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Updated information about open water swimming


On Monday 11 May, the government updates its advice regarding activity during the COVID-19 crisis to say that in England, some outdoor sports that can safely operate under the new government guidelines, including maintaining social distancing, will be able to restart from Wednesday 13 May. As of the updated government instruction of Monday 11 May, this includes open water swimming but not outdoor swimming pools.

British Triathlon is working with Swim England and the RLSS, as well as the relevant public health bodies, to ensure that any return to open water swimming can be done in a safe manner.  These guidelines will be published shortly. In Scotland and Wales, open water swimming is not currently permitted.

Whilst we fully appreciate the desire to return to swimming activity, it is important that we take appropriate steps. You should ask yourself whether it is a responsible thing for you to do and if in doing so, you are increasing the risk of being a burden on the NHS or emergency services should you require assistance. This includes understanding that you may be putting yourself and others at risk if you do need to be rescued, as any rescue is unlikely to be able to maintain a 2m separation from your rescuers.

It is also important to consider that whilst the most recent government instructions permits individuals to drive to take part in outdoor activity, areas of England that are popular with swimmers such as Cornwall and the Lake District are urging the public not to travel to their areas for fear of spreading the virus or even precipitating a second spike in cases. There are also differences in parts of the UK – in Scotland and Wales, open water swimming is not a permitted activity, so you may face police action if you travel across national borders.

If you do decide to swim anyway, please remember:

  • We recommend that you never swim alone
  • That you need to adhere to social distancing requirements throughout your swim, including changing, which means you can’t ask for help with a wetsuit
  • Beaches remain un-lifeguarded 

If you have not had previous experience in outdoor swimming, please do not do so unless you are in a safe open water swimming venue. Details of these can be found at

Key safety advice for all open water swimmers has been drawn up by Swim England, British Triathlon and the Royal Life Saving Society UK please view it here

A new interim training guidance document has also been published which provides information on how to train safely and effectively.

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