Top 20 Cold Water Swimming Tips

November 17, 2023
5 min read

Embarking on a wild swimming adventure in our refreshing lake here is an exhilarating experience, but safety is key. As you dip into the cold waters, remember to embrace caution and mindfulness.

To help you make the most of your wild swimming sessions here at Divers Cove, we've gathered our 20 essential tips to ensure your enjoyment while prioritising safety. From proper warm-up techniques to staying hydrated, we've got you covered. 

So, dive in and savour the invigorating thrill of wild swimming responsibly in the heart of Surrey at our Divers Cove.

1) Know your limits

When it comes to winter swimming, it's crucial to be mindful of your capabilities and how your body responds to cold water. It's essential to gauge your comfort level and swim within your limits, ensuring that you don't push yourself too hard. 

Whether it's a swim in the serene waters of Divers Cove or a dip in a brisk river, knowing when to exit the water is vital if the cold becomes too intense. 

So, whilst enjoying the refreshing experience and health benefits of winter swimming, always prioritise safety and listen to your body's signals.

2) Gradual Acclimatisation

If you're looking to take the plunge and try winter swimming, gradual acclimatisation is the key. Dipping your toes into colder waters can be daunting, but it's all about allowing your body to adjust. We’d recommend taking dips at first, then shorter swims. Or, if you’re completely new to cold water exposure, you could start out by alternating hot and cold showers to practise cold water therapy in your own home. 

At Divers Cove, we understand the importance of this process and offer the perfect environment for your cold water therapy journey. Our Introduction to Open Water Swimming Courses are designed to ease you into the experience, helping you build confidence and resilience in the chilly depths. For those seeking a more holistic approach, our Wim Hof Fundamentals courses provide a comprehensive understanding of cold exposure and breathing techniques.

3) Choose a Supervised Swimming Venue

Whilst it can be tempting to take the plunge into any open body of water, we’d strongly recommend choosing a supervised venue with open trained lifeguards to ensure that you stay safe in the water. Opting for a supervised swimming venue not only guarantees the presence of trained lifeguards but also ensures that the water is regularly monitored for any potential hazards. Whether you are a seasoned cold water swimmer or just starting out, having the peace of mind that comes with a supervised venue can make your swimming experience all the more enjoyable. 

For those local to Surrey, our safe swimming venue is an ideal place to begin your winter aquatic adventure.

4) Check Local Regulations

It is crucial to be aware of the local regulations regarding wild swimming as they are in place to ensure the safety of both swimmers and the environment. Ignoring these regulations can not only result in fines or legal consequences but also pose a risk to the natural habitat and wildlife. By staying informed and following the rules, swimmers can enjoy the activity responsibly and help preserve the beauty of the natural swimming spots for future generations.

5) Swim With a Friend

Remember to follow the buddy system and never swim alone, especially in cold water where the risks are higher. If you're an open water swimmer in Surrey and don't have a buddy to swim with, consider joining a supervised venue like Divers Cove. Here, you'll find open water trained lifeguards and a supportive community of fellow swimmers. It's not just about safety – swimming with a friend or in a group can also make your experience even more enjoyable and social. 

6) Check the Weather

Before embarking on your exhilarating open water swim, take a moment to check the weather forecast, especially during the winter months. While the call of the water may be strong, it's crucial to avoid swimming in extreme conditions. 

7) Know the Water Temperature

Similar to checking the weather forecast, we could also urge you to check the water temperature before you swim - as this can greatly affect your ability to swim and stay comfortable.

8) Wear a Wetsuit…

Unless you’re extremely experienced in cold water therapy and winter swimming, we’d strongly recommend wearing a wetsuit to improve insulation and buoyancy. This is especially important throughout the winter months. 

9) …And the Rest of your Winter Swimming Equipment

Some of the other essential equipment for winter swimming includes neoprene coloured winter swim hat, winter swimming gloves and socks, a warm changing robe, a tow float and decent ear plugs. 

10) Be Aware of Cold Water Shock

Be aware of the potential for cold water shock and acclimate slowly to prevent sudden gasping or panic. 

11) Warm-Up Exercises

To warm up your body before stepping into the cold water, consider trying light exercises on the shore. This will help you reap the benefits of cold water further as this can improve your circulation. 

12) Enter Gradually

Enter the water slowly to give your body time to adjust to the temperature. To do this, enter the water step by step and consider splashing the cold water on your face before fully submerging yourself. 

13) Breathing Control

Those who are familiar with the Wim Hof Method will be aware of the importance of breathing control to cope with the initial shock of cold water. We’d recommend practising controlled breathing to help manage the cold temperatures of wild waters in the winter.

14) Stay Close to the Shore

Not sure? Stay by the shore, especially if you’re new to cold water swimming. Searching for a swim-safe venue in Surrey? We have two circuits available - 450m and 650m depending on how far you’d like to swim. 

15) Know the Water Exit Points

In case of an emergency, it’s important to identify the water exit points before starting to swim, in case you need to get out quickly. 

16) Hydration is Key

Make sure to drink plenty of water both before and after your swim to support your body’s thermoregulation. This is especially important if you’re combining your cold water dip with a hot sauna session, as this can further dehydrate your body. 

17) Bring Warm Clothes

Warming up safely after your cold water swimming session is extremely important - so be sure to bring warm clothes including a hat to prevent your temperature from dropping post-swim! Many of our members also opt to bring a Dry Robe to change underneath. 

Once you’re in warm and dry clothes, enjoy a tasty hot drink to keep your body temperature up. 

18) Emergency Equipment

If you’re swimming in an unsupervised body of water, you will need to carry a safety buoy or another flotation device, as well as familiarise yourself with basic water rescue techniques. 

19) Watch for Signs of Hypothermia

Shivering, confusion and fatigue are all signs of hypothermia, which could occur if you spend too much time in cold water, do not have the correct equipment or fail to warm up properly after your swim. 

20) Respect Wildlife

As an open water swimmer, you have the incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the breathtaking world of wildlife. Cold water swimming at Divers Cove offers a chance to witness the wonders of nature, from ducklings on the shore to frogs and fish. 

When wild swimming, it’s essential to respect the delicate balance of the ecosystem and show consideration for the creatures that call these waters home.

Open Water Swimming Venue in Surrey 

Are you hoping to try cold water swimming soon? We are open year-round for our Gold and Silver members, so why not join us for a dip this winter at Divers Cove?

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