End of summer is upon us but that does not mean you need to wait until 2023 to give a new watersport a go, or stop you continuing your aqua passion over the colder months. Being an island, the UK has plenty of coastline and sea activities to enjoy, as well as numerous lakes, ponds, rivers, and other waterways to head to. We’ve looked at our top 3 to try this winter, and any essential equipment you will need to consider before taking the plunge…or as the British like to say, avoid you ‘freezing your tits off’.
Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP)
Soaring in popularity over the last few years, SUP is a great form of exercise that allows you to explore new places and take in scenery at the same time. There are now numerous options on the market for different budgets, including inflatable ones, so you can buy your own paddle board, pump it up and away you go.
The beauty of SUP is that you don’t need to be close to the sea, you can give it a go in your local park, on the river, or any water way which is permitted. If you’re giving it a go for the first time, pick a location with smoother waters such as a lake or pond – the sea can get choppy, and you’ll most likely find yourself stuck on your knees if you brave heading out there for your first time! Best to check the weather forecast too as windier conditions make it harder work, you’ll want a nice quiet day for your first few outings.
SUP’ing during the winter means you’re going to want to wear a wetsuit (even if you don’t anticipate falling in!). Invest in some booties too to keep your hands warm, as well as gloves and hat. As we said earlier, it is a good form of exercise so you’ll find yourself warming up nicely as you go. And you never know, if you keep those hot chocolates down to a minimum, you’ll be maintaining your summer bod over the winter. Winning.
There are many great surf locations around the UK, and one of the perks of surfing out of season is that it is quieter so you have more of the waves to yourself. If you’re looking to give it a go, some surf schools are open all year round and you can benefit from winter off-peak prices, availability, smaller group sizes and flexibility with your schedule. All adding up to a no-brainer on the staycation front.
Clothing is important and you will need a wetsuit for this one, which are often included in the board hire if you are not looking to purchase your own. During autumnal months, a 4 – 5 mm is needed, and for the colder months, a 6mm is a must. When it comes to wetsuits, like your ears, you’ll need a good Snug fit. Booties and gloves are also needed as part of the winter surf kit. Be sure to protect your ears with SnugsAqua awareness swim plugs, as exposing your ear canals to cold water can lead to surfer’s ear (read more here).
UK winter conditions offer some of the best swells in Europe. If you’re heading to Cornwall, make sure to check out Watergate Bay which has a long, wide beach and year-round surf school, making it a great spot for beginners. For the more advanced surfer, head to Croyde in Devon, with average swell height ranging from 8ft to 10ft over the winter months1. So from beginners through to experienced surfers, you’ve got options across the UK – start planning that trip now we say.
Open water swimming
Let’s face it, when you look at pictures and videos of people going into cold water it doesn’t scream fun (shocked expressions spring to mind). However, it is another activity which has grown in popularity over the years and if you live near open water, it’s highly likely there are swim clubs and groups near you where you can go to check it out. If you head to the Lake District you will find open water swim coach and SnugsAqua user Colin Hill. Colin has been around the world swimming in lots of different conditions (check out his YouTube videos!) and is a huge advocate of cold-water swimming. If you’re looking for some coaching tips you can book a trip to Another Place hotel which runs swim weekends and training sessions with Colin – making it another winter staycation possibility.
If you’re not convinced by social media imagery to give it a go, maybe you’ll be sold on the science and known benefits to taking a plunge in cold water:
1. Health benefits
– Cold water helps to boost the white blood cell count because the body is forced to react to changing conditions, having a positive impact on your immune system. Studies have shown that people are less likely to get a cold if they are regular cold water swimmers.
– Activates the release of endorphins, a hormone which helps relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve mood. So, if you’re looking for some natural feel-good times, cold water swimming can help this.
2. Burns calories
The heart must pump faster in cold water and the body must work harder to keep everything warm while swimming. So, you can have your post-swim chocolate and snacks safe in the knowledge you’ve earnt it.
3. Social opportunities
Believe it or not, cold water swimming is growing increasingly popular which makes it a great way to get out and meet new people. Being part of a group is also the safest option for this sport. Experienced swimmers can guide you on the best kit, time to swim, tides, when to head out etc. Always put your safety first! And if you get really keen, you can find a group of like-minded individuals to organise trips to different places, be it in the UK or abroad.
Given the fact that cold water swimming is best experienced by making contact with the water, you will find that wetsuits are not generally used (eek!). Booties and a hat are though, and you’ll often see people wandering around in a dry robe after their dip. And like surfing, you’ll need to protect your ears and stop any water getting in. Having an ear infection can be painful and also stop you going into the water, so preventing them is a no brainer.
So, if you’re thinking of doing watersports this winter…stop thinking and go for it! Aside from the options we’ve mentioned above, you can try others including kayaking, sailing and kiteboarding. And, don’t forget to take pictures using your SnugsAqua when out on the water, we love to see your action shots and where you’ve been adventuring this winter.