Slow Swimming

The Philosophy of Slow Swimming
Slow Swimming can be thought of as a reaction to the ever increasing speed and complexity of the modern world.
When you swim slowly you see more of what’s around you. You notice the sounds of the wildlife, how your body is moving in the water, the feel of the water as it passes you and you will even notice the different temperatures, smells, and sometimes, even the tastes of the water.
Slow Swimming promotes swimming for the pure pleasure of experiencing the nature that you are fully immersed in. It encompasses swimbling, pottering, meandering, sauntering, mooching, toddling, ambling, dipping and bobbing.
Slow Swimming is for people who don’t want to get there in a hurry, but love the journey.
Slow Swimming is all about the journey…………….and cake.

The Slow Swimming Calendar for 2024

Bradford-on-Avon Slow Swim and Picnic 8th June 2024
The Tithe Barns, Barton Farm, BA15 1LF
Bradford on Avon.
8th June 2024
1.6km Social River Swim and Picnic
Entry £20.00 (£15.00 under 16s)
The picnic’s FREE (bring your own picnic), bring cake to share! Sign-ups managed by EntryCentral Sign-up for 2024 Bradford-on-Avon Slow Swim and Picnic
More information on the swim Website or Facebook page
Cambridge Slow Swim Picnic 6th July 2024
Grantchester to Sheep’s Green
Saturday 6th July 2024
2.5km Social River Swim and Picnic (Wave 4 1.2km)
Entry £20.00 (under 16 £15.00)
The picnic’s FREE (bring your own picnic), bring cake to share!.
Sign-ups managed by EntryCentral Sign-up for 2024 Cambridge Slow Swim and Picnic
More information on the swim Website or Facebook page
Norfolk Slow Swim Picnic 27th July 2024
Dilham Hall
North Walsham, Norfolk.
Saturday 27th July 2024
1.8km Social River Swim and Picnic (Wave 4 0.8km)
Entry £20.00 (under 16 £15.00)
The picnic’s FREE (bring your own picnic), bring cake to share!.
Sign-ups managed by EntryCentral Sign-up for 2024 Norfolk Slow Swim and Picnic
More information on the swim Website
Dedham Vale Mill 2 Mill Slow Swim and Picnic. 11th August 2024
Flatford Mill CO7 6UL
11th August 2024
2.2km (or 1.2km) Social River Swim and Picnic
Entry £20.00 (under 16s £15.00)
The picnic’s FREE (bring your own picnic), bring cake to share!
Sign-ups managed by EntryCentral Sign-up for 2024 Dedham Vale Mill2Mill Slow Swim and Picnic
More information on the swim Website or Facebook page
Great East Skinny Dip at Clacton-on-Sea 7th September 2024
Great East Skinny Dip
Martello Tower/Marine Parade West,
Clacton-on-Sea CO15 1XY
Saturday 7th September 2024, 1pm (meet from 12 noon)
Entry £15.00
Sign-ups managed by EntryCentral Sign-up for 2024 Great East Skinny Dip
More information on the swim Website or Facebook page
Great South Skinny Dip at Studland Bay 14th September 2024
Great South Skinny Dip
Knoll Beach, Studland Bay,
Near Swanage, Dorset. BH19 3AQ.
Saturday 14th September 2024, 1pm (meet from 12 noon)

Sign-ups managed by EntryCentralSign-up for 2024 Great South Skinny Dip

More information on the swim Website

New to Slow Swimming
One of the attractions of Slow Swimming in the outdoors is that it is so accessible. In theory you could need no kit at all. There are many Slow Swimmers who swim wearing nothing but a broad smile. In practice we are hoping to enjoy our Slow Swimming experience as much as possible, so there are a few things that can make it more comfortable, but nothing is absolutely essential and the choice of what you use is down to you.
Wetties, swimsuits etc.
Wear what you need to so as to be safe and comfortable. It’s not a competition to see what you can put up with, and there are no points for suffering. It’s very rare for temperatures outdoors to get up to indoor swimming pool levels. Even in the summer in the sea you’ll be a little chilled as you get in.

Wetsuits will keep you warmer and give you extra bouyancy, allowing you to swim for longer, but they might be hard to get the right size and shape, can be a struggle to get on and off and can make you too hot during the summer months.

