What did we learn from last year’s survey?

…and why you should complete this year’s survey to help shape the future of outdoor swimming – and for a chance to win a prize!

How has outdoor swimming evolved? How does swimming outdoors change people? What kit do swimmers want most? How are businesses connected to outdoor swimming faring? What are the barriers to outdoor swimming growth?

We are part of a cross-industry swimming collaboratorium working to support swimming as a whole, but chiefly as a voice for outdoor swimmers. It’s therefore important that we know what you want from outdoor swimming.

So each year we carry out a survey of outdoor swimmers tracking changes in swimming participation and behaviours. We ask what swimmers want and what stops them getting what they want. From the survey data, we create our annual Trends in Outdoor Swimming report, which we share with government, sports governing bodies, coaches, venues, event operators and other swimming-related businesses to help drive the development and growth of outdoor swimming.

Would you like to shape the future of outdoor swimming? Then we would be grateful if you could complete our ‘Attitudes to Outdoor Swimming’ survey. Here’s just some of the things we found out last year…

What did we learn in 2021?

Last year 4,500 of you took the time to respond to our survey. This huge dataset allowed us to identify patterns and behaviours that might not be immediately obvious, as well as confirm things we already suspected about outdoor swimming. The results were fascinating.

The three themes that stood out in 2021 were: the ever-growing recognition of the value of outdoor swimming to our mental health and wellbeing, an increase in concern about the damage done to our natural waters through pollution, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of female participation in outdoor swimming. Here are just a few of our findings from 2021:

If you are living with a long-term mental health condition, how does outdoor swimming help you?

Among swimmers living with a long-term mental health condition, 55% say outdoor swimming brings them a lot of benefits and a further 33% say it’s a game changer and they would struggle without it.

What initially motivated you to try outdoor swimming?

Motivations for starting outdoor swimming vary between men and women, by age and by the length of time people have been swimming outdoors. It’s a complex picture (below).

Why do you swim outdoors?

As well as asking why people took up outdoor swimming, we asked them to rate the reasons why they continue swimming outdoors on a scale of 1 to 4. We then looked at the average of these scores to give overall rankings on the reasons for swimming. Interestingly, while entering a triathlon or an outdoor swimming event is a relatively common push to start outdoor swimming, it comes bottom of the list (for both men and women) as a reason to continue. In contrast, while only a small proportion start for the health and wellbeing benefits, it is the top reason to stick with it.

Concerns and actions driven by outdoor swimming participation.

There isn’t much that gets you closer to the environment than removing your clothing and stepping into a natural body of water. The all-over bodily contact not only means you experience the benefits of outdoor swimming but that you put yourself at risk of harm from litter and pollution. These concerns lead to almost two thirds of swimmers taking action of some kind. This could either be a personal lifestyle change, a direct action such as joining a campaign or signing a petition, or both.

Your answers make a difference!

Our continued aim is to use the power of data to show the importance and relevance
of outdoor swimming. Being an outdoor swimmer is not only good for us individually, it’s good for the world as becoming an outdoor swimmer pushes people to care more for the environment and to take action for positive change.

We hope governments, both national and local, take note and do what they can to support the rise in this wonderful activity, starting with improving access to water and putting pressure on polluters to clean up. We also hope our findings are useful to everyone involved in outdoor swimming, from solo entrepreneurs creating new products and services for swimmers to event organisers, suppliers, governing bodies and tourist boards.

So what will we learn in 2022?

This year, our survey dips into the continued presence of pollution in our swimming spaces, how the cost of living crisis is affecting the sport, and barriers to participation in outdoor swimming and the growth of the sport and industry. We would love to hear your thoughts.

As a thank you for taking the time to complete the survey, we’ve lined up a raft of prizes and will enter your name (with your consent) into our prize draw. This year’s prizes include:

  • A SwimTrek coaching session at the new Sea Lanes pool in Brighton
  • A Swim Secure Tow Float
  • One of two places at the Outdoor Swimmer Henley Swim Festival
  • A pair of Huub goggles plus a swim cap
  • A Vivida Poncho Towel
  • A 1-2-1 Endless Pool video analysis session with South West Swim (Swindon)
  • A pair of Zoggs Podium Titanium goggles
  • A Huub rucksack
  • A Speedo Poncho / Changing robe
  • A pair of Speedo Biofuse Goggles
  • 5k open water swimming plan from Level 3 WOWSA coach Karen Parnell of Chili Tri, on FinalSurge.
  • A one-hour (remote) swim consultation with Level 3 WOWSA coach, Karen Parnell
  • A pair of Zoggs Predator Flex Swimming Goggles
  • A £60 Zoggs swimwear voucher
  • A pair of tickets to The Big Retreat festival in Pembrokeshire

Complete our survey today! It only takes 10-15 minutes and will help shape the future of outdoor swimming. Thank you!

Photos: Orca

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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.