this really is an activity for all. So why not challenge yourself, be adventurous and give it a go?