If you are buying a new wetsuit for open water swimming take a little time to make sure you buy the right one. Wetsuits come in a variety of types depending on what you are using them for. From very thick scuba diving ones up to 8mm thick, through to  ones made for water sports like surfing and kite surfing from 6mm to 4mm, to ones made for kayaking and swimming at between 3mm and 2mm. Swimming wetsuits are made to have more flexibility in the arms and shoulders than other types and can have thicker material in the leg sections to increase the bouyancy in the water. What’s called 3:5 wetsuits are the most popular for swimming. These have 3mm sections in the upper body and 5mm in the legs.

Wetsuits are also made in tops and bottoms to make sizing easier. They can also made with short arms or no arms for extra arm/shoulder mobility.

As a guide, in Britain most open water and triathlon events are governed by British Triathlon rules. The water temperature is taken 1 hour before the start of the race and the following rules then apply: Less than 14 degrees C then wetsuits must be worn, between 14 degrees C and 22 degrees C then wetsuits are optional, above 22 degrees C then wetsuits must not be worn.

We are Slow Swimmers so these rules don’t completely apply to us for a few reasons: We are not generating the heat that the average triathlete will, so will get cold quicker. Generally we will have better personal inbuilt insulation which could slow down our core cooling, but still allow our extremities to cool off. We are not likely to be in the water as long as some triathlete races take. Therefore the range of options for us is a lot wider. It’s not uncommon for Slow Swimmers to be comfortable with no more than a swimming costume in the depths of winter or be equally as comfortable with a wetsuit in the summer.

If you are progressing from winter to summer swimming or find wetsuits too restrictive or warm, there is a half-way house before you go for a swimsuit and that could be to try a close fitting rash vest or under-armour style top and gym leggings. They will keep you warmer and be easy to change out of.

Neoprene boots/socks/gloves
These are very popular with Slow Swimmers. We tend to get colder extremities than people who rush about when outdoor swimming. It is common to swim with a swimming costume and neoprene boots and socks as the weather and the water temperature is cooling down, before resorting to a wetsuit. If you are swimming in rivers or lakes it is safe practice to wear some form of foot covering as, even if the river/lake bed is free from discarded articles, there could always be sharp stones or broken branches underfoot.

Bobble hat
Another great way of extending the season and pretty unique to Slow Swimmers as an item of sports equipment. It’s amazing how warm you will feel with a bobble hat on. Although the bobble is not essential, in consumer surveys (I asked Les Peebles) it does seem to keep you warmer. With most of you under water most of the time a bobble hat and a wide smile is a great way to express your joy.

Tow float
Using a tow float is helpful both practically and for safety. There are many made which double up as kit bags for your journey to the water’s edge as well as being a dry bag, taking all your clothes, whilst you swim. You won’t have to leave your clothes and valuables on the bank or shore, and you can have a one way swim or swoosh, and still have everything with you when you get out. Look for one around 20l, or above if you have lots of stuff to stash.

As a safety item they can save your life. Although we all think we know what our abilities are, it’s amazing how they can change with a small change in water temperature or wind direction. Tow floats are also useful as an indicator to passers-by or well meaning spectators, that you are in the water intentionally.

Although chances are we are going to swim anyway and the most accurate indicator of water temperature can be to get in and see, I would recommend to new Slow Swimmers to use a thermometer to check water temperature first. It will become part of your initial faffing about routine and will give you information to compare one swim with another. It’s part of the learning process about your new sport/pasttime.

Most people would use some form of pool thermometer, either a traditional style thermometer that you read off against a scale or a digital type with a lcd display. Either way make sure you have a length of string attached so you can get it back once you’ve thrown it in!

To get an accurate reading make sure your thermometer is far enough into the body of water as the temperature by the bank/shore will usually be warmer, especially in a flowing river.

Water proof cameras
The market leader is the GoPro. To such an extent it’s become the generic name for ‘rugged waterproof go anywhere camera’. Saying that, there are many other brands that are equally as good for our uses, and nowhere near the cost. Some good ones are only a quarter of the price.

When looking check other swimmers reviews, as these cameras are used for a wide range of sports and some perform better than others in different environments.

As you get our most people will put on an outer covering whilst they begin to dry off. It can help stop the chill and give you something to change in. The brand name Dryrope is the most well known, but there are others available at a lower cost. It’s not unusual for Slow Swimmers to don a Dryrobe, wriggle out of swim suits and walk or drive home to shower and dress when you get there. Dryrobes are windproof, thick and comfortable. Look also for brand names Charlie McLeod and Frostfire as well as hooded towelling ponchos.

