My Sea Swimming Essentials

Brilliant bits and bobs for the lido or wild swimming

I’m now entering my second winter of cold water sea swimming, so I thought I would update this blog with a few more tips I picked up last season. Although I’ve always loved sea swimming, I’d never kept going beyond September before last year and I think it’s possible that I am now slightly addicted to the colder water. I usually swim with my mum, but now I’m working in an office again I’m pleased to report that there are plenty of cold water enthusiasts at my new job, plus an excellent bay for swimming just around the corner.

Last year I did wear my wetsuit for a few months, but this year I am hoping to go without because frankly, it’s not a very pleasant thing to swim in (too buoyant!). I’ve just started wearing my gloves and boots in the water (not sustainable I’m afraid, but using things I already have) but there are some other sustainable bits and pieces that I really couldn’t do without. So if you’re also one of the many people taking up wild swimming or doing a daily dip in the lido, here are the items that I swear by to make the whole experience as practical and cosy as possible.

Towelling robe

Rapanui organic cotton robe, £50 (rapanuiclothing.com)

I’m not using this now that the temperature has dropped but it’s worth mentioning anyway as I use it every day in the summer. And my mum has discovered it’s great as an extra layer under her winter swim coat (below) if there’s a bit of a chill. This slightly retro towelling change robe from circular brand Rapanui is made from organic cotton and when you’ve eventually finished with it, you can send it back to be made into something new. This is a full family affair – I bought one each for my parents a couple of Christmases ago and made my husband get one for me! (I now work for Rapanui but my love for this robe came years before my job!)

Changing coat

‘Escapism’ recycled sherpa lined changing robe, £119.95 (passenger-clothing.com)

Mum and I both invested in one of these last year and I can’t recommend them enough. We’re pretty chuffed that by picking a sustainable brand that’s quite new, we’ve also been gaining the attention of the seasoned sea swimming ladies at our local beach! Ours are from Passenger Clothing, and are made from recycled polyester. They have three colours to choose from and either long sleeved or poncho styles – mum and I went for the sherpa lining in black (her) and rust (me). I would advise going up if you think you’re between sizes so that you have plenty of room to move your arms around underneath. I also use mine to go to the pool (no one seems to bother with changing rooms anymore!) and I have to admit I’ve walked the dog in it too because it’s so cosy!

Voited blanket, £125, and poncho, from £79 (voited.co.uk)

Another brand making recycled changing coats is Voited. My sister-in-law has one of the ponchos and she is thrilled to bits with it. She likes it because it gives her enough space to cycle home, too. If you’re an outdoors type, Voited also makes beautifully illustrated recycled waterproof blankets.

Swimming top

Sustainable long sleeve top, £110 (davyj.com)

One of the first things Mum and I bought last year (yes, we always buy the same thing in a different colour!) was our long sleeve tops from Davy J. This lovely swimwear brand only uses recycled materials and is designed by a woman who herself swims year-round in the sea, so you know that practicality is front and centre of each piece. They really work to give your essential organs more warmth, and the sleeves have a thumb hole to keep them firmly over your hands. Oh, and they’re MUCH easier to take off than a wetsuit! There are lots of other products that have caught my eye, including the super high waist bikini bottoms and all-in-one swimsuits. 

Slip-ons

‘Howser III’ slide, £64.99 (keenfootwear.com)

Whatever you do, don’t wear lace-up shoes to get to your swim! Because lacing them back up when you have cold, wet hands is the last thing you’ll want to do. Last year I lived in my recycled slip-on mules from Keen (these were a kind gift from the brand) and I was really happy to start wearing them again when the temperature dropped. They come in a variety of colours, as well as a more substantial slipper style and a bootie.

ReEMBER recycled trainers, £70 (teva-eu.com)

Teva also has some recycled slip-on trainers that would be a great option; made from recycled stuff and lined with snuggly microfibre, they also have an optional fold down heel to make life easier when you just want to get back in the car as quickly as possible!

Throw-it-all-in bag

‘Naija’ deadstock nylon shopper, £35 (kemitelford.com)

No-one likes a soggy bag, which is why this nylon one from Kemi Telford, made from deadstock materials sourced in India, is brilliant. It’s designed to be a shopper (which I also use mine as) so it’s massive, and is ideal for throwing my wet gear in at the end of a swim. Because it’s not porous, it dries in no time, too.

My extra tips

  1. Download the Safer Seas and Rivers app

From the good people at Surfers Against Sewage, the Safer Seas App is a way of keeping track of something I’d rather not have to keep track of: sewage outages. Thanks to the not so good people at Southern Water, my local sewers can’t cope with heavy rain and when there has been too much the sewage can overflow into the sea. The app will send you alerts if your local beach isn’t safe to swim at (which in my case is alarmingly frequently). It can also auto-generate an email to your local MP after an outage so that you can lobby to get something done about it, which I have done.

2. Always swim with a buddy

I’m lucky that I always have my mum to swim with, which is really important when you are wild swimming where there are no lifeguards and you might come across unexpected hazards, like rip tides. If you want to find a local group to swim with, head to The Blue Tits, a global swimming community where you can find your tribe. The Blue Tits website also has lots of tips that are well worth a read.

3. Ankles and wrists feel the cold the most

I’m hopeful that my legs will continue to not really feel the cold – they were fine when we took our first freezing dip in April – but my wrists surprised me as being the coldest thing on my whole body, even with my Davy J long sleeve top to help. I already have a pair of old booties that I use for paddle boarding that are similar to these, but you might prefer swim socks (which my mum has – she bought second hand from a friend), and last year, investing in some gloves from my local surf shop was an absolute life saver for my skinny bony bits!

4. Use an old swimsuit

You may notice that I haven’t listed a specific swimsuit in this guide (though if you are in the market for a new one, here are my favourite planet-friendly places to get one). The reason for this is that a) I don’t need a new one and b) I wear my oldest, saggiest, plain black swimsuit under my Davy J top. It’s much easier to take off under a coat and you only see the very bottom of it anyway!

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