Cold water swimming is a wonderful way to make new friends and form new connections. The mental health benefits of swimming in open water are already well documented; many swimmers report a feeling of euphoria and a greater sense of mental wellbeing after a dip in the chilly waters.

The sport is also renowned for its supportive community. It takes some courage and willpower to turn up, change into your cold water swim gear and take the plunge, and this can foster a culture of camaraderie and encouragement. If you are new to the sport, finding a support network is not just about morale boosting, but is also safer.

Whether you are already a seasoned open water swimmer or just getting your feet wet, here are some tips to help you build your own social swimming scene.

What are the benefits of building social connections?

Nurturing social connections is good for both our mental and physical health. It can provide a sense of belonging and purpose, which can boost mental resilience and help us to cope better with the challenges that life inevitably throws in our path. 

A strong social network also helps to combat isolation and loneliness, which is linked to a range of health problems including hypertension, elevated cortisol levels, faster cognitive decline, depression, a weakened immune system, and worse sleep quality. This is particularly true for older people, but can be relevant at any age.

Finding fellow swimmers who share your love of action, nature, and the outdoors can also help you to get the most out of your sport or hobby, as they will be able to share tips on techniques, kit, and the best places for outdoor swimming. Here are just some of the ways you can find your tribe.

Join an open water swimming group or club

There are hundreds of open water swimming clubs in the UK. Some of these are more informal groups that do not require membership fees, while others are subscription-based. In return for your membership fees, you may have access to tuition and training sessions, discounted swimming gear, and organised competitions or events.

Joining a club will mean that you are instantly part of a ready-made support network and this can boost your confidence and motivation on days when it just seems more tempting to snuggle up on the sofa than get out there in the water. You are more likely to feel accountable to your goals and continue to show up on a regular basis.

Being a member of a group also brings safety and security to your swims, as you can be confident that the locations are tried and tested. Regular organised swim locations will be carefully sourced and group members will have local knowledge of issues such as tides, currents, pollution levels, safe entry and exit points, and so on. 

Swimming in a group brings extra safety as the club is likely to have rigorous safety protocols in place, and you can benefit from the experience of established members.

Swimming buddies

If clubs or groups are not your thing, you could try seeking a swimming buddy. This might be a good solution if you do not feel confident enough to join a group, or if you simply do not have the time to commit to a more formal arrangement. A buddy provides companionship and encouragement, and is also advisable to have for your own safety in the water.

Check out social media groups for cold water swimming to help you connect with a swim buddy. Alternatively, you could attend local events, workshops, or meetups, or place your own ad on community notice boards, magazines, local newspapers, or social media.

Take part in swimming events

Group swims take part around the UK, particularly during the summer months. They can be competitive events, or just the opportunity to swim with others. It’s a great way to meet new people and bond with your fellow swimmers. 

It can also get you out and about to visit some of the most beautiful places in the country, such as remote mountain lakes, scenic river valleys, or coastal areas with secluded bays or miles of sandy beaches.

If you are a serious athlete who is looking for a fresh challenge, you could consider training for a triathlon event, which involves three stages of open water swimming, cycling, and running. 

Sarah A