Wild Swimming | What is it? Where Can You Go? What Equipment Do You Need? Is It Safe?

Dive into the world of wild swimming with the help of this essential information for beginners

Wild swimming has been a hot topic for a few years now, finding itself in the media spotlight and growing in popularity across the UK . Why has this trend happened exactly? Well, wild swimming provides swimmers with the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of the open waters – something you obviously can’t do in enclosed swimming pools. With wild swimming, keen water goers can plunge themselves into lakes, rivers, and oceans; surrounding themselves in nature.

Wild swimming is so much more than a quick paddle though. It comes with numerous added benefits that can make this hobby incredibly worthwhile. It can help to boost your immune system, improve circulation and fitness, and act as a potential aid for mental health.

If wild swimming sounds like you’re kind of thing, then we have everything you need to know to get you started right here. From definitions of wild swimming to information on safety guidelines right on through to how you can join wild swimming groups, we’ve got you covered.

What Is Wild Swimming?

Wild swimming is essentially just swimming outdoors in natural spaces like seas, rivers, or lakes. It has recently seen a major rise in popularity as more and more people look to engage with the natural world.

Wild swimming is perhaps best done in the summer when many people like to seek escape from the sun in the shape of a lake or rock pool. Intrepid adventurers and people who don’t mind getting extra chilly, however, can wild swim all year round. Those into winter wild swimming will tell you a cold dip is more of a thrill, and can be evangelical about the refreshing and revitalising benefits. 

Why Go Wild Swimming?

When talking about wild swimming, being at one with nature is always a massive pull factor. This is what this pastime enables you to do. Having the chance to enter the open water with a minimal amount of clothing and equipment will give you a massive sense of freedom.

The benefits of diving into natural waters are enormous. Immersing yourself in cold water can soothe muscle soreness, help with depression, and give you a natural kick of endorphins.

Dipping into cold water is widely thought to strengthen mental constitution and physical wellbeing. After the initial dip, and the shock of the water’s usually lower temperature, advocates of wild swimming report a feeling of elation. Your body will start to adapt to the conditions, you’ll build up a tolerance, and, whisper it quietly, you’ll start to enjoy yourself.

Where Can You Go Wild Swimming?

Picking that perfect location can always be tricky, whether you’re trying to find a shady forest rockpool or a hidden picturesque waterfall. The Outdoor Swimming Society has created an interactive map that, in normal times, pinpoints wild swimming spots across the globe. It even allows you to contribute some of your own spots once you find them.

If you see wild swimming as that chance to get away from technology (many do), then why not do it the old-fashioned way. Just grab a map, a compass, and bring along a sense of adventure as you discover and enjoy natural bodies of water using your own intuition.

What To Wear

Advanced, confident, swimmers will feel right at home in the water wearing nothing but a pair of trunks or a swimsuit. If you’re starting off as a beginner though, it can be quite a daunting experience and you might feel more comfortable using some precautionary items (such as a floatation device). Wild swimming is meant to give you that element of freedom, but if you’re new to the scene and want to gradually ease yourself in there’s no shame in being a bit extra.

Three of the most commonly used bits of wild swimming gear are a wetsuit, a swimming hat, and goggles. These items will help you feel more comfortable in the water, and help you see clearer beneath the surface.

After these core items, you might fancy picking up some other helpful gear such as Neoprene swim boots and gloves. These will provide extra heat to your hands and feet while also giving you added protection in the water. Another item you may wish to pick up are ear plugs which can help you avoid ear infection and blockages (you can buy some earplugs here).

If you’re swimming alone, or going on a proper little wild swimming adventure, then you may wish to push the boat out and invest in a tow float. The RuckRaft, created by Above Below, is a simple, two-piece kit that can transform your rucksack into a raft to tow across the water. The streamline design and buoyancy means the RuckRaft will glide across the water even when loaded with 15kg of gear.

Is Wild Swimming Safe?

Any activity in natural, open, stretches of water will always come with some risks and wild swimming is no different. Some basic safety precaution needs to be taken, and that comes down to the individual. By following safety guidelines, and acting responsibly, you’re giving yourself the best chance of staying safe. Use common sense and act with a clear head.

Some Safety Guidelines

Each body of water comes with its own set of dangers and risks, and it’s important to ensure you follow a checklist process before getting into the water and when inside it. Hazards like broken glass or rubbish can be found in rivers and lakes. Wild swimming in places home to weeverfish, they can be found all over Europe, poses a risk because the fish’s venomous spines can be extremely painful if they pierce your skin.

The top tips for open water swimming are there to be followed. They can be downloaded in full from the National Water Safety Forum.

  • Get to know where you are swimming and check the conditions before going in.
  • Make sure you are properly equipped.
  • Beware of the cold.
  • Make sure someone knows where you have gone and why, and that you have the means to call for help, especially in remote locations.
  • Take note of local safety advice and respect the countryside, landowners and other users.

How Do You Meet Other Wild Swimmers?


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Swimming alone arguably isn’t as fun as it is when swimming with others. If you want to meet other wild swimmers, then all you have to do is a little bit of searching. There is an abundance of wild swimming groups in the UK, which hold regular events, and offer you the chance to swim with some company.

The Outdoor Swimming Society, with over 25,000 members, is a great place to find like-minded wild swimmers (you can become a member here). It’s the biggest wild swimming group in the UK. The society is free to join and holds events all over the country.

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