Open Water Swim Essentials - 8 Tips for a Great Swim

This article was written by the team at Zoggs.

Here at Zoggs, we are big advocates of swimming, and since the pandemic, open water swimming has exploded. We have seen many of our pool swimmers take up open water swimming. With this, we know nothing beats the feeling of open water swimming and that post-swim high you get from time spent in nature’s wild spaces. It is life-affirming and one of the best ways to expand your swimming horizons. But how do you stay safe in the water? It is a very different environment from your local swimming pool. Let us find out how to stay safe by diving into our top safety tips for swimming in open waters.

Below we list our essential top tips to ensure you have a safe open water swim and a smooth transition from pool to open water.

1. Check local conditions

Understanding the local water conditions is one of the most important steps for staying safe in open waters. Make sure you ask about (or look up) the currents, the water temperature and the tidal conditions. Likewise, check the weather forecast so you have a good idea of what to expect on the day of your open water swim. Local swimmers/groups and social media can be a great place to start.

2. Check water quality

Beautiful swimming locations do not automatically mean that the water is safe to swim in. Checking water quality is an imperative part of your open water swim. On the day you plan to swim, check the surface of the water for any scum that is brown, blue or green, and for murky or milky water. They can be signs of a bloom, so stay out of the water if you are in any doubt.

Look for blue-green algae advisory signs at your swimming spot and for warnings online – they are often posted alongside water quality data.

3. Swim in a group

It can be tempting to swim alone and enjoy a wild swimming spot all to yourself but do not take the risk. Even with the best preparation and fitness, accidents can happen in the water and escalate rapidly. Swimming in pairs or with a group can be just as enjoyable and the safest option!

4. Make sure you are dressed for the part

Ensure you are prepared for your open water swim by selecting the right swimming gear. Whether the water is warm or cold, investing in a flexible and warm wetsuit or open water thermal lined swimwear will keep you comfortable.

Swim shoes are also handy for rocky or uneven entry points, while light-adaptive polarised goggles are perfect for long swims with changing light conditions.

5. Visibility whilst in the water

Ensure that you are easily visible in the water to aid surface support and other water users. Wearing a vibrant swimming cap and using a bright safety buoy makes it effortless to be spotted. This is crucial, particularly if you are swimming in an area with potential boat activity or in rough waters.

Related: Jump In – 10 Pieces of Essential Kit for Wild Swimming.

6. Do not panic!

Maintaining a calm mindset in moments of panic is crucial for making sound decisions. During these times, our instincts take over and even a minor issue can quickly become life-threatening. Understanding how your brain reacts during panic is essential to enhance water safety.

By preparing yourself and practicing calming techniques at home, you can effectively manage anxiety and prevent it from escalating. The key is to identify triggers, practice breathing exercises, and stop anxiety in its tracks before it spirals into panic.

For instance, if you encounter weeds or any potential panic-inducing situations while swimming, avoid frantic movements. Instead, focus on steady breathing, hold onto your buoy for reassurance, and calmly float until you regain composure. Remember that you can paddle and slowly swim back to shore.

If you are a nervous swimmer, opt for shallow water near the shore to ease your worries. This way, you can simply stand up and exit the water if anxiety arises. The knowledge that you have an easy escape route will make a significant difference.

7. Getting warm after your open water swim

Ensure you stay warm after your swim with these essential items in your kit bag: warm clothing, a woolly hat and gloves, a cosy changing robe, and a flask of hot drink. Remember to wait until you are fully warm before driving home and consider stopping at a nearby café for some food and drink.

8. Discover the secret to warming up after a cold swim!

Indulge in a hot drink and a delicious homemade treat. Not only does it bring the community together, but it also fuels your body’s natural warming process. Do not miss out on the post-swim euphoria - make sure you refuel with a warm drink and snack!

One of the best things about open water swimming is exploring new wild spaces and destinations. Check out these 5 unique swimming spots to inspire your next open water swim.