HEADING ONTO THE WATER WITH OUR EXPERTS
Heading into the water, whether braving a wild swim or challenging yourself with a new watersport, is an epic way to experience the outdoors. Plunging into the cool depths gives you an unbeatable buzz and is said to be good for your health too!
Not convinced? Below we catch up with our expert Katie who can usually be found in or on the water, to find out what draws her to the water and what activities she takes part in as well as learning more about her favourite locations.
What watersports do you take part in?
I used to swim when I was younger and spent a lot of my time growing up near water, so swimming outdoors is probably one of my favourite activities.
I think that's why I’m so comfortable in the water and willing to give different watersports a go. Most summers, I go away with friends, and we’ll try different activities like surfing and paddleboarding. I enjoy the more physical nature of these activities, but I definitely wouldn’t call myself a pro yet - I’ve got a lot to learn.
I also do some sailing with my partner when I get the chance, which I love.
Why do you think you are drawn to watersports?
I enjoy being around water in any capacity, and I think this stems from swimming regularly from a young age. My first jobs were linked to swimming - I was a lifeguard first and then qualified as a swimming teacher.
But it wasn’t until I was at university that I found my love of the outdoors and discovered that I could combine my passion for the water with the outdoors.
I know some people find swimming in the UK water too cold, but I find it so refreshing and I always get a buzz after taking a dip - it’s just exhilarating.
Do you have any tips for staying safe in the water?
Safety is really important when you’re wild swimming, so I’ve found joining an outdoor swimming group on the Meetup app helpful. I’ve been able to arrange swims with like-minded people, and we take advantage of each other’s knowledge of the best local spots to swim outdoors safely.
I also always do some research before taking the plunge, just to make sure you’re allowed to swim in the area and that it’s safe to do so.
Another good way to ease yourself into it is by swimming in seawater tidal pools, as you don’t have to worry about tides or other hazards. They’re usually really well looked after and have facilities for changing nearby.
Do you have any gear recommendations for wild swimming?
A good pair of goggles is a must for swimming outdoors. You want to make sure they are specifically designed for wild swimming to give you a wider field of vision, offer UVA/UVB protection and reduce glare.
If I’m swimming any distance, I always wear a latex or silicone swimming cap to keep my hair out of my face, although you can also get neoprene caps that will keep your head warm in cold water.
The right wetsuit can also enhance your experience. I use the same wetsuit for all my activities at the moment. Although it does the job fine, I’m planning to invest in a proper swimming wetsuit that has better movement in the shoulders and will be comfier for swimming longer distances. You can also get different thicknesses to suit different water temperatures.
There are times when I choose to go in without a wetsuit, especially in the summer when it's warmer or if I’m just paddling and bobbing around rather than swimming.
What about recommendations for paddleboarding?
Obviously, you’ll need a paddleboard, and whether you opt for one with a planing or displacement hull or a solid or inflatable SUP depends on how you plan on using it.
Planing hull SUPs are best for those just getting into the sport as they are good all-rounders and easy to manoeuvre – like a mountain bike of the water. SUPs with displacements hulls are more technical and better for longer distances.
When it comes to choosing between a solid or inflatable board, I’d say from a practical perspective, the biggest consideration is space and how you’d transport a solid paddleboard, but from a performance point of view, they have the edge.
You’ll also need a paddle, and for safety, a lifejacket and a leash are essential. If I’m planning on a trip downriver, I also find a drysack invaluable as it means I can take my stuff with me on my trip.
Do you have any other recommendations to make your time in or out of the water more enjoyable?
I recently got a poncho towel robe, and it’s a gamechanger! It makes life a lot easier when getting changed on the beach or back at the car. I wish I’d discovered it sooner.
I also have a lockbox, which gives me added peace of mind when I’m in the water as I don’t have to worry about hiding car keys in my shoes or towel on the beach and hoping they are still there when I come back.
Suncream is also a must. It’s easy to get sunburnt in the water as you don’t feel the sun’s rays on you. Water-resistant sun cream is best as it doesn’t wash away. I also try to choose a sun cream that doesn’t contain ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate that are potentially harmful to marine life. Instead, I look for sunscreens that use zinc-oxide with micro or non-nano sized particles.
Can you share any tips you have for looking after your watersports gear?
Outdoor gear is an investment, so I think it’s important to look after it the best I can to make it last for as long as possible. I try to keep my goggles in a case when I’m not using them to stop them from getting scratched in my bag, and I use an anti-fog spray when they start fogging up to help them last that little bit longer.
I also find Black Witch Neoprene Repair Glue great for repairing small tears in my wetsuit.
Where are your favourite watersport locations?
One of my favourite beaches in the UK is Seaburn, just down the road from where my mum lives near Sunderland. The whole North East of England coastline is so beautiful, and I love going for walks there when I’m visiting. Sometimes I even brave a swim.
I lived on the Isle of Wight, so the Solent holds a special place in my heart. Despite it being a busy shipping lane, it’s a great place to sail, and the Isle of Wight has some stunning beaches and great places to swim.
Do you have any favourite memories on the water?
Last summer was pretty amazing. My friends and I found some wild swimming spots in Snowdonia and the Lake District that were totally off the beaten track. Swimming in some of the most breathtaking places in the UK is just incredible - you get a real rush.
I also managed to get involved in Snow+Rock’s One Day for the Planet initiative, volunteering with the National Trust in Woolacombe. I spent the day with people from all across the business litter picking the beach and stabilising benches on the dunes. But the highlight was rounding the end of the day with a swim in the sea at Woolacombe Beach. It was just such a great experience to meet so many new people who all shared the same passion and were crazy enough to brave a swim in the Bristol Channel in October.
I spend a lot of time in Cornwall during the summer, sea cliff climbing and swimming or surfing around places like Sennen, so I have some great memories there too.
Finally, have you taken part in any watersports challenges?
Last year I did a triathlon at Newborough Forest on Anglesey. The sea was beautifully calm, so it was great to swim in and just a stunning location. I’ve got another triathlon booked this summer in Llanberis. The two events are organised by an events company called Always Aim High. I would recommend their events for anyone looking to get into triathlon as they offer a ‘Super-Sprint’ distance, which is very manageable for a beginner at around 400m swim, 10km bike, 2.5km run, and they are very well run events.
I’ve also competed in quite a few sailing regattas in the summer, and the highlight of the day for me is jumping in for a swim after a race.
Let us know you agree to cookies
We use marketing, analytical and functional cookies as well as similar technologies to give you the best experience. Third parties, including social media platforms, often place tracking cookies on our site to show you personalised adverts outside of our website.