Henley Swim Festival: “a day to celebrate all things swimming”

Meeting swimming friends old and new, swimming your first open water mile or challenging yourself to a four-mile challenge: Outdoor Swimmer team and contributors share their favourite memories and what they’re looking forward to at this year’s Henley Swim Festival (Sun 9 July).

A ‘must-attend’ event for anyone with an interest in dipping or racing outdoors, the Henley Swim Festival (Sun 9 July 2023) is a day to celebrate all things swimming. 

This year around 1,500 swimmers are expected to enter the water, cheered on by around 3,000 spectators. Swimmers can choose distances ranging from a 200-metre splash (parents can swim for free with children), the Zoggs half mile, a one mile and a 4-mile challenge. For the third year running, the festival will also host an exclusive ‘by-invitation’ challenge to see how many miles can be completed in six hours. 

With camping the night before, live music, food and an event village packed full of retailers, the Outdoor Swimmer Henley Swim Festival is the perfect way to spend a fun-filled day by the Thames. 

With the clock ticking down until this year’s event, we asked Outdoor Swimmer team and contributors to share their stand out memories from festivals past and what they’re most looking forward to at this year’s event.

Ella Foote, Editor

“My favourite thing about the Henley Swim Festival is swimmer traffic. You can’t walk more than two paces before bumping into someone you once met through swimming, a swimmer you admire from afar and get to meet in person or a soon-to-be-new-friend swimmer! I love meeting readers and hearing what they love and would like to see more of in the magazine and see how many swimmers achieve their first mile of swimming!”

Simon Griffiths, Founder & Publisher

“Despite the hard work involved in getting ready for the Henley Festival, it’s all worthwhile on the day. There is such a fun and festive atmosphere. I love meeting our readers and seeing them enjoying the river. I always try to do at least one of the events and this year I’m looking forward to taking on the 4X Challenge for the first time.”

Sophie Etheridge, Adaptive Athlete

“The thing I love about Henley is how friendly and welcoming everyone is. In terms of accessibility and inclusivity it’s fantastic; from parking in the event village so you don’t have to walk as far to ferrying wheelchairs, prosthetics and other aids from the start to the finish for you; nothing is too much trouble. It is a day to celebrate all things swimming, all abilities and all ages. Not only that but you can find new gear, talk to and make new friends and learn new things. If you are intending on going be prepared to spend the day smiling”

Yvonne Turner, Commercial Director

“I love how parents can swim with their children for free on the 200m splash! My kids always look forward to it and because we can swim with them it makes them more comfortable. This year I’m most looking forward to the wild swimming book corner that Ella is creating, with comfy bean bags (courtesy of rucomfy), author readings and signings, and a pop-up Henley Book Shop.”

Jonathan Cowie, Contributing Editor

“A summer day swimming in the river with friends old and new, what’s not to love? The Festival is so special because of its family-friendly atmosphere and activities out of the water. It’s so much more than a race, it’s a lovely day out!”

What else to look out for this year

  • Don’t miss live talks from Olympic medalist Cassie Patten, multi-sport athlete Josh Carr and Bluetits founder Sian Richardson.
  • A chance to see outdoor synchronised swimming performances by Almost Synchro. 
  • The Zoggs 360 degree photo booth
  • A SUP demo and coaching area on the river
  • And one of the most celebrated areas of the festival, a river lido allowing swimmers and spectators to have a free supervised dip in the Thames. 

The Outdoor Swimmer Henley Swim Festival takes place on Sunday 9 July 2023 in Henley-upon-Thames. Read our review of last year’s festival.

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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.