160 swimmers, including many under 16s, started 2015 by taking part in the first New Year’s Day Uswim at Salford Quays. Participants in the 200m dash and quick dip raised £1760 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF). The water was a refreshing 6 degrees C.
Swimmers were encouraged to wear ‘Hilarious Hats’ for the best hat competition, and raffle prizes were donated by special guest Borut Strel of Strel Swimming.
In contrast to many festive dips, the Uswim event welcomed all swimmers – whether in wetsuits or in traditional trunks and cossies. Karen Smith of Uswim explains: “A lot of iconic ironman triathlons are held very early in the season such as April / May and we find that people are coming to our winter swims to stay in shape for these events. As such triathletes tend to be quite lean and vulnerable to cold, so they generally wear wetsuits.”
Uswim started delivering public supervised open water swim sessions in 2007 and have seen an increase in the number of swimmers regularly attending from an initial 20 swimmers to approximately 200 people a session at present. Smith believes this is partly related to the growth of triathlon and the amount of events that people are training for as well as the public awareness of open water swimming at all levels from Olympic to mass participation.
Although Uswim provide fixed swim courses, they do not specify the amount of time swimmers should stay in the water as this depends on individual cold water tolerance and experience. What they do provide is extensive safety cover that includes kayaks and ribs.
However, the New Years Day Swim was a fun event to raise money for charity, and for many would have been their first experience of cold water swimming. As Smith says, many people, wetsuited or not, “simply did it for the buzz”.