News from The Outdoor Swimming Society

More detail on the items below can be found on

Dear swimmer, 

Chillier weather is upon us and we know what that means: euphoria for the UK’s dedicated band of winter swimmers. For some of us the idea of cold biting into our digits seems far from anything we recognise as ’pleasure’, but winter swimmers claim boosted immune systems, and a rush that keeps them happy ALL DAY LONG.

If that sounds like something you want a piece of, come and join us at the annual OSS December Dip on Saturday 6 December in London, when we’ll be giving out mince pies and Christmas pudding swimming hats (courtesy of our friends at Zoggs), and daring each other to take a short plunge (more hot drinks afterwards).  

This year our star guest is Olympic 10K bronze medal winner and new-to-be OSS Patron, Cassie Patten. Cassie is an inspiring swimmer who has swum outdoors her whole life and will talk to us about her passion for the outdoors, training for the Olympics and the very exciting – and secret –  plans she has for next year. Even if you don’t want to get in, it’ll be worth coming to meet some of the rest of the OSS members and hear Cassie speak. 

We’ll also use the December Dip to launch our big drive for the end of the year: getting you all into the water at the festive swims that are organised by lifeboat stations and independents around the country. A map of festive swims will go up at the start of December: if you are taking part in an organised event, or an organiser of your own, then please get in touch and put yourself in the map – for more details, see the website.

Apart from freezing our berries off, we’re using the dips to remind everyone not to waste too much water this Christmas. We waste so much, all year round, and no more water would mean no more swimming, amongst other things, so do take a minute to read how our friends at Waterwise tell us we can do better 

With the help of our new volunteers (apologies to anyone we still have not got back to yet; trust us, we’ll find something for you to do) we have put up an unprecedented number of stories for November. Thank you everybody! Please do check them out on the OSS website – most are up already, a few more will be posted tomorrow. November stories:

  • CASSIE PATTEN HOLDS OPEN WATER SWIM CLINICS (22 & 23 November 2008, London). These are not run by the OSS but we thought you might like to go and learn about endurance swimming from an expert anyway. 90 minute masterclass, £40.
  • THE OSS DECEMBER DIP: Saturday 6 December, 10am-midday, Parliament Hill Lido. Jump in and join us and receive a Christmas pudding swim hat free from Zoggs, mince pies and camaraderie from other lovely people who like water as much as you do.
  • TOP FESTIVE SWIMS: news on how we’re planning to celebrate the fine British tradition of taking to the water over the Christmas period by publishing a special Christmas map of all festive dips (and giving you presents if you go). Now, where is that polar bear costume…
  • NOVEMBER SWIM TIP – COPING WITH WAVES: A drill to practise in the pool so that come next May, you’re all set to swim in choppy conditions without inhaling water.
  • WHAT TEMPERATURE IS THE SEA RIGHT NOW? Warmer than rivers and lakes, that’s what we’re saying. In fact the sea is still temperate enough for many swimmers to enjoy dips without a wetsuit, and go on proper explorations with one.
  • INTERNATIONAL & NATIONAL SWIM EVENTS 2009: We know many OSS members like signing up for events as an introduction to swimming outdoors, as a challenge and to keep themselves fit and swimming over winter. Sometimes it’s just a really good excuse to go on holiday. See more on the site.
  • SWIMMING HOME, AN ART-SWIMMING PROJECT. Between July and September in 2008 two artists and swimmers undertook a project called ‘Swimming Home’. Paul Clark and Richard Light conceived their project in terms of performance – both performance art and physical performance – and investigated the altered states of mind that come from swimming outdoors as they crossed lakes and tarns in Cumbria. Read their story.
  • SWIMMERS IMPROVE WITH AGE. Good news via the New York Times and SwimTrek: “Some swimmers have found that they only get better with age.  A group of master swimmers in the US have managed to lower their swim times from when they were a teenager through emphasising good technique” Check the story out on the website and remember: it’s never too late.
  • HOW TO SWIM THROUGH WINTER, PART TWO – WINTER WETSUITS: We’ve come to recognise that our needs are beyond those understood by retailers (yet) so in the absence of store managers knowing anything about winter swimming, OSS member Claire Inness took a look through some dedicated swimmers kitbags to find out how many balaclavas, booties, gloves, rashvests and wetsuits (worn at once) they’re improvising with in order to undertake long swimming adventures this winter. Just as soon as we get hold of some heated cummerbunds  Patagonia and Alaska here we come. 

Happy dipping – and see you on the 6 December. Welcome to all new members and please, do forward this on to anyone you think might be interested in receiving it.  

Best wishes

Kate & the OSS team

PS The swim map: we can’t bear it, but our swim map volunteer has been missing in action (or a swimming pool) for almost three months now with all the swims you all sent in. We live in hope that he’ll get wrinkly fingers and toes any minute and come out and we can get these on the map over the winter period. Please do not despair if you sent a suggestion in: we will rescue the situation by next spring.

PSS If you don’t have a copy of my book Wild Swim yet (Guardian Books, £16.99), please buy one: it also makes a great Christmas present (there are lists of triathlon training sites for fit friends, and festive swims for holiday period, as well as stories and 300 spots to swim in). ‘I’ve been enjoying mine from underneath the comfort of a 12 tog duvet’ said one more bed than armchair swimmer. ‘A surprisingly good read, for a non-swimmer who lives in Montana,’ said another. The pictures by documentary photographer Dominick Tyler make it a classic gift.