In 2006 the OSS had 300 members. In 2022, our website had 1.3million unique visitors and our membership in 2023 is over 200k. Our activities, networks and information is accessed by members from at least 25 countries around the world. Over the years we have enhanced access to open water, provided resources to the community, formed networks (local, national and international) and held popular events, all to contribute to the art, science and culture of outdoor swimming.
We represent the interests of all the different kinds of outdoor swimmers by providing inspiration, connection, representation in the media and among other interest groups, and by providing a sense of community and inclusivity. We provide information about water and risk so swimmers can swim free, and be self-reliant. And we help people to connect, share projects, advice, photos, videos, stories, experiences and ideas. To jump in and join us, see all the ways to become a member (it’s free).
The team behind the OSS is a small family of creators, adventurers, explorers, writers, thinkers and photographers, driven by a shared interest in outdoor swimming: meet the team.
We curate numerous platforms where members connect with one-another: The Outdoor Swimming Society website, a Facebook page, a Facebook group, Instagram, Twitter, and our free virtual monthly magazine, Elsewhere. In 2019 we also started Zeno’s Swim Club, a virtual winter swimming club #thestoics.
In addition to this we provide a network for administrators of local outdoor swimming groups, recognising that for many of us a local and often creatively named group provided us with a warm welcome and an introduction to outdoor swimming. And…
The OSS Inland Access group provides support, resources and a network to those interested in improving swimming access for inland waters. Team members also advocate for a Right to Swim through direct action, media and consultation with other charities.
The OSS has been the event partner of Level Water since 2015, raising millions for their work in providing swim lessons for children with disabilities.
Through Elsewhere, our social media channels and the content from our contributors to the website, we aim to tell the story of outdoor swimming. As originators first and foremost, in our 17th year we are now connectors and celebrators too: here to shine a full moon beam on the innovations and storytellers within our community. Our aim is to keep things fresh and interesting; to share what we learn and enjoy and give a platform to stories, ideas and people within the community, which are amusing, inspiring or need to be heard.
As well as telling the story, we aim to provide the tools to enjoy outdoor swimming safely. Our Survive resources give advice from expert contributors on different open water environments, cold water safety and much more.
The OSS prides itself on originality, a kind heart and free spirit. Staying true to our renegade and maverick roots, we have chosen to remain a volunteer run society that does not charge for membership. We offer a place to belong, and remain free to lead from the front, to set our own agenda and to do what we find inspiring and fun. Our philosophy extends across all wild waters, as we champion free swimming, that the outdoors should be able to be enjoyed both free of charge and free from prohibitive regulation.
OSS members share a belief and an attitude, not a demographic. We embrace outdoor swimming’s ability to slip us out of recognisable reality and into something better. We embrace swimming’s ability to enlarge and celebrate the beauty of every day and enhance the landscape and people we meet within it. Described variously as ‘the most magic club in the world’ and ‘the friendliest place on the internet’, we enable people to ‘find the others’ – people they enjoy as much as they enjoy swimming.
Our members practise all types of swimming: winter, wild, social, competitive, adventure, endurance, recreational, lido and skinny dipping, and swim everywhere it is possible to swim: river, lake, lido, sea, loch, tarn, reservoir, waterfall and wadi. We are drawn from all ages and backgrounds and from all over the world: while predominantly UK based, we have strong cohorts in America, Australia, Europe and contributors from Iran to Mongolia.
Every outdoor swimmer is an advocate for their environment, and access to it. We support and collaborate with other charities and organisations both protecting the environment and working towards greater access to it. Our aim is to gain and maintain a greater natural right to swim freely outdoors, sustainably and without hindrance.
Recent years have been pivotal for outdoor swimming as it has entered the mainstream. In 2006 we started with a simple mission, to give people permission to swim wild. This is a permission which was never withdrawn, merely forgotten. As outdoor swimming grew in popularity over the years our mission evolved to become share the swim love, bringing outdoor swimming into the mainstream, introducing it to more people and normalising it within popular culture.
We like to think that those first two missions, to give permission and to share the swim love, have been successful. As the outdoor swimming community continues to grow, we see ourselves as continuing to provide a community for swimmers, but we also see our job as helping us all to preserve it’s soul. To help the community hold on to the things that made us fall in love with outdoor swimming in the first place – the magic, the wilderness, the connection with nature, the adventure, that maverick spirit. So we’ll continue to help you find the others, tell the stories and make the memories.
We hope you enjoy what we’ve made, and that our community gives you a space and network that accessorises your swimming better than any new purchase. Please see our Members page for more on how to join and the Team page for some of the people who make us what we are.
May you make good friends, have good adventures and be gifted with good insights.
OSS Team, November 2023