Swim Safely In The Winter – Advice

Pre Swim Preparation

The main dangers can be mitigated by some quick and careful research, and information should be gathered on;

  1. Weather Conditions
  2. Wind Conditions
  3. Air Temperatures
  4. Tidal Conditions

With careful considerations of these factors combined with correct kit and good entrance and exit procedures you can ensure you have the best chance of a safe and enjoyable swim. Where to get this information and what to do with it? 

I use the BBC Weather app for a general overview of what the weather is likely to be on a day to day basis. I pay attention to the overhead conditions, wind speed and wind direction. The wind speed affects what the air temperature feels like, especially if you are wet and walking back to your kit.

Wind direction is also worth noting, at Portobello beach an Easterly or a North Easterly is a cold biting wind and can make for an unpleasant experience. On the other hand, an off-shore wind, here blowing South / South-West, interestingly tends to create flatter conditions. This means that as a swimmer, an off-shore wind maybe more pleasant to swim in.

The tides are a major consideration for sea swimming, although at Portobello your safety is not really affected by the tides, your enjoyment may well be. Low tide at Joppa results in a long slow walk out towards Fife – over a disgusting band of rocks and sludge. However, in other locations around the East Coast you should make yourself aware of any strong tidal changes and potential Rip Currents.

Account for 70-80% of all required sea rescues around the UK.  

Although in themselves rip currents are not dangerous, the lack of awareness of what to do, should you get caught in one, is the concern. 

The rip is an out flowing of water from the beach, as the incoming water, attempts to find its level. It can appear to be a calm, in the midst of the incoming waves, and can look appealing to a swimmer.

If caught accidentally in an outgoing rip, it takes a great deal of courage to swim out further, or even hold on to your tow float and drift. Drifting or swimming out with the flow is the thing to do, until it abates and you can exit the flow at a 45’ angle, before finding those incoming waves to slide back in to the shore.

My Tide Times app is a good but basic app with the tide given for Leith – High / Low as well as the height.

If, like me, you prefer a sea swim in reasonably flat water then another excellent app, which is for surfers, and has not long ago added Portobello beach is the Magic Seaweed App.  It gives the predicted surf for the beach, so you can choose a day or time of day that is “Flat” to 1ft waves. Although the free app only gives a 7 day prediction, it also has a fabulous video map of the predicted swells in the North Atlantic and you can look for days where the East coast shows primarily dark blue.

Kit choice and organisation

 Packable Towel / Toweling Robe

   3+ Layers of Warm Clothing including a thermal layer (suggest vest / thermal layer / fleece)

Warm loose Trousers (Not Leggings)

Jacket (We recommend leaving the Dry Robe Behind and bringing a warm short jacket)

Cosy Hat (In addition to the one you might get wet whilst swimming)

Buff / Neck Warmer (Doubles as a Facemask if needed!!)

Dry – Loose fitting cosy socks

Warm Boots / Shoes – with good grippy soles

Warm Dry Gloves

Watch my YouTube video here.