The winter season has become the setting for a popular outdoor activity, with lakes and shores across the country welcoming cold water swimmers even on the coldest of days. While some take to dip as a festive celebration or to welcome the new year, many individuals and groups practice cold water swimming throughout the year.
To those who have yet to experience the rush of a brief swim in wild waters, it can be hard to see the appeal. However, with increasing evidence of health benefits and communities growing around local bodies of water, cold water swimming is no longer an anomaly and is, instead, very much a mainstream outdoor activity.
Before you set out to embrace the culture of cold water swimming, however, four essential safety considerations are advised to all newcomers.
Beginners are seldom advised to take to the water on their own. While the prospect of enjoying a cold water swim with friends or a local group is generally more enjoyable as a shared experience, it is also a safety precaution.
Wild waters, especially seafronts, pose risks even without low temperatures. Tides and waves are very easily, and often, underestimated. As such, having an extra pair of eyes, or preferably more, on an individual as they swim is a great idea for those just starting out.
There is no need to rush with cold water swimming and many experienced swimmers say that the journey begins at home. Cold showers can be a great way to gradually adjust oneself to low temperatures and reduce your body’s initial shock reaction to chilly water.
Once out in the wild, be sure to step into the wild water slowly, allowing your body to acclimatise as you go. Rushing in as an alternative puts your body at risk of greater shock.
Cold water swimming celebrates the thrill and cleanse of a chilly dip but, once out of the water, priorities change. It is then the ceremony of warming up that becomes the best part of the day. To warm up, swimmers should bring along thick and insulated clothing, with many choosing cosy changing robes, that are certain to help them both dry off and warm up simultaneously. Changing robes, as the name suggests, also offers discretion for swapping clothing out.
While festive dips will often see groups jump into a cafe for a hot drink afterwards, those who head out at other times might want to bring their own insulated flask too, giving themselves a warm beverage to help recuperate.
Once confidence has been gained, swimmers can be inclined to push themselves further. However, with cold water swimming, this can be a dangerous endeavour, with most groups recommending that swimmers stay close to the land.
This is because things can change dramatically in wild waters, especially when bodies are working hard to keep themselves warm. As such, swimmers should stay close to the land and ensure they always make it easy for themselves to exit the water.