Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
Now is the Time to Swim
22, Jun, 2018
Share in the joy and adventure of swimming outdoors with these tips and inspiration from our Alpkiteers: the whys, hows, and wheres of wild swimming...
"We promise to strip and dip wherever we can"
...just part of the Outdoor Swimming Societies manifesto. Well, even if some of us prefer to strip and put on a wetsuit before we dip, there's no denying the pleasure that open water swimming, or wild swimming, can bring. From a plunge into a icy cool pool after a hot day on the hill to a 2 mile round trip out to remote islands, there's something for everyone when it comes to connecting with water and your inner dolphin... or fish, or lobster...
Why we think you should take the plunge in wild waters...
Swim now, glow later. Tingle all day long after an early morning dip. Or plunging into natural pools on a warm day after a walk, run or ride is ace.
A new view. Seeing those places you know and love from the water lets you look at them anew. Experience hidden spots away from the tow paths and car parks.
It can be quick. It doesn’t take long to feel alive with a quick dip - no long slogs necessary.
Incredible exercise. If you do swim for longer you’ll get fit quicker.
Getting dry. Warm and dry afterwards with a flask of hot chocolate could be the best thing ever.
The deep friendships you make. Swimming is a social activity, but can also be a great leveller … everyone is equal in the water
It’s a bit naughty. Grown-ups always said don’t swim in open water - now you get to decide for yourself…but stay safe!
Stay safe when wild swimming
Suzanna Swims has a quick few pointers to offer. If you are unsure or want to give it a try in more of a social situation, hunt around for local groups and guides in your area. (In fact, Suzanna just happens to run guided sessions from Alpkit Ambleside... convenient hey? Contact the Ambleside Store to get involved.)
1. Never swim alone.
It is more fun swimming with a friend! Always let someone know where you are.
2. Know your limits.
And don’t stay in too long. Beginners should allow one minute per degree of water.
3. Take appropriate clothing.
Warm gear for after your swim and suitable footwear – swim shoes make it easier to get in and out of the water.
4. Never jump straight in.
Get in slowly and inspect the area you intend to swim in for hidden hazards like rocks or branches.
5. Get the glory shot.
Always make sure you have an SD card in your camera!
Daring Deed Alert!
Alpkiteer Aleks Kashefi was really into running (you may remember him running from North - South of Europe), but when he went looking for new adventures he turned to swimming and faced his fear of open water. Read about how he got on here...
Why swim? with the Wild Swimming Brothers
Alpkiteers The Wild Swimming Brothers certainly aren't shy of hitting the open water... With the destinations they pick, stripping and dipping doesn't tend to be an option, so we've kitted them out with wetsuits for adventures such as their Into the Maelstrom project.
Often asked why he thought swimming was good for you, Jack Hudson of the Wild Swimming Brothers could always come up with a couple of reasons but always felt he missed something. So he jotted down 50 reasons to start wild swimming as a way of remembering them in the hope that he could give a better answer next time. We’ve pulled out a few, but you can see his full list on the Wild Swimming Brothers site. Of course, even these 50 reasons can be expanded to include your own...
What it does for your head…
It puts you at water level and allows you to experience the natural world on nature’s terms.
It causes a decrease in cortisol and other stress hormones.
It removes the headache of swimming lanes and bumping into devil may care sprint swimmers.
It breaks up your routine and gives you time to clear your head of humdrum, everyday business.
What it does for your body…
It teaches you to control your body temperature and improves your ability to manage the cold.
It boosts the immune system, increasing your white blood cell counts. The cold water acts a mild antagonist, activating and training your immune system.
It immerses you in cold and allows less strained movement, soothing any vestigial muscular aches.
It shuffles your exercise regime. Physically, the act of wild swimming puts you in an environment you’re not used to. This adds an element of fun and exploration that can encourage you to do more exercise.
What it does for your heart…
It instills a sense of adventure in you, taking you down the road less travelled and gives you a taster of the pioneer spirit.
It enhances your knowledge of biodiversity – travelling down waterways you’re much more likely to encounter rare flora and fauna.
After swimming in rivers, ponds, tarns and lakes, it eventually brings you to the ocean. It’s hard not to fall further in love with our Blue Planet when you start dipping your toes in these colossal expanses.
It’s a good laugh.
Where to go wild swimming?
Fnding patches of blue on the OS map, hiking to them and hopping in is a great way to sprinkle some added spice onto your weekly adventure.
The Outdoor Swimming Society have a great crowd-sourced wild swimming map to give you some pointers too, check it out at wildswim.com then pack your dry bag and head off on a new adventure.
What to take and what to wear?
Well, in all honesty, you don't have to wear anything, but some discretion may be needed in these circumstances and we certainly wouldn't suggest it for the local Lido. That's the beauty of wild swimming, you can take as little as you want.
"You learn to love the Speedo. I used to be embarrassed in anything other than baggy board shorts – now I rock my Speedos with pride. This is the skimpy, unflattering uniform of all swimmers and you should enjoy being part of the tribe!" (Jack Hudson, Wild Swimming Brothers)
We'd recommend a pair of speedos or a swimming costume as a minimum. Some warm clothes to change into after the swim come in handy too, and why not a BruKit make yourself a nice warm drink when get out again. If you're in for longer periods or the water is particularly cold, we'd recommmend a wetsuit.
We have developed a range of wetsuits to cover most needs: from the Lotic suit which encourages a more natural swimming position, to the thermally lined Silvertip for particualrly cold waters. Alpkit Wetsuits... explore the whole range.
But before you go... get inspired by Kate Rew, Kari Furre, Katie Tunn and Al Humprheys
Terrapin Natural Swimming Wetsuit [Womens]Swimming suit designed to give a natural position in the water with maximum flexibility for a greater range of movement and uninhibited swimming action.£99.00
Terrapin Natural Swimming Wetsuit [Mens]Swimming suit designed to give a natural position in the water with maximum flexibility for a greater range of movement and uninhibited swimming action.£99.00
DryDock 50Tough and hardwearing 50 litre duffle holdall. Airline luggage friendly, with rucksack straps and waterproof construction, for protecting your gear as you haul it round the worldSale: £57.50Was: £59.00
Lotic Swimming Wetsuit [Mens]Fine-tuned to maximise comfort and time in the water, a combination of flexibility, thickness and stretch makes Lotic our best all-round wetsuit for swimming in open water.£145.00
Lotic Swimming Wetsuit [Womens]Fine-tuned to maximise comfort and time in the water, a combination of flexibility, thickness and stretch makes Lotic our best all-round wetsuit for swimming in open water£145.00
Airlok 35l35 litre roll-top drybag: silicone-coated ripstop nylon with fully-taped seams to keep your stuff dry when paddling, swimming, or getting rained on£17.00
Balance [Mens]Quite simply the best technical fabrics and uncomplicated design gives both form and function. Highly breathable, waterproof, low weight with a great cut£185.00
Silvertip Thermal Swimming Wetsuit [Womens]Increased buoyancy and thermally lined, Silvertip is the ideal wetsuit for swimming in cold water£195.00
GNPDGT Beach TowelGo Nice Places and Do Good Things with this 100% cotton comfy and cosy beach towel£15.00
ClipStainless steel 350ml flask for hot or cold fluids with a handy clip lid£13.75
Apogee Jacket [Womens]Packable and lightweight Primaloft Gold synthetic winter belay jacket made for low maintenance warmth and protection on those Scottish winter epics£160.00
BruKitAll-in-one cooking system requiring minimal setup, ideal for those grab-and-go adventures where everything you need fits into one pot£45.00