Too Cool To Swim?

Autumn has its grip on most of the northern hemisphere and our wild waterways are cooling down fast. I have heard the usual chatter about the ‘last open water swim of the season’ and I fully sympathize.

However, I want to raise the challenge to hold onto your open water swimming a bit longer than you normally have, if possible.

Yes, it’s getting cooler, or perhaps it is downright cold already. Others have said its time to quit for the season. But what would it take to get you back in your favorite local wild water spot one more time, or even a few?

A wetsuit?

A friends to join you?

Calm weather?

A kayak escort?

A change in your expectation for the swim?

A simple decision to just do it?

An invitation?

Some inspiration?

matias ola cold water

Hazaña Mundial de Matías Ola en el Estrecho de Bering


I admit that in the Med around Antalya I won’t encounter much discomfort in the sea for a couple more months. And even at its coolest (15 C) this is not ‘cold’ by open-water swimmer standards, just at the lower edge of ‘cool’. But I began the commitment last year to stay swimming through the coolest months because I wanted to adapt to my local waterway and keep the freedom I have here (and to quit risking my health at the local pool!).  I have been greatly rewarded for it. I have looked forward to the cooling sea with relish – something I could not imagine I would have felt a few years ago.

For the coldest 3 months last year (late December, January and February) I wore a 1/2 mm sleeveless neoprene speed suit to take the edge off the cold (which had mixed results, actually). And I acquired the habit of taking cold showers to the point that I find hot ones rather unpleasant now. I was surprised by how much my body adapted. When the water started climbing again in the spring I was immediately out of the speed suit. I treated it as an exploration with no pressure to fulfill my quest in any particular way – just get out there to swim as often as possible and learn as much as I could. I only stayed away when the storms and wind collected too much silt and dangerous debri for me to safely swim through. And that salt water flushing through my sinuses and throat all winter was a great aid in keeping the head colds at bay.


In response to my challenge I would like to hear about your autumn open water swimming possibilities and your thoughts about these two questions:

What obstacles stands in your way of staying in your local wild water a bit longer?

What rewards might await you if you find a way to over come those?

Send me a note!

PS – we’ll be writing much more about the pleasures and realities of cool/cold water swimming in the coming months. Stay tuned!


2 responses to “Too Cool To Swim?

  1. It’s a combination of things, really. And, yes, most of them are excuses.

    The biggest reason is because it’s cold (duh). Through trial and error I’ve figured out that 17 degr C I can swim in open water with some discomfort. 15-16 degr my hands and feet get numb after about half an hour. Even when wearing a wetsuit. I’m sure I could get my body used to that with more regular training.
    The second biggest reason is boats. They scare the living daylights out of me. In the summer when it’s warm, boat drivers are used to there being people in the water. But when it gets colder they think nobody’s in the water when it’s so cold, and are less careful. My local council has promised to set up a line in the lake next year, much like Terry’s New Paltz line, so this will be a lesser problem.
    The third reason is light. I dare not venture into open water outside daylight hours because of safety reasons. And the days get shorter quick this time of year in Scandinavia. As a full-time working father of three, I usually swim at 8 p.m. and it’s already pitch black then this time of the year.

    • Oh, yeah up north there is perpetual Night Swimming!

      That would take up the complexity of safety (and mental peace) to another level. Cold, dark, lonely, and boats that don’t see or care. That’s a very tough combination.

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