Key safety advice for all open water swimmers has been drawn up by the Royal Life Saving Society UK, Swim England and British Triathlon following the partial lifting of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The bodies have collaborated to draw up the guidance, after the Government announced open water swimming would be possible from Wednesday 13 May.

All three organisations are encouraging people to take extra precautions when swimming in lakes, rivers or the sea – no matter how experienced they are. 

The aim is to help prevent swimmers from getting into difficulties in open water – especially as the majority of locations will not have lifeguards – and putting extra pressure on already stretched emergency services.

The COVID-19 Guidance to Open Water for Swimmers (download the document) is being hosted on the SH2OUT website and includes:

  • Information on where to swim and accredited venues
  • Six key steps to consider before going on an open water swim at unsupervised locations
  • Assessing risk due to weather conditions and water temperature
  • Advice on wetsuits and equipment
  • Course planning and the safe entry and exit of the water
  • Recovery and nutrition

Royal Life Saving Society UK Chief Executive Officer,Robert Gofton said: “We are extremely concerned that people will now rush to get into open water without proceeding with caution and understanding the potential life-threatening implications. 

"If you are not used to swimming in open water, we strongly urge you NOT to start now unless you can do so under supervision and guidance. 

“Open water sites, including beaches, are not currently supervised. There is no one to help you if you get in trouble and emergency services may not be able to get to you in time.

“Please stay sensible, know your limitations, and please enjoy the water, safely.”

Jane Nickerson, Swim England Chief Executive Officer, said: “It’s imperative that even the most seasoned of open water swimmers reads through this advice and follows it carefully.

“Not knowing the temperature of the water or how strong the current is could lead to swimmers struggling and in need of emergency help.

“That’s something we’re keen to avoid at all times but even more so in the current situation. 

“We’re pleased to have worked so closely with British Triathlon and RLSS UK on this guidance, to ensure our members can enjoy the beauty of our natural surroundings safely.”

Andy Salmon, Chief Executive of British Triathlon, said: “We would encourage anyone considering open water swimming over the coming weeks to think before doing so and read our advice very carefully.

“During these unprecedented times, it is vital that we think of others before ourselves and make sure we neither risk the spreading of the Covid-19 virus or place unnecessary burden on emergency services.

“We would also urge swimmers to comply with government guidance on social distance and travel.”

The RNLI has warned that there are currently no lifeguards on beaches and anyone who goes sea swimming must “understand the risks and take the necessary steps to keep themselves safe.”

Meanwhile, the three organisations are also due to publish advice for venues on the safest way to operate in line with social distancing measures.

They are also encouraging people to use facilities as close to where they live as possible.

This advice is for England only and aimed at individual swimmers as club activity is not currently permitted under the Government guidelines.