Brendon Prince: Going swimming this winter?

Cold water swimmers. Skins or wetsuits?

Cold water swimmers. Skins or wetsuits? - Credit: Archant

Swimming is not only a life skill to keep you safe, swimming is a source. In my slightly biased opinion, a good winter’s walk can only be enhanced by going for a swim!

A source of fitness, health, well-being and – crucially - a place to sort through the jigsaw of daily life.

Could this be why so many more of us are wanting the open water swimming (OWS) source?

Participation in OWS (or dipping) have grown dramatically in the last few years but especially through 2020.

A new wave of swimmers are donning their costumes and taking up this life extending activity.

This is excellent news for health, excellent news for wellbeing and great for participations rates. The latter will help OWS to develop in awareness, safety and opportunity.

Unfortunately, not everything is looking rosy for OWS.

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The Coastguard is reporting a 52 per cent increase in incidents relating to swimming in the last four months.

Among the many reasons for this are new swimmers who have taken up the pursuit. This is their first winter of cold water swimming.

The effects of cold water on the body can be disguised. It is sudden and can be catastrophic.

All swimmers wishing to experience cold water swimming should do so under the guidance of experienced swimmers or coaches.

This is not something that can be safety undertaken until you are totally confident with your body’s ability to tell you how it is reacting in cold water conditions.

I competed my first cold water swim training in Iceland in the early 1990s. Back then health and safety was not really understood or considered.

As a result, my swims - which took place from ice sheet to ice sheet - regularly ended with my body being dragged out of the water semi-unconscious.

The process of regaining life from cold water is a very painful and a slow process.

As a result, my respect for cold water when swimming has never diminished.

To help the swimmers of Torbay and beyond this winter, I suggest you look at the ICEBERGS acronym. Designed by the water safety charity Above Water, these points will help guide your next cold water swimming experience:


For further information regarding water safety, please check the website

• For details of the ICEBERGS acronym, see next week’s paper