Winter Wild Swimming

Published December 05 2022
4 minute read
Getting outdoors and enjoying an invigorating swim in the sea, rivers and lakes has surged in popularity since lockdown. Being stuck at home gave us the opportunity to discover these hidden wet treasures that are so often right on our doorsteps. So much so, that in April 2022, Sport England research confirmed that there has been a massive growth in outdoor swimming, also known as “wild swimming”. But why has it become so popular?

What is Wild Swimming? 

Wild swimming is essentially going swimming outside in a natural pool of water. It helps to boost your immune system, improve circulation, reduce body pain and boost your brain power. There’s nothing like a refreshing cold water dip to get your brain and body moving!

What are the Benefits?

It has been proven that immersing yourself in cold water has some great health benefits. Cold water therapy (aka cold hydrotherapy) has been used for thousands of years to treat many different health conditions. This is where a person would take ice baths, daily cold showers or outdoor swims in water below 15°C. Its benefits include:

●    Reducing muscle soreness
●    Cooling down
●    Improving your mood
●    Aiding your immune system
●    Boosting your metabolism
●    Benefiting your overall mental wellbeing
If you’re looking to try wild swimming and enjoy the great outdoors this winter, keep reading for tips from our local expert, Grant Zehetmayr, who lives, breathes and splashes this exhilarating way of life.

The Blue Hour

Head down to Penarth beach just before sunrise and you’ll spot the Dawnstalkers on the horizon. A community of wild swimmers who kick start their day with a sea swim just before sunrise. Every. Single. Day.

“Starting at sunrise sets you up for the day! You can fit it in before work.”

Grant Zehetmayr, co-founder of Dawnstalkers, discovered wild swimming in lockdown. In his allotted hour per day, he wanted to fully utilise his local spaces and reconnected with the Penarth seafront which was right on his doorstep. Following a reasonably traumatic house fire, Grant found himself walking the seafront every single morning to find peace and calm from the water to help ease what were likely PTSD symptoms. 

Then one morning, in December 2020, he saw something which changed his life forever. Grant noticed a person swimming in the sea who looked zen and peaceful. In fact, it looked pretty cool! The next day, standing in his swim shorts on a freezing winter beach looking out to the horizon, he found the courage to get in himself. 

“I had felt repressed and caged up in lockdown. Getting into the sea gave me a whole load of endorphins I hadn’t experienced before.”

And that’s when the addiction started! The addiction to the buzz, and the endorphins! Grant started going down to Penarth beach every morning in the blue hour achieving a self-fulfilling happiness he hadn’t experienced before. As more people cottoned on to what Grant was doing and how great it felt to get into the cold sea at the “crack” of dawn, a community was built which is now over 250 people strong.

“Community - Endorphins - Coffee. That’s what it’s all about!”

Top Tips for Wild Swimming

Grant’s advice to anyone who hasn’t experienced outdoor swimming is to just give it a go! Everyone thinks they can’t do it. It’s not hard, the biggest thing in the way is YOU. 

Finding a friend or a group to start with is a great idea as they will understand the tide times and how long to stay in the water depending on the temperature. Never go alone. There are loads of wild swimming groups around the Welsh coastline such as The Bluetits in West Wales, the Aquaholics in Aberavon, and the Wet Bandits in Swansea. You just need to find one that works for you.

You don’t need a lot of kit. All you need are water shoes (if rocky), a hooded towel, clothing layers, a hot drink, and something like a bath mat to isolate you from the floor as you lose a lot of body heat through your feet when you come out of the water.

“Wild swimming has been my journey of freedom and self-expression. I would recommend it to absolutely everyone.”

To find out more about the Dawnstalkers Sea Swim Club, head to Dawnstalkers.com.