Choosing an open water swimming club


All signed up for the Arla Great North Swim? Congratulations! We’ve got a feeling you won’t look back. Open water swimming is a great social activity that comes with all sorts of health benefits - both physical and mental.

But while you might be able to swim your chosen distance in your local pool without breaking a sweat, open water swimming can feel a bit different. There’s the lower temperature for a start, plus the weather, currents, other swimmers and visibility all play their part. It can take a bit of adjustment, but perseverance pays off: many seasoned open water swimmers vow to never go back to pool swimming.

So, if you’ve never swum in open water before, what’s the best way to get started? We’d suggest trying an open water swimming club to build your skills. Trust us - you’ll be open water confident in no time!         

How to choose an open water swimming club

Despite the recent boom in open water swimming, wild swim communities can still feel a bit ‘underground’. This can add to the sense of camaraderie but, on the other hand, can make finding local groups tricky.

There are lots of private Facebook groups out there, so a search for a club near you might be a good start. However, be smart: make sure you’re happy with the set-up before you pop along - especially if it’s your first time and you’re not overly confident in the water.

The Royal Life Saving Society has five top tips for wild swimming:
-Plan your day
-Make sure you have the right equipment
-Take a buddy with you
-Know your limits
-Know how to stay safe and get help

If you’re feeling nervous, a good stepping stone to wild swimming might be to try your local lido first. They’re outdoors but they’re also usually fully lifeguarded, so they’re a fantastic way to build your confidence before you’re ready to take the plunge into open water.

UK open water swimming clubs

If you’re in the South West, check out Sea Swim Cornwall, who run a variety of swims and safety courses all year round.

West Reservoir Centre in Hackney is worth a visit for Londoners looking to try open water swimming for the first time. Sessions are fully supervised by their safety team and children aged 14+ can swim if accompanied by an adult.

There’s no shortage of stunning beaches in Wales, making it the perfect spot for starting your open water swimming adventures. Swim Pembrokeshire has got plenty of options for beach swimming with details on where to meet, what to bring, and ability level guidance for each venue.

If you’re closer to North Wales, Anglesey Outdoors runs guided wild swimming sessions in groups of up to seven people, supervised by instructors and beach lifeguards. You can find a list of locations on the Wild Swimming Anglesey website.

On the other side of the Irish Sea, Northern Ireland has some lovely locations for wild swimming. A good start might be Splash NI Water Park in Moneymore for when you’re first dipping your toes in the water. They offer regular sessions at this former basalt quarry.

Stroke by Stroke in the North East has a list of recommended locations on the River Tyne, Ellerton Lake and Longsands Beach - plus, they offer 1-2-1 coaching, guided swims and group coaching.

Yorkshire swim fanatics can head down to Leeds Dock for one of the organised open water sessions on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Swims are covered by their network of highly experienced lifeguards as well as state-of-the-art safety systems.

North Yorkshire Water Park also offers fully lifeguarded open water swim circuits on weekends and during the school holidays for anyone aged 12+.

Manchester-based Uswim runs regular open water swimming events at Salford Quays and Boundary Water Park in Cheshire. They also offer intros to cold water to prepare you for those lower winter temperatures.

There are plenty of breathtaking spots in Scotland for open water swimming. Willowgate Activity Centre in Perth is a great introduction for beginners. Their almost daily sessions in their riverside lagoon are suitable for all abilities.

For the Midlanders, Rutland Water offers weekly swim sessions throughout the summer season. They offer a 250m course for recreational swimmers and a 500m course for those with a bit more confidence and experience. Fully endorsed by Beyond Swim, they follow strict safety procedures for all sessions.

But this is just a tiny taster of swimming clubs across the UK - there are literally thousands to choose from! You’ll find lists of clubs and tips for best practice on sites such as Swim England, Swim Wales, Scottish Swimming and Swim Ulster.

Happy swimming, all!



Sign up to our newsletter

Be the first to find out about Great Swim events

Sign up now


comments powered by Disqus