Swimming changing mat
This is another crossover from surfers. A changing mat to stand on so as to not get messy feet, that then has a drawstring that turns it into a bag to take your wet swimming kit home in. Most popular brand name is the Moonbag. Other brand names are Osprey and Northcore. They are all around the same price.

Baggy warm clothes
However well you dry off you will still be a bit damp in places, so bring warm and baggy clothes to put on. If it’s cold then a first loose easy layer and then another to go over that one. Might be worth thinking about an extra bobble hat in case your swimmy one has got wet.

Linked to this is: ‘To bra or not to bra?’ Depending on what you are comfortable with, it is quite usual to dispense with a bra until you get home. If not then go for one as big and easy to get on as possible. Another option is a stretchy vest top, but one you can step into and pull up, straps on last.

Apart from the fact that it’s nice to have a hot drink after swimming it’s also a good way to get some warmth to your core. It will help wash the inevitable cake down as well

Hot water bottle
From the Top Tips list. Wrap your towel or robe in a hot water bottle before you leave home and you’ve got a lovely warm towel or robe to get dry in, and a hot water bottle to tuck under your jumper afterwards.
Is it Legal?
In the UK it is a confused situation. In Scotland the right to roam applies to waterways and allows the right to swim. In the rest of the UK as long as you are not trespassing to gain access you should be fine. An interesting point is that anglers who have purchased the right to fish only have the right to fish, they can’t stop other activities.
Saying that, it is rarely worth causing friction with other waterway users, especially if you or other Slow Swimmers want to use that waterway regularly. We are in this to enjoy ourselves not prove a point.

In the US the ability to swim in waterways is tied up with whether that waterway (ocean, river, lake or stream) is defined as navigable. If it is then it is legal to swim there as long as you haven’t trespassed to gain access. The decision as to whether a waterway is considered navigable and therefore swimable is complicated and tied up with whether it has been used as a ‘highway’ in the past. There’s more in depth information here: (if i’m wrong – don’t sue me).

In Europe the rules are similar to the UK, but there are local regulations so it’s worth checking first. Bathing water policy is one of the success stories in EU. The latest EEA report confirms that bathing waters in Europe are of high quality, with 95 % of these sites meeting minimum water quality standards set out in EU legislation.
Rivers, Lakes and the Sea
Each is different when Slow Swimming and different precautions should be taken with each. In general swim with a buddy or at least a companion on the bank/shore who is watching out for you.

can be easily accessible as they criss-cross most countries and have many places to enter and exit. They are relatively narrow compared to other waterways meaning that you are likley to be close to one bank or another. But be warey of strong currents and sudden changes in depth. In meandering rivers it’s usually shallower on the outside of a curve. There can be underwater obstructions with tree branches being washed downstream and familiar stretches can change suddenly with short periods of rain. Even with a reasonable current it is possible to ‘Swoosh’ in a river. That is paddle and float downstream and walk back up.

have generally slower moving water and are therefore usually warmer than rivers. Being slower moving can mean that the lake-bed is very muddy as material will fall out of the flow. Lots of lakes are privately owned and more and more are realising the potential for encouraging and charging for open water swimming. This can mean that there is lifeguarding and other facilities provided.

The Sea/Ocean
covers a wide variety of swimming evironments. From packed holiday beaches to isolated northern European Fjords. As the seasons cool in the Autumn the larger mass of the sea means that it cools slower and can be substantially warmer than either rivers or lakes.
If you are unsure of your abilities stay near the shoreline. If the waves, tide or potential tide rips give you cause for concern don’t go in, eat your cake, drink your tea and come back another day. It’s not about enduring the experience, but enjoying it.

