According to, swimming in open water has a 'long and colourful history dating back as far as 36BC, when the Japanese organised the first open water races. The Romans held high-profile races in the Tiber, when thousands would crowd along the banks to watch and cheer. The Knights in the middle ages reputedly had to swim in full armour as one of their seven required agilities.'

In 1986, FINA officially added open water swimming to the international competition calendar, and in 2008 the International Olympic Committee listed the first ever Olympic 10km marathon swimming race as one of the events for Beijing.

Team GB clinched three medals in this event – half the medals on offer – and since that moment the UK has really seen an upsurge in outdoor swimming. Echoing the bold waterbabies of Russia, China and Scandinavia, more UK citizens are becoming converts of cold winter swimming; arguing that it boosts the immune system, improves circulation and provides an addictive adrenalin rush which cannot be found amongst the cosy lanes of your local pool.

Pauline Squire, Wild About Swimming owner, confirms this. "The natural endorphins high from swimming outside in fresh air can last for days. It's been proven to be a mentally and physically beneficial activity. Open water swimming can also take you to some of the most stunning locations, where your mind can rest while your body is embraced by the waters.  In my opinion it's the most inclusive sport/hobby you can have, and open to any age or ability."

Europe's biggest open water swim series, Great Swim, is attracting more first time entries each year. Aqua Sphere is the official swim kit partner to the series and the brand's Marketing Manager, Fiona Walker, completed her first Great Swim last year.

She says: "This was a huge personal challenge. Up until then I was a confident swimmer, but I wasn't a particularly good swimmer. But I love being outdoors and there's something very instinctive about taking to the open water and engaging with the elements. No chlorine, no lanes, no hair tumbleweed populated with plasters and scabs!

"There are very few things that compare to the exhilaration of an open water swim! My favourite memory was a training swim where the water was chilly, but fresh and clear, and I was surrounded by swallows dipping around me as I swam. 

"The sun glinting off the water with the rush of birds around me as I became part of their environment, was just wonderful."

Fiona trained systematically in her local pool and, as it became warmer, took her training outdoors. Conversely we all saw Davina McCall's shocking collapse after swimming across Windermere as part of a Sport Relief fundraising challenge this chilly February.

Simon Griffiths of H2Open magazine believes: "The fact that she struggled to breathe or to lift her arms out of the water are fairly normal responses for an inexperienced swimmer plunged into cold water and almost certainly could have been avoided with more training and preparation."

Fortunately Davina recovered quickly but the experience was a timely reminder of the risks in open water swimming, especially in extremely cold conditions. Simon advises: "Making your first open water swimming experience a winter one is a little foolish. Swimming in Windermere should be a wonderful and life-affirming experience. For most people it is.

"We wonder if Davina had any opportunity to savour the majestic surroundings and the beautiful, clear water. Did she, at any point in that swim, experience, notice and enjoy the electric tingle of fresh, cool water against her skin? Did she delight in the weightless calm that only swimming can give you?

"If you haven't yet tried open water swimming, please prepare properly and consider when and where you first do it. Make sure it's a positive experience that brings you back for more."

Pauline adds: "There appears to be wide condemnation for Davina's lack of preparation for her swim. The normal open water swimmer trains and prepares well, in anticipation of the enjoyment and competition of an event. Sadly, that Davina didn't, has potentially brought the sport into disrepute and does leave the rest of us defending our right to enjoy the water."

Davina -- we do admire your gumption -- but please revisit Windermere with us this summer for a swim you'll remember for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones.