Go wild, but be sensible and for goodness sake, stay clear of the shipping lanes – that’s the very Britain’s Ocean City message to swimmers taking a dip in Plymouth Sound.

We’re teaming up with one of the city’s most experienced cold water swimmers, Pauline Barker to offer tips to the brave souls wanting to swim as part of what she’s described as ‘an absolute explosion’ in wild swimming.

Founder of the Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming group Pauline Barker is not just a satisfied with chilly dips in the Sound, she has also swam Lake Windermere – at night, has been involved in relays across the Channel, Loch Ness and Lake Geneva.

She swims without a wetsuit all year round and is an ambassador for the International Ice Swimming Association. She has also represented Great Britain in winter swimming and ice swimming events around the world including Siberia, China, America, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Spain.

She said: “We are Britain’s Ocean City, so it’s brilliant to see so many people now trying wild swimming in Plymouth. It’s outdoors, it’s exciting and thrilling – but some folk are very new to the sport and not aware of the risks and rules of using the sea. Unlike other wild swimmers, Plymouth swimmers have to think about the shipping lanes – which run close to the shore.

She said: “It’s a wonderfully Plymouth thing to have to think about – frigates, submarines and ferries – where else do you get to see all these close to shore? But that means you need to be extra careful when you swim.”

She added: “We would normally urge people to join a club until they get a bit more experienced, but it is difficult at the moment to meet with people because of Covid.”

There are two designated safe swimming areas in the Sound – Tinside beach and Firestone Bay at Devil’s Point. She said: “We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people swimming at Devil’s Point and they may not be aware that they could easily find themselves in the shipping lane. Do not swim past the buoys and do not stay in the water for too long – we have had a number of swimmers who have had to be rescued by other swimmers after getting into difficulties.

Pauline’s top tips for Plymouth’s mad wild swimmers

  • The currents at Firestone Bay can be wicked – if you are a newcomer to swimming in the Sound use Tinside Beach until you are more familiar with sea swimming.
  • Don’t swim passed the buoys which mark the swimming area at both beaches you could find yourself in the shipping lanes
  • Do not stay in the water too long – especially if you are new to the sport. People do not always realise the effect the cold has on their body.
  • Do not attempt to dive in to get the pain over and done with – you could go into shock, your mouth opens and you start to inhale seawater… Not good
  • Go into the water gently to slowly build up your body’s tolerance to the cold – listen to your body
  • Don’t want to stay in too long. Set yourself a time limit before you get in and stick to it. If you feel OK and recover well then you can always up it next time
  • Keep a log of your time spent in the water at various temperatures and a note of how you felt afterwards – that way you can learn where your limits are.
  • Don’t swim alone. Swim with a buddy or at least have someone watching out for you from shore. Swimming with friends is safer than swimming alone. You can watch out for each other and it’s more fun
  • Don’t hang about chatting after your swim. Get dry, dressed and get a warm drink inside you within 10 minutes as that’s when the after drop will hit and the shivers will start.

Pauline has put together loads of helpful tips including the best pants to wear (big ones) and how to not freeze once you are out. Visit https://devonandcornwallwildswimming.co.uk or Devonwildswimming on Facebook