Original pioneers in the current open water and wild swimming movement, The Outdoor Swimming Society is a worldwide collective of swimmers that is free to join.
The OSS has two main roles within the community: to help people to ‘find the others’, and to be a resource to the community.
Our resource materials – social, inspirational and informational – reflect what we and others in the community are doing to realise our own swimming dreams, be they adventurous, artistic, athletic, environmental, political, scientific or social.
PLEASE DONATE TO US!
The Outdoor Swimming Society is largely run by people giving their time and talents rather than money. However we do have monthly bills to pay, to keep our website and wheels turning. These used to be met via events, and in 2020 and 2021 were met by ‘Christmas Cracker Crowdfunders.’ We have not crowdfunded in 2022 (not the climate!) but we do still need funds to stay online. If you are able to donate something to the society, please do – we appreciate these are hard times for everyone, and our team will be working hard to bring light into dark places, and share warmth and connectivity with swimmers the world over.
Membership is free and is based on an open mind and kind heart, not any other division. We currently operate 9 curated channels. Becoming a member means joining us on one (or all) of these channels, and acting as part of the community – acting as an insider, not an outsider looking in. All members and users are required to take responsibility for themselves (in and out of the water) and to behave in a way that preserves the good feeling and motivation of those in the community.
Our membership includes all types of swimmers, all ages, all demographics and many countries (see our About page to find out more). It has grown from 300 in 2006 to around 100,000 in December 2019.
The OSS website is produced and maintained by a small family of volunteer writers, photographers and editors, providing free content to others in the community. Led by Creative Director Kate Rew , the site carries features, news, kit reviews, technique features and listing guides. It also carries a strong reference section, Survive, capturing the emerging wisdom of the outdoor swimming community.
With 700,000 unique users a year, we consider our remit of the site is wide and various, capturing the emerging wisdom and adventures of the outdoor swimming society worldwide. If there is something you would like to contribute, please pitch the idea to our editor Beth Pearson.
In 2020 The OSS launched elsewhere, a virtual monthly magazine free to all subscribers, designed to give swimmers the same time away from the mainstream that they experience in the water: a space full of unique voices and perspectives in swimming.
With a mixture of adventure, kit, culture, technique, community stories and imagery, Elsewhere’s ultimate mission is to find itself on ‘Have I Got News For You’ as a specialist publication – one that shares the stories, ideas, insights, quirks and depths of the swimming community that no one else would cover.
Each monthly issue of the Elsewhere includes long reads, a Swimmers Almanac (for the Northern and Southern hemispheres), and practical and inspirational information on the how and where of swimming. Expect listing guides (eg of wild swim groups and winter opening lidos), ‘Survive’ stories on how to navigate open water risks, emerging science (on cold water and depression, or open water and pregnancy), culture (new books and theatre shows), inland access, and specialisms, from curing fish skin to handling duck fleas.
Readership: 25k (January 2020). Sign up to receive your copy
Our @theoutdoorswimmingsociety on Instagram is strong, with swimmers around the world sharing images and stories via the hashtags #outdoorswimmingsociety #sharetheswimlove and #thestoics (the # for our virtual winter swim club, Zeno’s). With over 26k followers (February 2020) Instagram is a great place to meet like minded swimmers and photographers and get a picture (literally) of what the rest of the community is up to. Please use our # to be featured on our wall or in our stories.
Moderated by Director Oli Pitt since it started, the OSS Facebook Group is the community page for those who like a good discussion. Kept clear of all marketing, it is a great place to find answers to your swimmers’ questions. 43.5k Members (January 2020).
There is also an OSS Buy Sell Swap group for wetsuit and kit exchanges.
For the quieter Facebook user, our OSS Facebook Page is where The OSS shares community images, news and stories. 15.5k Followers (January 2020)
Find us at @outdoorswimming on Twitter, where we share news stories, videos and articles from swims around the world: sea, river, lido, lake, tarn, loch or puddle. 12.5k followers (January 2020)
A free worldwide crowd-sourced wild swim map, supported by The Outdoor Swimming Society volunteers. 470k users (2019)
Zeno’s Swim Club, established by The OSS in November 2019, is a virtual winter swimming club, running November to April in the Northern Hemisphere, and May to October in the Southern Hemisphere. Most active on OSS instagram, members share their photos and stories with the hashtag #thestoics. See Zeno Club Rules and Philosophy, and Zeno’s Photo’s of the Week to follow the 2020 members through our first season.
A subgroup of The Outdoor Swimming Society led by Robert Aspey, Chris Dalton and Imogen Radford, the OSS Inland Access Group shares expertise between members in their work to establish more free swimming areas in the UK and protect those that exist.
Together with our lawyer Nathan Wilmot and Creative Director Kate Rew, the group published A Guide to Setting Up Inland Bathing Areas in 2018. The group operates a private group on Facebook solely for those working to set up new inland access in their areas.
While most of our channels are virtual, they do lead to many real world physical friendships. In the past we often found the biggest get-togethers of the year were the swims we hosted, less like open water events and more like AGMs.
The Outdoor Swimming Society founder Kate Rew set up and ran some of the most iconic swims in the UK: the Dart10k, the Swoosh, the Hurly Burly and the Bantham Boomerang. These events are now owned and run by Swim Collective, the event arm of charity Level Water (which assists swimming lessons for children with disabilities) and many OSS members still enjoy taking part in these iconic swims.