Wild Swimming for beginners can feel overwhelming. We’ve put together a super simple guide to get you started. We’ll cover how to keep yourself safe, handy equipment you might need and some good spots to take a dip in Dorset.
Wild Swimming For Beginners – Equipment
One of the beauties of wild swimming is that it requires very little in the way of kit. There are, however, a few things you might find really handy.
A tow float attaches to your waist, making you super easy to spot. This helps avoid collisions in the water, or allows someone on the shore to keep you in sight. Some even incorporate a dry bag so you can keep essentials like car keys safe.
A bright coloured swim cap will keep some heat in and keep you visible.
Something to warm you up afterwards- a hot drink in a thermos is great, and something cosy warm to wear. Dryrobes are great, but if you’re keeping it simple a towel and a warm coat are just as good.
Lots of outdoor swimmers love the freedom and feeling of cold water against skin, however lots of people opt for wetsuits. There are lots of great swimming specific suits available have a look at Decathlon or Alpkit.
Where To Swim In The Purbecks?
We’re spoilt for choice for beautiful places to swim in Dorset, so we’ve chosen three of our favourites…
The River Frome runs through the town of Wareham. The Quay provides a great spot for swimming in this slow river- access is nice and easy from the banks, but watch out for other water users like boats and canoes. There’s more info here.
This stunning shale beach is a great spot for a dip, and features a seasonal snorkeling trail with plenty to see under the water. Dorset Wildlife Trust have the Wild Seas Centre with lots of interesting local information.
The quarried pool in the rock shelf at Dancing Ledge is a nice safe dip- there’s quite a walk in from the nearest car park and a scramble/climb down to the ledge, but worth it for a swim in this awesome little pool. More information about swimming at the ledge here.
Shallow and warm (most of the time!) Studland Bay is the perfect spot for wild swimming for beginners. Sandy beaches coupled with rocky outcrops make Studland great for other activities like rock pooling and snorkeling- and why not join us for an adventure while you’re there!
Wild Swimming For Beginners – When Can I Swim?
It’s possible to swim year-round, but it may be a different experience in January than in July! It’s super important to considering safety for wild swimming for beginners, especially in cold water.
Generally the UK seas are warmest around September and into October, though the air temperatures are likely to have dropped by early Autumn. Outdoor swimmers in the UK are almost always swimming in cool or cold water outdoors, since the water here rarely warms to more than 20°C.
Acclimatising to the temperature of the water is pretty important. You can do this by warming up before you get in by exercising a little. Then enter the water slowly and gradually, and don’t starting swimming until your breathing is under control (this can take a minute or two).
Swimming in cold water can have some negative impacts. Afterdrop is when your body temperature continues to drop after you get out of cold water– so you can feel colder 30 minutes after you got out than you did in the water.
The best way to avoid the effects of afterdrop is to warm yourself up slowly and gradually by getting dry as quick as you can after leaving the water. Putt on plenty of warm layers, sip a warm drink and get your body moving by walking around. Avoid trying to warm up very quickly, by jumping straight in a hot shower.
If you’re swimming in tidal water it’s a good idea to check and understand the tide times before you swim- what time is high and low tide? Which direction will any currents be pulling? If you’re not sure it’s worth researching your venue and talking to other people that swim there regularly.
What Can You Forage For Under & On The Water?
Add some flavour to your adventure by foraging for some treats as you swim. You can gather seaweeds, coastal plants and even crustaceans from the water as you swim.
Sea Spaghetti (Himanthalia elongate) is a pretty mild tasting seaweed that grows in rocky coastal areas. Munch on it raw or cook it to produce a pretty delicious spaghetti alternative!
Sea beet can often be found on the upper beach, above the high tide line, with large diamond shaped leaves developing in stacks. The smaller leaves are better for eating and are arguably similar (if not tastier than) chard and spinach.
Spider crabs are pretty common in UK waters and are easy to identify; they’re large orange crabs with long, spindly legs like a spider. They have an oval, spiky shell that is often covered in algae. They can be caught in pots or, if you’re quick, plucked off the sea floor by hand! Their white meat, particularly the claws, is delicious.
Combining swimming with something like this can be a real boost and add another layer to wild swimming for beginners.
Find Out More About Wild Swimming For Beginners
If you want to learn more about coastal foraging, we run popular sessions from Middle Beach in Studland. Whether you fancy Coastal Foraging and Edible Seaweeds, Kayak Foraging, a Pizza Making Workshop or our fantastic seasonal Forage and Feast, we’ve got something for everyone.