Warmer weather, longer days, beautiful blossoms and lush greenery - spring is a joyful time of the year. It's also a great time to get active outdoors. Whether you've been dipping through the winter, or fancy trying surfing or wild swimming, here are seven tips for getting wet and wild in spring from our resident open water coach.
1. Prep for cold water
The sun might be warm, but the water's still very cold. As a rule, the bigger the body of water, the longer it takes to warm up, so the sea is especially cold in the spring. So, even if you arrive at your swim spot in short sleeves, you'll probably need a jumper and coat for afterwards.
It's also worth remembering to slowly build up the amount of time you spend in the water. This is the number one thing that catches out winter swimmers - you've dipped at sub-five degrees centigrade, so twelve feels balmy. But it isn't, so don't stay in too long.
2. Find clean water
Worried about water quality? You're not alone. Spring rain and tides can mean pollution. If you swim in the sea, sign up for the Surfer's Against Sewage Safer Seas & Rivers service for pollution warnings. If you swim in rivers, the Rivers Trust's sewage map is a great resource. The main tip is to be extra cautious for the 72 hours after heavy rainfall as this is when the sea and rivers are most likely to be affected by sewage and agricultural run-off from fields.
If you're put off from swimming in the sea or rivers, the UK is full of spring-fed pools and lakes. You can also find managed open water swimming venues (you'll usually get charged to swim there) where the water gets tested regularly.
3. Support your local lido
Spring is when most of the UK's beautiful lidos open their gates. There has been a real increase in the number of lidos being renovated and reopened, and they need our custom to support them - it's a tough job, but someone's got to go there!
You can go posh, like Bristol Lido with its spa facilities and fabulous restaurant; heritage like Ilkley Lido which is grade II listed; a geothermal lido Jubilee Pool in Penzance, Cornwall which is naturally heated; historic like Lido Ponty in Pontypridd or Olympic-sized like Stonehaven Open Air Pool. We love the Lido Guide book for a comprehensive list of Lidos in the UK.
4. Know your tides
Spring tides are when the normal tides rises further and falls lower than usual. Wind conditions will change the size of the waves. Whatever the tide's doing, it's safest to swim at 'slack water', which is when the water is fairly still an hour either side of high or low tide. This is when rip tides are least likely to happen. So, if you swim or surf, it's really worth knowing what the tide is doing on any given day so that you don't get caught out. Use a service like Magic Seaweed to find tide times and surf conditions - and remember that nothing beats asking a local swimmer or surfer for the tidal lowdown.
5. Start training
Have you got a swim challenge, surf competition or triathlon coming up? For swimmers, open water swimming events are a great way of getting into the sport. Usually taking place in the summer when the water's warmer, they can help you explore new locations or swim further with the safety of an organised event.
This spring is a great time to start training. This might mean finding a local coach or pool session for technique and distance, and then going outdoors to practice swimming in your wetsuit... or without in colder water.
6. Plan days out
With warmer weather, getting inside and in the warm post-swim is less of an issue. On warm, spring days, nothing beats combining a hike and a swim. We love Daniel Starts Wild Swimming, Wild Swimming Walks and The Art of Wild Swimming by Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan for finding new swimming spots and planning walks around them.
7. Get sociable
If you have a friend who's keen to try surfing or wild swimming, now's a great time. Pick a warm, sunny day and a safe spot that you know well. Pack warm drinks and cake (of course) and start with a gentle dip.
If you're curious about swimming outdoors or fancy trying surfing, there are loads of wonderful, welcoming organisations all around the UK ready to introduce you to the joy of wild water. We love Mental Health Swims and The Bluetits for swimming, and the Gower Women's Surf Society (pictured above) for new surfers.
What new adventures are waiting for you this spring?