If you join one of the Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day swims up and down England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland this year, you will not only have a reason to feel good about yourself because you braved the elements, but you can also feel proud because you will have raised money for local and national charities, such as Crisis, MacMillan Cancer, RNLI Lifeboats and many local charities. What a perfect way to start the festive period.
The information given in the wildswim collection is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of compiling the list, but please check the links for up to date information. If you have any swims you would like added to the list, or would like your festive swim picture featured on the map, please contribute by adding it to the map! If you would like any swims or information updated or corrected on the list please send details (including a URL for the swim that needs correction) to map editor Fiona at email@example.com.
The correct way to winter swim is to practise a long period of gentle acclimatisation to cold water, with constant exposure to falling temperatures. This allows the body to “acclimatise” – cold water no longer feels so cold, and the body can spend longer in it without chilling.
Of course the other way to swim in cold water is to just get in it once or twice a year, and be utterly startled, with screaming, goose bumps and unnaturally high natural highs. 1000s of swimmers across the country do this over Christmas as part of the annual festive swims. However, you need to be aware that sudden immersion in cold water does put you at risk. These health risks include hypothermia; shock; panic attack; asthma attack, disorientation; urticaria; atypical drowning and heart attack.
For more information on how to dip safely, and to judge whether you can take the risk, see Festive Swims Dos and Don’ts.
Sudden immersion in cold water is not recommended for people who are pregnant or hungover, or have medical conditions including asthma and heart conditions. The swim is at your own risk but we strongly advise anyone in these categories not to swim.
It is recommended that you enter feet first and do not immerse your head unless experienced and acclimatised to cold water swimming.
Look after yourself on the day. Avoid getting too cold before the swim – flip flops and a dressing gown or down coat you can pad about it while waiting for your swim may be welcome. And when you get out, get dressed relatively quickly – you’ll actually feel your coldest 10 minutes after you get out of the water, so you want to be encased in thermals, down jackets, warm hats and have a hot drink in hand before then. You may want to bring a thermos.
Don’t have a quick shower as this may make you colder. The reason quick showers are best avoided is that when you get out of the water the blood in your skin is chilled. Getting dressed and warming up from the inside out lets it return to your system slowly and more safely. Having a hot shower increases circulation to the skin, chilling more blood faster. (The same would not be true of a hot bath).
If you feel at all shaky or ill let the pool lifeguards or any of the volunteers know immediately and you will be taken to the lifeguards room to warm up safely and with supervision. Blankets are available and hot drinks, belongings and friends will be found.
For the swim itself – you may feel shocked when you get in and like you can’t breathe. Focus on your exhalation and fwaw fwaw fwaw your way across the water, this tends to help.