Getting started in open water

  • Getting Started

We understand that the idea of swimming in open water can be very daunting. However, to some it can be seen as exhilarating and a fantastic way to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. We want to make your first open water experience the best that it can be, so read on for our top tips of how to Get Started in open water.

When am I ready to try open water swimming?

Beyond Swim recommends that you are able to swim a couple hundred metres without stopping (for instance without touching the side of the pool or putting your feet down). You need to be comfortable in the deep end and we suggest that you are able to float on your back and rest if tired and also be able to tread water.

How do I find a safe place to swim?

Beyond Swim accredits venues to ensure they provide the best in class operation and safety, so that you can enjoy a great open water swimming experience. All of the venues listed on the Beyond Swim venue search page, have achieved one of two levels of accreditation. Find a Beyond Swim venue near you here.

What should I consider before getting into the water?

Here is a list of things that you should think about before entering the water. If you are swimming at a Beyond Swim accredited venue, don’t worry these things have already been checked!

  • Is the water quality regularly tested?
  • What is the process of knowing who is in and out of the water?
  • Will I be monitored in the water?
  • Is there quick and effective support if a swimmer wants it?
  • How do I call for help (what is the local recognised signal?)
  • What are the changing and showering arrangements?
  • Are there weeds in the water, if so where?
  • Where is the shallowest swimming course?
  • Are there any hazards in the water that I need to be aware of?
  • What is the water temperature

Prior to swimming at any open water venue, you should check that they have safety in place for your activity. This could be spotters on the side of the water, kayak’s or paddleboards, or a powerboat on the water. You may see these in any combination and this is dependant on the swimming course size, the number of swimmers in the water and the distance of swimmers away from the edge.

What kit do I need?

  1. Silicone hat
    • It’s vital that whenever you go swimming in open water you wear a brightly coloured silicone hat. Yes, you may look like a skittle but the hat will keep your head warm. More importantly it will make sure you’re easily visible in the water.
  2. Wetsuit
    • Wetsuits help to keep you warm, even in summer. The UK is not known for warm water temperatures. They also help make you buoyant, which is safer and helps you to swim faster. Practise in open water a few times before a race or big event. The wetsuit changes the position of your body in the water, so practise will help you get used to it. An ill-fitting suit can put you off as it makes you fight the water rather than swim. Wetsuits can be bought or hired online.
  3. Boots, gloves and socks
    • OK, these are three pieces of open water swimming kit but they do the same thing. In cold water you need to keep your hands and feet warm to avoid illness or injury. Lots of people wear boots, socks and gloves. Look for a balance between keeping warm and being able to swim properly. Shop staff will be able to advise you on what will best suit your needs.
  4. Goggles
    • Comfortable goggles area must-have piece of open water swimming kit. Goggles with a lot of rubber will increase your comfort. If the day is bright you might want to consider tinted or mirrored lenses. This will help block the sun and let you see more clearly.
  5. Lubricant or anti-chafe stick
    • A wetsuit can get uncomfortable during a long swim. It rubs against your skin and can create uncomfortable rashes. Lubricant or an anti-chafe stick can help. The sticks look like a stick of deodorant. They hold a wax-like substance that helps protect your skin from irritation. You apply the same way as deodorant. Both are available at specialist swim shops.

What should I do after my swim?

Beyond Swim recommends that after your swim you wash your hands as soon as you leave the water, and that you also rinse off your wetsuit, swimming costume and goggles. This is because there is always a risk of you coming into contact with a bug that might make you ill, so by rinsing your hands and your kit you will avoid this!

How clear is the water going to be?

The water will not be as clear as in a swimming pool, the water clarity will be different dependant on the open water swimming location. Your visibility in the water can be close to zero or better than in the pool. Low visibility in the water does not necessarily mean poor quality or unsuitability for swimming. Beyond Swim accredits venues to ensure they provide the best in class operation and safety, which includes regular water quality testing so that you can enjoy a great open water swimming experience. Find a Beyond Swim venue near you here.

How do I get used to the cold of the open water?

To begin with Beyond Swim recommends that you swim in open water with a wetsuit on, this will help to adjust to the cooler temperatures of open water. When you get to the water you should get into the water slowly and allow your body to adjust to the change in temperature prior to setting off on your swim.

What next?

Find a Beyond Swim venue

Discount every time you swim

The Beyond Swim pass allows you to get the best possible experience from open water swimming. Simply select your chosen Beyond Swim venue and you will receive a 20% discount off the venues PAYG swim price, every time you swim.