Here’s a great video from Surf Life Saving Australia on how to spot a rip tide 

Find out about tide times where you intend to go and choose ‘slack tide’, that is during the hour either side of high tide or low tide. Great website for tide times
Cold Water Swimming If you are new to open water swimming. There is a great article by Kate Rew on the Openwater Swimming Society website that I have abridged here.   What does it feel like? “It is a physical assault on your body” The air will be punched out of your lungs. It can leave you feeling weak and uncontrollably shaking. Start slowly and make sure you are physically fit before starting.   How long can I stay in for? There have been various ‘rules of thumb’ from one minute per degree above ten degrees to double the degrees C to get time in the water. They are usually wrong. There is no general rule. Start with very short dips and progress in small steps to see how your body responds.   Get in slowly or just jump in? Get in slowly. In cold water there is an uncontrollable Gasp Reflex. When you hit the water you will breathe in. Make sure you are not under the water when this happens.   What is the best way to warm up afterwards? When you leave the water you will continue to get colder for at least ten minutes as your body starts to circulate the blood through your skin which has a substantial cooler effect on it. Dry yourself off by patting your skin and change out of wet costumes as soon as possible. Add lots of warm layers and take a warm drink. Get into a warm environment as soon as possible.   Do I need to acclimatise? Swimming through the summer into the autumn will allow you to acclimatise comfortably and you will be able to stay in longer but if you play it safe it is perfectly possible to start swimming later in the year when it is colder.   Do I need neoprene gloves and boots? Clothing during cooler swims varies a lot from person to person but most people benefit from keeping hands and feet warm. Hoods or hats whether neoprene or bobble can make a real difference to heat loss so also worth looking at.   Where is it safe to swim in winter? Safety is not an absolute and varies depending on your abilities and experience. Seas tend to stay warmer during the winter, around the UK staying mostly above 6 degrees centigrade. Rivers can change dramatically with increased water flow and their underwater geography can become unfamiliar after heavy rainfall.   Credit: OSS, Kate Rew,
Glossary of terms #WhatDoesThatEvenMean
Afterdrop:- After getting out of cold water and feeling fine, you start to get colder, sometimes growing faint, shivering violently and feeling unwell.
Bioprene:- A layer of your own insulating adipose tissue, useful for buoyancy as well.
Cossie:- Swimming costume
Faff/Faffin’/Faffage:- To waste time in an unproductive matter rather than addressing the task. To look busy while achieving nothing.
HUBS:- Heads Up Breast Stroke, preferred by Slow Swimmers as it stops your woolly hat getting wet
Neep Tide:- Period twice each month when the high and low tides and at minimal difference.
Old Lady Swimming:- Heads Up Breast Stroke
Skinny Dipping:- Wearing just a broad smile (naked)
Skins:- A normal swimming costume
Slack Tide:- Period one hour either side of high or low tide when the water is at its calmest.
Spring Tide:- A tide just after a full moon when the high and low tides are at maximal difference.
Swimble:- Swimming irregularly from place to place as a past-time, with the anticipation of eating cake as a reward.
Swimmers:- Male swimming trunks (Australia)
Swimming Cap/Hat:- Might be a thin silicon cap or made from neoprene
Swimming Togs:- Swimming Costume
Swoosh:- Swooshing along with a decently strong current. Going fast with little swim effort
Tow Float/Swim Buoy:- Small inflatable bags that attach to a wrist or waist by a leash to carry small personal items and act as a buoyancy aid and a visible marker in the water if required.
Top Tips for Slow Swimmers from Slow Swimmers
Start with finding a Slow Swimming group in your area and ask to join. They will all be welcoming to new Slow Swimmers and are a wealth of local knowledge about safe swim spots. (Ju McCanna) and (Clare McRainbow-Smillie)

A cotton scarf works as a towel you can wear to save carrying. (Louise MacAllister)

Put toe warmers in your boots and hand warmers in your post swim gloves BEFORE you swim. Much easier than trying to open packets with cold fingers. (Karen Chapman)

Dispense with bra post swim, it’s really not worth the faff of doing it up with chilly fingers. (Karen Turner)

Practice changing at home so you get everything ready in sequence to get you warmed up – and dry, then pack your bag in the right order.(Margaret Parker)

Wrap your towel and a thermal vest in a hot water bottle and put them in an insulated picnic bag. When you are dressed stick the hot water bottle down your jumper. (Alice Cooper)and (Fran Hilton)

Always take a hot drink with you. My favourite is hot blackcurrant. (Alice Cooper)

Eat plenty of cake (Fran Hilton)

Useful Apps Windy, Magic Seaweed, My Tide Times (Princess Efanda)

Baggy warm clothes are easiest to put on. (Lynn Russell)

Don’t forget you will carry on cooling down for up to 30 minutes after getting out so don’t leave it too long (Lynn Russell)

Wear a thick pair of socks over a thin pair will keep your feet warmer (Nikki Saxby)

Leave contact details with your stuff – a plastic tub with ICE (in case of emergency) containing contacts, medical information, a copy of a prescription is useful for paramedics. (Margaret Parker)

