Exploring the waters - Top tips for a Wild Swim Safari
Over the past few years Wild Swimming has become unbelievably popular within the adventure community and it's a great way to get your adventure fix right on your doorstep. With this in mind, we thought it was important to bring Wild Swimming to this years Armchair Adventure Festival and who better to lead a Wild Swim Safari at the event than aquatic adventurers and authors of the Wild Swimming Walks series Sophie Pierce and Matt Newbury.
In this blog they share their tops for what you should think about when planning a wild swim...
A majestic natural arch called London Bridge (pictured above)
There’s nothing quite like the excitement of heading off into some beautiful natural waters for a wild swim. We’ve all seen the pictures on social media. People floating in lagoons full of crystal-clear aquamarine waters, swimming through natural arches or splashing in mountain rivers. Wild swimming can take you into amazing wildernesses where you can have truly transformative experiences, but these wonderful adventures don’t just happen.
Idylls need planning! Knowing a little bit about weather conditions and tides, for example, can make the difference between an unforgettable swim and one that turns out to be a bit of a damp squib.
This is particularly true of the sea, where you want flat calm for the best swimming conditions. The main things to look at are the winds and the tides. With winds, you don’t want the wind blowing from the sea onto the beach, as it will create waves and messy sea. (this is called an onshore wind). A lot of people don’t understand wind terminology. An easterly wind is blowing from the east. So, for example, if a beach faces East, the last thing you want is an easterly wind, as it will disrupt the water, as it will be blowing directly at you as you enter the sea.
So, let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’re planning a swim at an East-facing beach, for example Torquay. One of our favourite adventures is to swim through a majestic natural arch called London Bridge. Because the beach faces East, we need a west or southwesterly wind for optimum conditions. Generally speaking, it’s best too if the wind is under 10 knots. So if we looked at the forecast and it was an 25 knot Easterly there would be absolutely no point in bothering with the swim. However, if it was a 10 knot south westerly we’d be straight into our bathers and at it!
The other thing of course is the tide. Taking London Bridge as an example again, it is a very rocky beach so we would need to swim at high water to avoid an annoying scramble over lots of rocks to get to the water. At other sandy beaches this is not an issue, if you can enter the water at any state of the tide. But on adventure swims, where you might be exploring say a cave or another interesting rock feature, the amount of water makes a huge difference.
For lake and river swimming it is far simpler, all you really need to take account of is general weather conditions as you would when planning any day out. The only potential issue for rivers is rain, as it also is for the sea. If there has been a lot of rain then rivers may well contain a lot of run-off, as will the sea.
So, with a little planning, you too can have life-enhancing swims in beautiful places! See you in the water!
Here are a few of our top tips
Research conditions for your swim spot – looking at things like winds, tides, and currents
Go with a friend or friends, and look out for local swimming groups who will be delighted to have you along
Check the exit point before getting in
Get out before you start feeling really cold
Make sure you pack lots of cakes to share after the swim
Just paddle around off the beach, go exploring, who knows what might be around the next corner?
Spend a fortune on kit – all you need is bathers and goggles (and even the bathers aren’t compulsory!)
Forget to pick up some rubbish while you’re there
Swim after drinking alcohol
Forget to buy a good guide book, we highly recommend the Wild Swimming Walks Series!
So there are a few tips to get you started. If you'd like to know more why not grab a book from the Wild Swimming Walk Series.. Matt and Sophie will also be doing a talk on wild swimming and leading a Swim Safari at The Armchair Adventure Festival. Early Bird tickets are available until the end of May. Grab yours here while you still can.