The OSS Annual 2019

The best stories from 2019: the ones that made us laugh, fill up with joy, and raise our eyebrows in curiosity

Welcome to the OSS Annual 2019! This was our year: the stories that made us laugh, fill up with joy, and raise our eyebrows in curiosity. From practical guides to otherworldly adventures, tales of summer nostalgia to duck flea hell and swimming for two – these are 2019’s greatest hits.


Every once in a while, something comes along that changes everything. The four-minute mile. The moon landing. The reverse-view goggle? Backstroke has been marginalised in long-distance swimming due to the impossibility of sighting. On April 1st two new products came on to the market – but were they any good? The OSS Team reviewed the ALPKIT x OSS Recto Verso and a prototype of the BackScope.

Swimstaman and his favourite dry bag/rucksack


In September the OSS team members nominated their items of kit that just won’t quit – essential gear that has stood the test of time and water. Al Humphries, Calum Maclean, Kate Rew, Ella Foote, Swimstaman & Lindsey Cole pick out the hats, bags, boots and goggles with staying power.

Graham Wynne


In November, entries opened for the 2020 OSS events: the Bantham Boomerang, the Sunrise Swoosh, the Dart 10k and the Hurly Burly. First-timers may have experienced some dismay upon finding out they had secured a place: What on earth was I thinking? Is the doggy paddle as a viable plan B? This guide by veteran swim coach Mike Porteous is for them

Hannah Maia


Is it safe? Can you do it in the winter? Does the OSS make baby grows? This expert view on outdoor swimming while pregnant continues to generate a lot of interest, with resident cold water expert Dr Mark Harper regularly receiving queries and survey responses from women who have continued to swim up until full term – and those who would like to.

Niall Meehan


Otherwise known as the story that made us all want to move to Greystones, County Wicklow. In May we featured OSS Swim Champ Niall Meehan‘s lush and evocative images of a “big” version of the daily dawn “swimrise”, while the swimmer’s tales embody the possibilities of outdoor swimming as a collective ritual, giving shape to a day and, so, to life.

Lindsey Cole dipped to Scotland

It began with a formation dive into a Somerset river with OSS Founder Kate Rew and OSS Muse Kari Furre in February (left). It was meant to last for a month; until she reached the Scottish Winter Swimming Championships in March. It took several months. OSS Swim Champ Lindsey Cole shared her tales and spirit with us during the year – and up, down, across and along the country.

Transporting edible aquatic plants in a towfloat. Photo: Susanne Masters


In August, ethnobotanist and swimmer Susanne Masters opened up a whole new dimension to swimming outdoors: foraging for ingredients for drinks (including gin). What are caps, swimsuits and tow floats if not vehicles for a handful of water mint or a few stalks of marsh samphire?


OSS Founder Kate Rew wrote this engrossing long read about swimming through Arizona’s deserts: “On the shore a sloping tree, the bark as twisted as a wrung-out towel, dangles a knotted rope swing: the universal sign of a good local swim spot”



It ain’t all mountain views and pristine lakes for our OSS Envoy. Here, Swimstaman compellingly describes his first encounter with “swimmer’s itch” – photos included.

New research reveals sea swimming’s effect on wellbeing

A year in swimming news

This was the year a woman called Sarah Thomas amazed the world with a quadruple channel swim, when OSS joined SAS as their moved their beach cleans inland, and that our thriving community earned itself new swimming places. OSS News Editor Justine Harvey rounds up the events that shaped the year.

lance sagar


When the temperature drops and the days shorten, what is a committed, summer river swimmer to do? Plan their next summer river swims, says OSS Swim Champ and “rivervoyager” Lance Sagar

Photo: Jim McDonnell


November is the start of the winter swimming season. This year we launched Zeno’s Swim Club, a new virtual club for winter swimmers, and at the same time interviewed the oldest winter club in the world: The Coney Island Polar Bears, est. 1903. “We walk down to the beach promptly at 1pm every Sunday,” explained President Dennis Thomas. “Once everyone is in, we form a huge circle holding hands. I guess this is when all these diverse weirdos bond.”