Get out of the pool, dive into your nearest lake, river, or ocean and embrace open water swimming 365 days a year. Here’s what you need to know to keep you going from the summer sun through the cold of winter!

We’re big fans of open water swimming at Outsider. It’s a great combination of exploration, escapism, and exercise. Much as we love the pool, the call of the wild has always had a hold over us. The downside to turning our backs on the leisure centre is that the conditions are a lot more changeable, especially in Ireland. Here are our tips to keep you going all year.

Important note – If you have a heart condition or asthma please consult with your doctor before trying winter swimming.

1. Embrace the cold!

The Atlantic and Irish Sea can be icy cold in the depths of winter. In fact, it only really gets into double digits for a couple of months a year. This is something that should be embraced. Diving into the chill is the perfect way to start your day – it will certainly wake you up. You can edge your way in, first a toe, then up to your waist but we prefer the heads first approach. Once you’ve experienced that shock to the system it’s a rush that can get addictive!

2. Know what to expect

With that in mind, it is key you know what to expect when you take the plunge. If you dive in you’re likely to be temporarily affected by the following:

  • Cold water shock will cause your chest to tighten and your breathing to become more shallow.
  • Brain freeze can be an issue when you submerge your head fully. This can be mitigated by a swimming cap.

This isn’t intended to worry you but to forewarn you. With this in mind, don’t outstay your welcome. You won’t be able to swim as long in the winter as you would in the summer. Don’t try to be a hero by outlasting everyone else.

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3. Prepare appropriately

Open Water Swimming: All Year Round

We would definitely recommend donning a wetsuit in the winter months to keep you in the water longer. It’s not impossible to develop hyperthermia during a swim. With a suitable wetsuit, you’ll be able to stay warmer and swim longer. The added buoyancy will also make life a lot easier too. Most of your body heat is lost through your head so a swimming cap should be considered, perhaps even two!

4. Don’t go alone

Solidarity and camaraderie are key to defeating your fear of the cold. It’s a lot easier to take the plunge when you’ve already seen your friend dive in and come out smiling. Call it encouragement, call it peer pressure, it’s a lot easier to stay committed to swimming all year round if you’ve got someone pushing you on.

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5. Take more precautions

Open water is generally more fickle and powerful in the autumn and winter months. Keep that in mind especially out at sea. The wind is stronger and more temperamental and fighting against the pull of the currents is harder. Make sure you’ve got a method for getting out and stay a little closer to land so that you can get out easily in case the conditions get too much. It’s another key reason you should go swimming with someone else.

6. Get warm afterwards

Once you’re finished in the water, get out steadily. You may feel light-headed so don’t rush and try and pick an easy route out. Cover up and look to dry off as quickly as possible. The cold will only intensify once you’re out of the water as you’ll no longer be moving to fight against the cold. Have a flask of something warm, it’ll help restore your body temperature and heat your hands at the same time.

What Gear You’ll Need


Price: From €59.99

Open water swimming kit

A necessity for all open-water swimmers from triathletes to fishermen. This highly visual buoyancy aid can be worn on the small of the back and used as an emergency aid or inflated for the swimmer to alert other waterway traffic of their position. It can be inflated using gas cartridges or manually before you get into the water. If you only have budget for one item of kit for your new open swimming addiction, make sure this is it.

Available from: Great Outdoors

2. Dryrobe Advance Changing Robe Long Sleeved

Price: €170

Open water swimming kit

The Dryrobe has become synonymous with the open water swim community of late. If you’re a daily dipper year round, then it really is a game changer. Its waterproof and windproof exterior will protect you from the elements, while the inner lining dries you and keeps you warm. It also makes changing and storing your stuff a doddle. If you’re purely a summer swimmer, you’ll find lots of cheaper alternatives out there, but if you’re a year round water enthusiast then you can’t really beat the Dryrobe.

Available from: Surfdock

3. Maru Silicone Swim Cap

Price: €10

Open water swimming kit

You won’t realise it until you become a regular open water swimmer how much heat a decent swim hat keeps in. The Maru Silicone Swim Cap comes in all kinds of colours and is suitable for adults and children due to it’s one size fits all structure.

Available from: Surfdock

4. Michael Phelps Xceed Swim Goggles

Price: €64.99

Open water swimming kit

If you’re graduating from a quick dipper to a seasoned swimmer, you’re going to need a decent pair of goggles. These slick pair of Michael Phelps XCEED competition goggles combines patented curved lens technology and a hydrodynamic low profile fit to give swimmers perfect clarity.

Available from: Great Outdoors

5. Speedo Biofuse Earplugs

Price: €8

Open water swimming kit

You may find after a few open water swim sessions that you need to add a pair of earplugs to your tote bag. Speedo Biofuse Earplugs are cheap, comfortable and reliable… what more could you ask for?

Available from: Portwest

6. Orca 2mm Neoprene Swim Socks

Price: €45

Open water swimming kit

Swim socks – you may find you need them, you may find you don’t. If you find that your feet are painful when getting into cold water then a pair of swim socks makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable! You can get the socks in various thickness, it all comes down to what works best for your body.

Available from: Surfdock


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