Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Wild swimming is fast growing to be the buzzword of modern water sports, possibly behind SUP/Paddleboard. It's most likely sparked the curiosity of many as to what it is and to maybe giving it a go. "What do I wear?", You ask. Well, here we will try and give you an idea of common options that we know of, and we will try to make it easier to understand by breaking it down into key sections:
Wetsuit or Skins? - Probably the greatest question of them all!
It's really down to personal choice and your ability to withstand the colder temperatures in the water. You definitely do not need to invest in an expensive techy wetsuit to begin. Give skins ago first, you may just surprise yourself! (advisable to start in summer for lowest shock value).
It is a common chat to hear that the health benefits are greater without a wetsuit and we can definitely attest that it feels much more invigorating and sensual having water in direct contact with the skin. Ultimately you may find that you just want to stay warmer for longer in the water, and a wetsuit can definitely offer that. One quick internet search will provide you with a plethora of options of swim specific wetsuits. BUT to begin, any old wetsuit will do, whether that be your own, borrowed or found in your local charity shop.
Like with anything the better the fit the better the performance, comfort, and ability to maintain a good core temperature. Baggy wetsuits are cumbersome and let in too much water and will feel very cold. The ideal fit is a snug fit, with maximum contact of neoprene to skin, across the whole body.
What do I wear on my feet (maybe even my hands)?
In more populated areas you can expect to find more man-made issues and hazardous rubbish lying about, but in more remote places like we have here in North Wales, such as the heritage Coast of Anglesey or the pristine Llyn's of Snowdonia National Park you are a more likely to encounter natural hazards.
Some of the main hazards to you hands and feet are:
Sharp rocks - Especially in slate quarries
Rubbish left behind hiding in the sand, long grass, dumped in the shallows and on the banks
Discarded building materials
Other nippy sea creatures like Crabs
Our recommendation is to initially make your own assessment of the entry and exit points before going for any swim. Check the area for anything that may pose a hazard or cause injury to your feet and hands. Most people seem to go bare foot, but in colder environments you may want to wear neoprene socks. If you are looking for something a bit sturdier with a thicker sole, a pair of wet shoes should do the trick, some are much more technical than others. Make sure you find a pair you can tighten or are a good snug fit to reduce the chance of losing them mid-swim and being the next person to leave more rubbish behind.
GLOVES - Some people like to wear gloves in colder water, and they are a good option for anybody suffering from Raynaud's Syndrome, or anyone exploring a coastline full of barnacles.
Do I need a swim cap?
Your head as we all know is the classic place to lose a lot of heat and apart from keeping you a little warmer, they have a plethora of other benefits:
Reduce Heat Loss
Make you more visible to other water users
Help keep your hair dry and under control
Can help reduce drag for the more competitive amongst you
Silicone caps are our recommendation as they are more durable and last longer than the latex versions. The smooth edges protect hair from breaking and are easier to put on and take off. Dome-shaped caps are the preferred option for competitive and fitness swimmers.
How to choose the right eyewear for wild swimming.
Goggles, Mask or just Brave it. There are (or at least it feels like) seriously more options for eye wear than there are grains of sand on a beach. There are really small sporty ones which look like they are burrowing into your face, and some that can make you look a bit like Elton John. Its almost always hit and miss buying online especially if you haven't tried the same pair on, in a shop already.
Our suggestion of factors to consider are:
Do they fit properly - Are the watertight
Comfort - Not too much pressure on the eye sockets and nose, and don't chaff
Fog & Scratch resistance - if they scratch or fog easily this will impede visibility
What type of swimming are you doing? - This will impact your choice of style, size, and lens colour
A strong UV protection option - is even more important when you are swimming outdoors because the sun's rays are reflected off of the water and it can be difficult if not impossible to avoid them.
We both enjoy a wider view due to our love for snorkelling and get FOMO when we can't check out all the little fishes or beautiful underwater plants when they are nearby, but you may find that a diving mask or larger goggles will create more resistance when competing, so you will want to opt for a slimmer pair if this is you.
What about Goggle lens colour?
Clear – low light, overcast conditions. Well suited to indoor use.
Lilac – best contrast for objects against a green or blue background.
Smoke – Reduce light transmission and lower the overall brightness. Best suited to outdoor swimming – perfect in the sun.
Amber – For low-light levels and reduce glare in high light levels.
Blue – Allow a moderate level of light into the eye but maintain protection from glare in bright conditions.
Mirrored – Reduce brightness and glare
Do I wear Safety Equipment for wild swimming?
It is advisable to wear a tow float to A. make you more visible to other water users, B. Give the opportunity to take a rest, and C. Carry some food water and emergency contact devices.
Some people may even carry knives to release themselves if they become tangled in fishing lines.
Watch this space for a more in depth blog on Personal Safety in Wild Swimming.
THANKS FOR READING!
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