"When you feel ready to tackle open water swimming, then this is the guide for you."

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Getting Started in Open Water

We understand that the idea of swimming in open water can be very daunting. However, to some it can be seen as exhilarating and a fantastic way to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. We want to make your first open water experience the best that it can be, so read on for our top tips of how to Get Started in open water.

When am I ready to try open water swimming?

GO TRI recommends that you are able to swim a couple hundred metres without stopping (for instance without touching the side of the pool or putting your feet down). You need to be comfortable in the deep end and we suggest that you are able to float on your back and rest if tired and also be able to tread water.

How to find a safe place to swim?

British Triathlon have partnered up with Royal Life Saving Society UK to provide an accreditation service for open water swimming venues. Accredited venues are called SH₂OUT venues and you can find a list of these venues here.

What should I consider before getting into the water?

Here is a list of things that you should think about before entering the water. If you are swimming at a SHOUT accredited venue, don't worry these things have already been checked!

  • Is the water quality regularly tested?
  • What is the process of knowing who is in and out of the water?
  • Will I be monitored in the water?
  • Is there quick and effective support if a swimmer wants it?
  • How do I call for help (what is the local recognised signal?)
  • What are the changing and showering arrangements?
  • Are there weeds in the water, if so where?
  • Where is the shallowest swimming course?
  • Are there any hazard in the water that I need to be aware of?
  • What is the water temperature

Prior to swimming at any open water venue, you should check that they have safety in place for your activity. This could be spotters on the side of the water, kayak’s or paddleboards, or a powerboat on the water. You may see these in any combination and this is dependant on the swimming course size, the number of swimmers in the water and the distance of swimmers away from the edge.

What kit do you need:

After your swim:

GO TRI recommends that after your swim you wash your hands as soon as you leave the water, and that you also rinse off your wetsuit, swimming costume and goggles. This is because there is always a risk of you coming into contact with a bug that might make you ill, so by rinsing your hands and your kit you will avoid this!

What temperature is the water meant to be

GO TRI is a product of British Triathlon. The British Triathlon temperature rules for open water swimming are below:


Duration if a wetsuit is worn

Duration if a wetsuit is not worn

11+ Not Advised Not Advised
13-15 20 - 30 minutes 10 - 15 minutes
16-18 30-60 minutes Up to 40 minutes
18+ 60 minutes + 40 minutes+

How clear is the water going to be?

The water will not be as clear as in a swimming pool, the water clarity will be different dependant on the open water swiwmming location. You visability in the water can be close to zero or, if you're swimming somewhere special, better than in the pool. Low visibility in the water does not necessarily mean poor quality or unsuitability for swimming - so just give it a go!

How do I get used to the cold of the open water

To begin with GO TRI recommends that you swim in open water with a wetsuit on, this will help to adjust to the cooler temperatures of open water. When you get to the water you should get into the water slowly and allow your body to adjust to the change in temperature prior to setting off on your swim.

What next?

Why not try one of our GO TRI Activites – did you know we have GO TRI Open Water sessions, to give you some support and coaching, so that you feel ready to Take Part in a GO TRI open water event.

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