What is Open Water Swimming?

People often say “What is involved in open water swimming?” There are many words used around swimming in a non-pool environment i.e. Open water and therefore it would be useful to define these:

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FINA states:

OWS Rule 1.1
Open Water Swiming shall be defined as any competition that takes place in rivers, lakes, oceans or water channels except for 10km events.


Working definitions:

The team has therefore done some research and this is what they have found:-


Open water swimming 

Any supervised swimming activity which takes place outside of a swimming pool environment.


Wild swimming

An informal activity taking place in natural waters; such as lakes, rivers and waterfallsThis is not necessarily swimming long distances but people enjoying their surroundings.


Outdoor swimming 

Where individuals or groups of people come together to swim ‘outdoors’ and enjoy swimming under an open sky.


Marathon swimming 

Any organised open water swimming event which is recognised by FINA and is 10k long.


Winter swimming

Outdoor swimming in cold water (often below 5 degrees Celsius) which could have either a competitive or informal element.


The open water season in England does have a limited span from March time to end of September due to our weather, but this still does not stop some people swimming in open water all year round i.e. Xmas day swims?


If you want to start open water swimming then it is best that you join an organised session and they will have qualified open water coaches on hand to help and support you.  There are now numerous events throughout the season for you to try from 400m swims to 5k? Open water swimming has become one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and we can see that from the increased number of people now participating in the famous great Swims.





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