Suzanna Swims

Every Body Outdoors: Experiences for plus-size swimmers

Outdoor community Every Body Outdoors is hosting an exciting series of events for plus-size swimmers in beautiful wild locations, including an intro to outdoor swimming in the Cairngorms. We spoke to the group’s co-founder Steph Wetherell about the barriers facing plus-size swimmers, and how EBO’s efforts are making open water more accessible.

Outdoor community group Every Body Outdoors (EBO) is campaigning for better representation, clothing and gear for plus-size bodies in the outdoors. As part of its campaign, this summer the group is hosting a series of experiences for plus-size swimmers, including an Intro Outdoor Swimming for plus-size people hosted by our very own Ella Foote.

We spoke to the group’s co-founder Steph Wetherell about the barriers facing plus-size swimmers, and how the group’s new events are a step towards overcoming these barriers.

Steph, what are the barriers to wild swimming for plus-size people?

Trying a new activity can make a lot of people feel quite vulnerable, and getting into a swimming costume among a group strangers can be hard – it’s something plus-size people sometimes struggle with. Providing a plus-size only space can help reduce these barriers and make people feel more comfortable; like they’re with a community who understand them and the challenges they face.

How will these experiences support swimmers and help make open water feel more accessible?

The sessions are all being run by qualified guides and instructors, and will cover what people should expect when swimming otudoors, what kit they need, how to stay safe, understanding the risks, after-swim care and much more. It’s a great opportunity to give it a go in a supported environment and learn some of the basic skills and knowledge to keep you safe and comfortable when swimming in open water.

Intro to swimming

How much swimming experience do you need to join?

The sessions are aimed at those who are new to outdoor swimming, or people who want to gain more confidence. You don’t need to have swum outdoors before, but you do need to be able to swim unassisted and be comfortable in a wild environment.

Please can you tell us more about the three different experiences?

The experiences are all located in really different locations, which informs how the sessions run. The swim with Dip Advisor is a river swim, in a section of the Wey, where you walk to the start and swim back along a section of the river. The session with Suzanna Swims is in the stunning Lake District, based out of Buttermere Village where there’s access to two different swimming lakes – Buttermere and Crummock Water. The swim with Swim Wild is in the magnificent Cairngorms, in Loch Insh, surrounded by some amazing views.

This is the first time EBO has hosted swimming experiences, but I know you’ve organised hikes and navigation events before. Please could you share with us how you’ve seen these events open up the outdoors for participants?

For most participants, it’s the first time they’ve spent time in a plus size only group, and on the courses we often see the anxieties that people turn up wth disappearing when people realise that it’s a safe and supportive space. I find that the events we’ve run give people so much confidence – not just in the activity they’re taking part in, but it also gives people so much confidence beyond that as they realise what their body is capable of, and the different activities they can take part in.

Why are events like this important?

Open water swimming can seem a bit overwhelming to a lot of people, with people often unsure about how to stay safe and know their limits, so providing courses where people can learn this information from a qualified instructor is key. And while outdoor swimming can be an incredibly welcome and body positive space, it’s important to provide spaces for people who feel self conscious in more general courses, or who want to spend time around other people who have a similar experience to them.

Personally, what do you get from swimming outdoors?

I love getting a unique perspective on beautiful places, and the mindfulness I get from swimming in nature.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the upcoming events?

We know that cost can be a barrier to people, so we’ve allocated half the places as bursary spots (thanks to some funding from the Red Foundation) to help reduce the cost. There’s no strict criteria for these spots – they’re available for anyone for whom the cost is prohibitive.

EBO’s upcoming events:

Saturday 6 July – Intro to Outdoor Swimming for plus size people, with Dip Advisor Ella Foote. Near Woking, Surrey

Sun 7 July – Intro to Outdoor Swimming for plus size people, with Suzanna Swims. Buttermere, Lake District

Sat 20 July – Intro to Outdoor Swimming for plus size people, with Swim Wild. Loch Insh, Highlands

Find out more at

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.