The National Open Water Coaching Association is partnering up with Allied London and Love Open Water to introduce a new opportunity for swimmers to take the plunge at Leeds Dock every Friday and Saturday mornings.
Love Open Water Leeds will open today with a Halloween swim from 4pm-8pm, after recent trial sessions at Leeds Dock saw an overwhelming uptake of swimmers.
NOWCA development officer Francesca Ridgard, 33, is more than ready to see the inclusion of Leeds in the company’s bid to promote a safe space for open water swimmers to enjoy.
“Leeds has so many great places to swim but sadly these are places where perhaps you shouldn’t really be wild swimming so to be able to offer somewhere where you are able to go is really exciting,” said Ridgard, who took up open water swimming eight years ago when rediscovering her love for the sport.
“Leeds is so incredibly lucky, people have this misconception that because it’s a city venue it’s automatically going to be dirty, but the water results from Leeds are actually better than national bathing standards.”
NOWCA is the largest open water venue network in the UK with over 40 locations to swim, including Nottingham, London and now Leeds.
Creating a community-led approach, they are intent on keeping their members safe in cold temperatures with lifeguards and volunteers around for assistance.
To navigate the water, members are required to participate in an informative cold water safety course before hopping in for their first swim.
“We’re really keen to get people informed on how to keep safe in the water, especially in the north where we haven’t been able to get the right information up yet,” said Ridgard.
“The main piece of advice I would give to people is don’t jump in, never jump in, and really focus on your breathing.”
Although daunting at first, the physical and mental health benefits of open water swimming are vast and, with Leeds now an affiliated venue, swimmers will have access to a wealth of information.
“The benefits you feel from open water swimming are just incredible and are very difficult to put into words,” added Ridgard, who previously swum with Olympian Rebecca Adlington.
“Swimming in a swimming pool is very singular and isolated but open water swimming is a whole community to fully engage with.”
Ridgard also hopes that this new series of events can highlight the importance of cold-water swimming for those with a history of mental health issues.
“One of the things I found incredibly difficult and hard for my own mental health, when we first went into lockdown, was having to pull what we consider a mental health resource,” said Ridgard, who uses open water as part of her own mental health plan.
“Seeing people come back into swimming is an incredible thing and it is far bigger than any of us thought it would be.”
For its grand opening, the 200m circuit will launch with a Halloween night swim complete with refreshments and cake to create a truly memorable experience, after which sessions will revert to Friday and Saturday morning swims.
To join, you must have purchased a NOWCA membership of £15 for the year and completed one of the online safety courses.
Membership gives you the luxury of insurance, access to all 40 venues across the country and two free swim credits along with various other perks.
Love Open Water Leeds is dedicated to allowing those passionate about open water swimming to do what they love and feel safe doing so.
“Open water swimming is a sport for everyone and all of the swimmers and that’s what we are about,” added Ridgard.
For more information go to loveopenwater.co.uk or join the Love Open Water Leeds Dock Facebook group.