Swimming outdoors is growing in popularity, especially in Perthshire due to the spectacular view and the connection with nature.
Swimming outdoors can also work wonders for your health and happiness, with researchers saying that an outdoor dip can boost your mood, calm inflammation, reduce stress and be meditative, helping us to disconnect from our busy lives.
The River Tay Community Sports Hub wants you to enjoy swimming safely outdoors, and so here is some important guidance from the RNLI.
BEFORE YOU GO
- Consult a doctor for health advice and discuss the risks. Cover any cuts/abrasions and don’t swim with deep cuts due to the risk of infection.
- choose a venue that has organised sessions and has safety cover. Willowgate Activity Centre has weekly sessions where you can meet other enthusiasts and swim in the shallow 320m circuit lagoon.
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- arrange to swim with a buddy, and tell someone on land when you will be back as they can call for help if you don’t return on time
- do not swim if under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
If new to outdoor swimming, choose a venue such as Willowgate Activity Centre that has organised sessions and has safety cover to help you in an emergency. If swimming in the wild, assess the conditions before you get in and in both cases
- know your limits (shorten your swim time/swim close to the shore)
- the colder the water and the air temperature, the quicker you will cool down and the less time you should spend in the water
- enter the water slowly, don’t jump/dive in as it could cause cold water shock
- splash cold water on your face/neck and don’t hold your breath for too long
- stay within your depth and swim parallel to the shore
- keep an eye on your exit point and make sure you can return to it as currents and the wind can push you off course
CHECK THE LOCATION, WEATHER AND TIDES
- where will you safely enter and exit the water
- what are the tides like at the time you wish to swim (River Tay is a tidal river)
- are there any hazards to avoid (rocks, wild life, other river users)
- check the weather forecast
- if in doubt, don’t go out in the water
FLOAT TO LIVE
Entering water under 15°C can seriously impact your ability to breathe and move. If you get into the water too quickly or fall in unexpectedly, you may experience cold water shock. If this happens, fight your instinct to swim. Relax and float on your back until you can control your breathing and the shock passes. Then you can call for help.
When open water swimming, you might get tired. Roll on to your back to rest and hold on to something that floats, like your tow float. Then you can signal for help if needed.
HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
- wear a wetsuit, it will help you stay warm and can increase your buoyancy
- wear a brightly coloured swim hat
- in very cold water temperatures, consider wearing neoprene gloves, boots and swim cap
- bring a tow float with you (it will help you to be seen and acts as extra buoyancy if you need it)
- have a means for calling for help with you (mobile phone in waterproof pouch / whistle to attract attention). You can also download the RYA SafeTrx app which can track your swim and alert emergency contacts if you fail to return on time
- make sure you have warm clothes and a warm drink for after your swim. It is important to warm yourself up carefully
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
In case of an emergency, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. You should always have a means of calling for help when open water swimming or cold water dipping. This could be a mobile phone in a water proof bag.
Remember, if you don’t have any mobile phone signal, don’t panic, you can still try calling 999 or 112 as your phone will try to connect to any other network available.