Take your gloves off in the water before you get out, it’s much easier (Kerry Peck via Janet Hartley)

Get out before you feel cold – if you start to feel warm -get out. (Claire Cornish)

Gloves and socks extend your swimming season no end (Claire Cornish)

Wear a brightly coloured hat and use a tow float (Claire Cornish)

Ditch the underwear – much less faffage when your fingers are too cold. (Myrtle Chuffnell)

Take a bath mat for changing on (Janet Hartley)

A vest you can step into rather than trying to put something sleeved over your head as a base layer. (Janet Hartley)

Swim with a friend. (Catriona Barr)

Keep your head covered, doesn’t matter whether the rest of you is in a wetsuit, swim suit or nowt. (Catriona Barr)

As soon as you get out pull on a thick pair of loose socks (bed socks are great). Get dried and dressed then take the socks off and put a clean dry pair on (Maria Gillespiepowell)

Write your emergency contact details inside as well as on your tow float/bag or something that people can see and know is yours (Alice Cooper)and (Joanna Legg-Bagg)

Don’t push your time in the first winter. It gets easier in your second winter and third. (Maggie Studholme)

Put a thin pair of lycra socks under your neoprene socks or boots, means it’s much easier to slip them off (Kerry Peck)

Don’t walk on pebbly beaches in neoprene socks as you will end up putting holes in them (Julieanne Lane)

If you are not loving it stop – there’s no shame in that. (Maggie Studholme)

Get a bit tub trug for the car. As you undress, put all your kit into it. Keeps the car dry and easy to carry everything to clean and dry it. Then once dry put all your kit back in it in reverse order with changing mat last. (Calire Kimberley)

Put your cossie on at home (if you wear one) ditto wettie legs if you find them a struggle (Claire Kimberley)

It’s ok to swim in leggings if you don’t like things brushing your legs (Claire Kimberley)
Ikea bag to stand in (Lisa Tomlinson)

Wrap your clothes around a hot water bottle in a cooler box, warm clothes when you get out. (Lisa Tomlinson)

Make sure you stop and look around when you are swimming. Take in the view, feel the texture of the water and how it feels on your body, take in the wildlife, float on your back and look at the sky (Kate Willshaw)

If you are swimming early, (like straight after you get up) have something small to eat like a banana or a fruit bar. If I don’t do this I have a massive slump at about 11am and have to nap. (Kate Willshaw)

Know where you are getting out and check that it’s definitely scaleable before getting in (Pip Sadler)

Your way of swimming is ALWAYS good enough – don’t believe anyone who suggests that heads-up breaststroke isn’t ‘proper swimming’. (Pip Sadler)

Put a tiny drop of baby shampoo smeared on the inside of your goggles, and washed off with fresh water, to stop them from fogging. (Sue Trinidad)

Make sure everything is turned in the right way for dressing and keep your hat/s on till last. (Carol Lloyd)

If you swim at different locations write down where you are going for nearest and dearest – on a calendar, or shared phone calendar or dated Post It note left at home. (Alice Cooper)

Make sure you are really warm before you get in. If i’m in the car I have the heating on full. (Liz Fearon)

A fast paced walk home, a race about the house with a hoover or dishwashing do the trick to warm me up. (Annerose Weiler)

Porridge in a wide necked thermos flask for afterwards warms you from the inside. (Sian Cooley)

Wear a watch and get out when your time is up however lovely you feel. (Rachel Teare)

If you are putting keys and phone in your tow-float put them in a Tupperware first, just in case (Ju McCanna)

Don’t attempt a hot shower to warm up – it’ll draw your heat away from your core. (Joanne Macleod)

I apply oil to my skin, when you get out the water runs off and makes it quicker to dry off and helps slide your clothes on (Lisa Sweet)

A thermos of warm (not hot) water to pour on my hands and feet afterwards has been a gamechanger for me. (Marcelline Dale)

Bring a spare hat and put it with your towel in an insulated bag. Cosey warm hat and towel post swim (Louise Doyle)

My Slow Swimming is not your Slow Swimming, is not her Slow Swimming, Take time to find your happy safe place, and don’t feel pressured to move from there until you are ready. (Clare Foden)

Don’t attempt jeans after a swim – very clingy. (Katherine Jackson-Soutter)

A tie-up bikini top is easier than a bra. (Lucy Bell)

Dance afterwards to warm up. (Lucy Bell)