Swimming Events Guide 2024
FEATURES,  View from the Water

It’s all open water swimming to me

The old docks in Salford and Lake Coniston only have one thing in common, and that’s water. This means, of course, that you can swim in both, which is what I did this weekend. The experiences could hardly be more different, but it’s all open water swimming.

Salford Quays on Saturday was the venue for the Great Manchester Swim, part of the popular mass participation swim series organised by commercial event manager Nova International. The setting is unashamedly urban with barely a speck of green to be seen. The immediate association is the artist Lowry and his smoky tops although the surroundings have been modernised and regenerated. The event attracts several thousand swimmers, the organisation runs with military precision and wetsuits are compulsory for the accurately measured one mile swim.

Contrast this with Lake Coniston, surrounded by fields and mountains and made famous by Arthur Ransome in Swallows and Amazons and probably little changed since the book was published in the 1930s. The British Long Distance Swimming Association has held a championship here for 22 years. The challenge is to swim from one end to the other, a distance (if you swim straight) of about 5.25 miles. This year 35 swimmers took part, each individually supported by a kayak or rowing boat, and wetsuits were absolutely forbidden. The event is run by volunteers on a not for profit basis.

The differences between the two were exacerbated this weekend by the weather, which delivered persistent rain in Salford and glorious sunshine in Coniston.

I couldn’t say one of these events was better than the other as I absolutely enjoyed both of them. I knew what to expect and got what I expected.

One of the things I love about open water swimming is the variety of places it’s taken me to over the past few years. I also think it’s fantastic that one sport can offer such different experiences and I’d strongly recommend anyone who swims to explore as many of the different opportunities available as they can. This weekend, for example, you could choose between a sea swim in Bournemouth, a lake swim in Nottingham or a river swim in Dundee – and that’s just if you want to take part in an organised event. It might all be open water but there’s a huge range of swimming related activities to choose from out there. Make the most of them.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.