Take the plunge – seven things you need to wild swim this winter
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
“Swimming is a rite of passage, a crossing of boundaries,” wrote the late English author, naturalist and documentarian Roger Deakin. “When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking-glass surface and enter a new world.” Documenting his watery journey through the British Isles, his seminal 1999 book Waterlog helped propel the wild swimming movement in the UK. Today, shelves in bookshops are devoted to the sport as a growing number of people flock to rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, whatever the weather or season. According to Google Trends, wild swimming searches worldwide reached an all-time high in 2021, more than doubling from 2019.
While we tend to romanticise the act of outdoor swimming and enthusiasts use cheery descriptions – invigorating, rejuvenating – to brace themselves for frigid temperatures, cold water immersion has long been considered beneficial to the mind and body; reducing stress, boosting the immune system and improving circulation. But it shouldn’t be too punishing. Whether you’re doing a quick dip or longer laps, here are a few little luxuries that will keep you warm and comfortable this winter.
Finisterre Women’s Nieuwland 2e Yulex Long Sleeve Swimsuit
Finisterre’s Nieuwland long-sleeved swimsuit strikes a happy middle between a wetsuit – which some may argue takes away from the authentic, natural bathing experience – and a regular one-piece that provides little protection from the cold. Made from a natural plant-based rubber called Yulex, it is a sustainable alternative to traditional, neoprene wetsuits. £125, finisterre.com
Zone3 Vapour goggles
For those eager and hardy enough to thrust their face into the water, these comfortable goggles in a range of splashy colours are suitable for most conditions. The anti-fog treated lenses will keep your vision clear and offer full protection from UVA and UVB rays. The goggles are available with polarised lenses to minimise the sun’s glare, and photochromic ones that darken in brighter environments. £35, zone3.com
Yeti Rambler bottle
Yeti’s durable 18fl oz stainless-steel bottle not only keeps drinks piping hot with its double-walled vacuum insulation, but it is also 100 per cent leakproof. The handy 360-degree HotShot cap can be fully rotated so you can sip from any side of the flask, making for a very convenient post-swim cuppa on the go. £29.99, uk.yeti.com
This cosy weatherproof onesie is the perfect companion when emerging from the water into the frigid air. After drying off, the thermal fleece lining will insulate your natural body heat and keep you warm. The lightweight suit is available in navy, green and black and designed to be worn on top of a swimsuit or underwear. Its flattering fit means you might be tempted to leave it on long after your dip. £160, wylding.co.uk
Lüks peshtemal towel
A practical but prettier alternative to a microfibre towel, this super-soft organic-cotton peshtemal has been traditionally loomed with a double jacquard weave for added thickness, making it suitable for cooler seasons. Although it’s highly absorbent and generously sized for wrapping up, the flat weave means it will dry quickly and it can be rolled up small to fit into a bag. £49, lukslinen.com
Voylok valenki boots
Extremities are particularly vulnerable after a winter wade but these breathable felted-wool valenki boots will keep your feet toasty. You can accessorise them with a practical red or black rubber overshoe that easily slips on and off – we recommend you wear them barefoot to save you having to pull on socks over your wet feet. Traditionally worn by Russians since the 18th century, this contemporary reimagining is sustainably handcrafted in small batches in two riverside workshops in Russia. £195, voylok.com
Ucon Acrobatics Frederik Backpack
This functional, waterproof roll-top backpack features a long zipper that allows you to easily fill it with all your kit. It also features a reinforced back with padding for extra comfort – who knows when you’ll be scrambling over rocks or rough terrain to reach a perfect patch of blue – and the fleece lining protects your belongings from being scratched. With a sleek gummed, matt finish and laptop compartment, this bag is ideal if you’re fitting in a swim between work or social life. €79.99, ucon-acrobatics.com