If you've been on holiday and spent some time in the sea, then you've experienced open water swimming!

To get started with open water swimming in the UK, find out about local swimming spots, look online in guide books to help you on your way.

Beware the cold! A general rule of thumb is that a water temperature of over 17C is fine without a wetsuit, while a temperature under 15C requires a wetsuit for any distance swimming. Surface water can be warm, but if you go a little deeper the temperature can quickly drop.

Triathlon clubs often organise open water swim sessions with more and more open water swim clinics available.Water quality is getting better in the UK, but local knowledge is invaluable when it comes to water quality issues. For instance, in warmer months don’t swim in blue-green algae as it can cause serious illness or worse!

Wetsuit etiquette. Wetsuits are essential for open water swimming in the UK, but there is no need to invest in an expensive model straight away. When starting out it is better to hire and see if you really like it.

Goggles and swim hats are a must. Use your pool goggles for the open water and wear a brightly coloured swim hat so you are visible in the water.

Join a reputable club or open water swimming venue. It is vital that you get some good quality coaching, advice and guidance when you are just starting out to ensure that you safe and confident in the open water. In your first few sessions get familiar with open water swimming. Don’t pressure yourself with the quality of your swim or the distance, get used to wearing your wetsuit and how it feels and get comfortable with the water.

Water temperature. Early in the season the water may still be around 12-13C so you may not want to stay in long anyway, if at any point you feel that you are getting too cold, make sure you get out of the water.

With no lane to follow, swimming in a straight line can be tricky. With no lane or markings to follow you may find that you go off course, so you have to lift your head out of the water to see where you are going. Pick a permanent object out of the water that you can view which could be tree or building to keep you on track.

Take a look at what Great Swim participants have to say about their experiences of open water swimming here.