FOMO - Fear of Missing Out

My partner Jane started open-water swimming long before I met her. I spent the first two years of our relationship as a swimming widower, but on seeing how much fun she was having decided to take the plunge. I’d always swam in warmer waters on holiday, but never properly in the North Sea. It has been life enhancing. I am evangelical about the physical and mental health benefits sea swimming provides.

Often when we meet people and they hear about our swimming they want more information or say they would like to join in too, but they don’t know where to start.

This page is for those people.

But first some words of advice (they’re important!):

  • If you do choose to swim in the sea you do so entirely at your own risk

  • Open water swimming can be enjoyable but it comes with risks; understand those risks and how to mitigate them

  • You are responsible for your own safety

You should read the OSS Swim Responsibility Statement. This applies to most, if not all, of the local groups listed below.

The details on this page are for information only; it is up to you to make use of them in a safe and responsible way.

Where we swim

Who We Swim With

There are several groups on the North East coast. Most swims are arranged via dedicated group pages on Facebook.

These groups are to arrange social swims. Be aware that there is no safety cover, no insurance and no guarantee of your safety. Members are expected to follow the OSS Swim Responsibility Statement Most, if not all of these groups, incorporate the OSS Swim Responsibility Statement.

If you want to swim where insurance and safety cover are provided you will have to look for that yourself; I can not help you.

We swim mostly with the Cullercoats Open Water Swimmers (COWS), as they're geographically nearest to us, but there are other groups too, including:

Blyth and District All Season Swimmers (BADASS)

Tynemouth Outdoor Swimmers

Alnick and Amble District Open Water Swimmers

North East Open Water Swimmers

Fausto Bathing Club (Roker, Sunderland)

Panama Swimming Club (Whitley Bay)


People choose to open water swim for all sorts of reasons. It can be a social thing, making and meeting up with friends doing something you all enjoy. It can be a spiritual experience, feeling closer to nature, enjoying the textures and sensations of the water. Some do it for exercise, some to build stamina, others to train for triathlons or other competitive events.

For me it is a great stress reliever. It is an escape from everything else going on. There’s just me and the water. It clears my mind of all other thoughts and sets me up for the day or calms me down after a bad one. As a fat bloke it’s also great exercise as it keeps the weight and strain off my joints.

There are increasing amount of evidence that suggest that open water swimming is good for both mental and physical health.

The bottom line for me is that I do it because I enjoy it. Otherwise why do it?

What’s it like?

It’s the North Sea so there’s no escaping the fact it is cold. Very cold in winter. That’s manageable with patience, practice, willpower, the right gear and being properly acclimatised to the cold. Summer is easier as both the air and sea temperature are warmer.

The water is different every time. Sometimes as still as glass, sometimes rippling like a murmur on the surface, sometimes bashy and boshy and sometimes just too dangerous to go in.

When I'm in the water it is almost a form of meditation; I have no thoughts other than about the sea, staying afloat, the view, the texture of the water, the sensations on my skin, how my body is reacting, the temperature, my breath or the quality of the light on the water and around me. For me it is life affirming and a wholly positive experience.

Whatever the sea is like and no matter my mood before going in I always come out feeling energised and happier.

I am not a competitive swimmer. I couldn’t care less about personal bests, distance swam or the latest technical gear. I just want to be in the water. Sometimes I will swim properly, other times I will just float, soaking up the view and the experience. Sometimes I will swim in deep water, other-times I'll stay in the shallows.

The bottom line is that it is YOUR swim, so you should do whatever YOU want to do and not feel pressured to do more than that. Nobody has ever pressured me. Get in and enjoy your swim!

But I’m too fat, too old, too unfit!

Me too!

I’m a balding, middle-aged fat bloke with moobs. Nobody cares what you look like, how old you are or your ability.

People of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities swim with the groups listed above. Everybody is too busy with their own thing to give a stuff about your spare tyre, age or ability.

And if you're really bothered about what you look like then wear a towelling robe (a robie) down to the water and leave it by the edge for when you get out. Once you're in, nobody can see your body.

It’s important to warm up afterwards …

It’s important to warm up afterwards …

What to wear?

That’s your choice too. I started in a full wetsuit, neoprene gloves and boots to keep the cold at bay. I quickly got tired of the wetsuit (I find them a pain to put on and take off). I switched to a short john wetsuit, gloves and boots when it’s colder and just a rash vest and shorts when it’s warmer.

Again, nobody cares what you wear. Wear what is best for you and the conditions you will be swimming in.

Dry warm layers are a must when you get out of the water, especially in winter. A flask of something hot is a good idea too.

Wear What You Want

Yes! It’s f*@king cold!

Yes! It’s f*@king cold!

You swim in winter?!

Some of us swim all year including the coldest winter months, depending on the weather and sea conditions. Some stay in ‘skins’ (no wetsuit), others start wearing neoprene as the water gets colder. Having the right warm-up gear (layers of dry warm clothes, hot drinks, cake) is even more important in winter.

Understand how to manage afterdrop (post-swim shivering, getting colder, feeling unwell)

Don’t feel you have to swim every month of the year. Plenty swim only during the summer months; that’s fine.

Pelagiidae Jellyfish.png


There are jellyfish, and they're incredible, beautiful creatures, but unfortunatley their ugly side is their sting. But, they're not here all year round (not where we swim) as the water gets too cold for them. So you might get stung, but you might not.

Depending on the variety that gets you the sting can feel like a nettle, or if stung by a Lion’s Mane, much worse than that.

Open water swimming comes with an element of risk rather like life itself. You could be killed crossing the road, but you still cross the road.

It’s best to be informed and know what to do if stung by a jellyfish.

There are precautions you can take:

  • don’t swim if you know there are lots of jellyfish and it really bothers you
  • wear a wetsuit, gloves, shoes, goggles and cap so as little skin is exposed as possible
  • I cant vouch for how effective this is but you could try anti-jellyfish cream
  • can’t bear a wetsuit? Then wear tights (yes, even you chaps) and a long-sleeve rash vast so at least your torso, arms and legs are protected.

Resources and Links

You will find tons of useful information here:

Found this page useful?

If you’ve found this page useful please    make a donation to the Tynemouth Seal Rescue Unit    (part of British Divers Marine Life Rescue). If you’re feeling particularly generous have a    look at their Amazon Wish List   .

If you’ve found this page useful please make a donation to the Tynemouth Seal Rescue Unit (part of British Divers Marine Life Rescue). If you’re feeling particularly generous have a look at their Amazon Wish List.

Errors and Omissions

Spotted a mistake, a broken link or something else not right? Have I missed a North East Open Water Swimming group? Please let me know so I can fix it. Thanks.

This is what you’re missing


This page is for information only. No responsibility is accepted for your safety or security should you choose to swim. It is YOUR choice to swim or not. YOU are responsible for YOUR safety taking into account the location, the weather, the tides, swimming conditions, your ability and knowledge. Be sensible, be safe and above all enjoy it. Happy swimming!