Open Water Swimming Safety

How to stay safe swimming in open water.


Open water swimming is experiencing a renaissance in the UK, swimming in open water such as lakes, lochs, rivers and the sea is popular, exciting, challenging and very rewarding.

Open water swimming is a very accessible sport you don’t need to be super speedy or stylish, but it is different to pool swimming and you do need to be a competent swimmer and aware of your own limitations and surroundings.

Stay safe swimming in open water by following some simple guidelines:


  • Plan your route and your entry and exit (egress) points, ensure you can get in and out again safely. Things to consider include: obstacles, underwater obstructions, high banks, weeds, environmentally protected areas.
  • Check the water temperature and enter the water in a controlled manner to reduce the effects of cold water shock and panic.
  • Check the weather; the water can change rapidly depending on the weather conditions, persistent rain could lead to flooding or swift currents, wind can produce challenging waves. Be aware, short choppy waves can make it difficult to catch your breath;
  • Be aware of moving water; there may be currents in lakes, rivers and the sea.
  • Check the water bed; the floor of the lake, river bed may be unstable, too soft to stand  or too sharp.
  • Never jump in without checking the depth! Check for obstructions and weeds.
  • The feeling of space in open water can be over whelming for some people; you may need to acclimatise to this.
  • Never swim alone, take a swimming buddy or spotter.
  • Beware of other water users and avoid boating areas, remember they may not be able to see you.
  • Increase your visibility to others; wear a bright hat, tow a swimmers buoy / float or swim with kayak support.
  • Do not swim after a meal or drinking alcohol
  • Ensure you have the right open water swimming equipment; consider using a swim wetsuit for warmth and buoyancy
  • We recommend attending a beginners introduction to open water swimming course if you are new to open water swimming.
  • Do not disturb wildlife and check that your chosen area is not environmentally protected.
  • Check Water Quality; the environment agency website and local sites are a good place to start.



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