Adventure Life - Zone3 Open Water Swimming

Life is short; and the wild is a vast and beautiful place. Bicycles have allowed me to explore and embrace many new wild places and adventures; but this year I came to the realisation that I should also turn to some new exciting sports – to widen my wild horizons. Open water swimming is my most recent endeavour…

Living on an island has always given me a fond association with the sea and open water. I was never much of a swimmer and never liked the confinement of swimming pools, but I have always been a keen sailor and sea kayaker. Now, living just a stone's throw from the beach, I decided that open water swimming could present a great cross-training sport.

With the cycling season coming to a close in autumn, I knew that if I was to dive into the world of open water wild swims, I would need some kit – namely a good swimming wetsuit, and protection for my extremities. I opted for the great value Zone3 Vision Wetsuit, wetsuit booties, and wetsuit gloves.

Kitted up… I headed out into the surf.

Open water swimming is vastly different from pool swimming: comparing the two is a bit like comparing riding on the open road to turbo training. While I find pool swimming rather monotonous and dull, sea swimming is exhilarating, challenging, and full of random variables.

Out in the open water, you are fighting against nature: pushing against the waves, tide, and wind in order to make progress towards a distant landmark or buoy. There are no lap counters or clocks, but just a glimpse of your horizon every time your head surfaces above the waves. This is my kind of sport – adventurous, and embracing the unknown elements.

Top Tips

I recommend giving open water swimming a try, especially if you are looking for an alternative challenge in the autumn and spring months. There are a few things that I would advise though…

(1) I was incredibly glad that I had invested in a decent wetsuit and protective wear ¬– I would not recommend trying open water swimming at this time of year unless you do too. The cold-water shock is enough to make your heart rate soar the second you enter the water, and the wind chill on emerging will soon sap you of any body heat, if you are not well prepared.

(2) Always swim with a spotter if you are in open water – someone that can stand or walk on the beach and make sure you are okay and out of trouble.

(3) Swim at high tide and slack water if possible – you are then more likely to be able to stand up on the sandbanks if you need to, and the slack tide will mean you don't get carried off-shore.

(4) Swim with an onshore wind to keep you closer to the beach

(5) Swim parallel to the beach rather than out-and-back, so that you are a shorter distance from land in the event of an emergency.


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