National governing bodies for swimming and triathlon in England and Wales have launched two new accreditation initiatives for open water swimming venues, as the popularity for open water swimming becomes more widespread.
In England, Triathlon England have launched Beyond Swim, a replacement of Sh2out, which provides official accreditation for open water venues that meet their safety standards.
Supported by Swim England and the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS UK), Triathlon England says Beyond Swim will ensure venues “foster a lively open water swimming community with high-quality experiences and industry-leading guidance”.
Andy Salmon, CEO of Triathlon England, says: “Beyond Swim is all about supporting venues and building a community of open water swimmers of all abilities so that an ever-growing number of people can realise the joy of open water swimming.
“We are committed to providing the best possible experience for anyone wanting to take part in open water swimming and we believe that Beyond Swim is the best way to facilitate this.”
Beyond Swim will not stipulate that accredited venues forbid swimmers from entering water colder than 11 degrees centigrade. This was a controversial element of Sh2out, which put many venues off from joining.
Katia Vastiau, who is part of the safety team at Queenford Lakes in Oxford, says the lake previously did not sign up to Sh2out because of its restrictions on wetsuit use and water temperature, but they are “interested” to see how Beyond Swim has addressed those issues, and “will certainly take another look if that has changed”.
Bill Richmond, director of TriFarm, an open water venue in Essex, says he is considering joining Beyond Swim as he has previously been a fan of Sh2out and its safety accreditation, but would first need answers to questions over the commercial and technical implications of the initiative.
“We made a lot of changes last year to our booking systems due to Covid, so we’d loathe to throw that away for another system. We also have a large pool of swimmers already using the system, so we would need to consider the IT implications.
“We like the Sh2out process and the fact that it gives people the indication that venues are safe. We just don’t want to feel like our hands are being forced in any way; if we are commercially unable to offer the discounted swim passes, can we still be badged as a safe swim venue? From initial conversations, there is no indication of that, but that’s where joining would become more challenging.”
So far, 13 venues in England have joined the Beyond Swim initiative.
In Wales, Swim Wales and Welsh Triathlon have announced their own new accreditation initiation for open water faculties, S.A.F.E Cymru.
The S.A.F.E Cymru accreditation is designed to “promote and progress open water swimming safely and provide the necessary resources and standards which facilities need to meet to ensure safe participation in Wales”.
Fergus Freeney, CEO of Swim Wales, says: “Since 2020 we have seen a 45% increase in people taking part in open water swimming across the UK and particularly in Wales. It is vital that we have the appropriate measures in place for people to access safe accredited facilities. This accreditation is recognised as the pinnacle of safe aquatic facility standards in Wales.’’
Swim Wales hope there will be up to 15 S.A.F.E Cymru accredited manned facilities in Wales by the end of this year, with plans to extend that to more unmanned locations accessed by open water swimmers in Wales over time.