Open water swimming continues to get more and more popular each year. If you’ve just signed up for your first event and you're  starting to think, ‘what on earth have I got myself into’ - don’t worry, you’re in safe hands!

We’ve got together with our ambassador, elite open water swimmer and Olympic silver medallist, Keri-anne Payne, to give you some top tips that will help you prepare for your very first open water swim.

  1. Get the right kit

If this is your first open water event, getting to grips with the kit can be one of the most daunting things. If you’ve never had the pleasure of donning a full body neoprene suit before (and lets face it why would you!) picking the right wetsuit can be tricky.

Keri-anne advises that the key to a well fitting wetsuit is ensuring it is nice and tight. Getting into your suit for the first time will be tricky, so you may want to have a few practise runs at home.

A wetsuit is clearly a bit of an investment for most people; so if this is your first event, why not hire one from our online shop? You can hire a great Aqua Sphere wetsuit from £40, and if you fall in love with open water swimming you can forgo your deposit and keep the suit.


  1. Swim the distance

A lot of people who sign up to Great Swim events may already consider themselves strong swimmers, but its important to know you can swim the distance before you get in the open water.

Not only is regular training the key to staying fit, it will give you the confidence to know you’re capable of completing the challenge, and hopefully mean the start line nerves wont get the better of you!

The half-mile course is about 32 lengths of a standard 25m pool and the one-mile is 64. 

If you haven’t had a swimming lesson since jumping into the school baths to retrieve a brick in your pyjamas, it may be worth getting a refresher.

Many local pools offer adult swimming lessons and very minor adjustments to your stroke can make you much more efficient in the water.


  1. Get out in the open water

This one can be a little trickier depending on where you live, so we’d say it’s a nice to have if possible, but not essential.

Getting out in the open water before your event will give you an idea of what its like to swim in a wetsuit - which for first timers is actually pretty great!

Not only will it keep you buoyant, you will also feel surprisingly warm and insulated. Coping with water temperature is often the biggest concern for novice open water swimmers. 

We strongly recommend you find a venue that runs specific open water sessions which are lifeguarded and have proper safety provisions for your first experience in the open water, also go with a friend if possible.

Great Swim is running open water training days in the Lake District and Suffolk. We also recently launched Great Swim Local in Manchester, which we’re hoping to roll out in other locations over the coming months.