It is pretty tempting to think about visiting a river or a lake for your swim fix right now. Pools have closed their doors and open water swimming venues are saying, ‘not today’. If you love to swim just like me, wild swimming will have crossed your mind, which why you’re reading this. You’ve seen images of wild swimmers on Instagram, and the idea appeals, but what those pictures don’t share are the significant dangers of wild swimming. So, whilst we can wild swim, it is important to swim safe.
I’m a big safety advocate for swimming, especially in open water. When you open water swim at a designated venue, you have the comfort of buoys to follow, or the fact there is someone lifeguard trained not far away and a safety system in place. Wild swimming doesn’t have that, instead you need to judge the water the best you can. Here is some things to consider if you’re looking for wild swimming.
Wild swimming with a buddy
I either swim with someone or I have someone on the bank watching to make sure I’m okay. Never swim alone. Ever. Get into trouble and if you’re in a remote area, chances are nobody will be able to help you. I know that sounds quite extreme, but it’s true. Many people have got into difficulty wild swimming, this could be from not judging the water, the location, or specifically not fit for swimming.
Tow Float or throw rope
I know these images show me without a tow float, but my husband was on the side with a throw rope. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve been swimming in open water without a tow float! You will be seen by water users, and it is in the name, it’s a float, so if you really get into difficulty you have something to hold on to. Swimming without either, is not really an option if you’re looking for safe wild swimming.
Don’t assume it’s fine to swim in
Just because the water is still doesn’t mean it is necessarily safe to swim in. My best advice is using search out about a place before you go there. There are many local wild swimming groups on Facebook, where many will post about different locations. It is always good to post a question to see if others have swam there and gather more information. I did this when we visited this location in Derbyshire. You may even find some local open water swim groups meet up for wild swims, and it really is safety in numbers with this
Carry a whistle
Some Tow Floats allow you to carry stuff in the bag. In fact many do. I always like to attach a whistle to mine, just a precaution. It is a good way to alert attention should you be in a quiet area. I sometimes utilise the bag part of my tow float and put a few bits in there like my mobile phone – just in case.
The right swimming kit
I’ve already spoken about the importance of a tow float but also have the right kit ready for when you get out. I also sometimes like to swim with goggles on, purely because it stops water going in my eyes and restricting my view. I have Zoggs Predators which I swear by! They also have some great swimsuits if you like to do a skins swim over a wetsuit swim!
Cold shock from water
Have you been open water swimming? That’s the first thing. Don’t wild swim unless you are comfortable and confident in open water. Getting cold shock is no laughing matter, be sure to have all your warm items ready for you when you get out, and just gradually get in. No jumping. At all. Not just from a shock perspective, but you have no idea how deep the water is. It could be super deep and full of weeds which could tangle you, or it could be super shallow, which will result in injury
All the weeds
I got tangled in weeds when I went wild swimming, I was mid swim stroke. My legs and arms got tangled so bad I started to panic. Luckily I managed to calmly unwind the weed, but that is any issue many of us will discover when wild swimming. Best way around this, is not to do front crawl, keep with your calm breast stroke, if you start kicking about you’re more likely to get tangled. I have learnt my lesson with this one!
Is this water the safest?
When we visited Anchor Church for a wild swim, we had to walk a little way to get to it, as we walked we went passed the River Trent. My husband explained that sometimes swimmers meet up to swim this part, but when we walked by the current was strong. It would have been quite dangerous to swim in, but lucky my swim spot was completely still. With a current, you can easily get swept away by it, regardless of how confident you are swimming. I did nearly slip getting in due to the muddy bank, so it is important to be careful of any rocks of sharp edges. I like to wear waterproof shoes or socks, I like having that extra grip and security my feet are safe!
Whilst there are dangers to wild swimming, if done correctly and as safely as possible, it can be an invigorating experience. I’ve focused this post mainly around lake swimming rather than sea swimming, but there are still some key takeaway messages here.
*Post in collaboration with Zoggs UK