Curriculum and Instruction | Exercise Physiology | Exercise Science | Health and Physical Education | Kinesiology | Leisure Studies | Other Rehabilitation and Therapy | Outdoor Education | Public Health | Sports Management | Sports Sciences | Sports Studies | Tourism and Travel


Open water swimming (OWS) has rapidly grown in popularity, driven by the purported health benefits of cold-water immersion. A paucity of research remains specifically considering the notable risks inherent in OWS participation, and a lack of qualitative research on freshwater swimming experiences, and safety-related issues therein. This rapid ethnographic study, based at a dedicated OWS lake in the UK, conducted semi-structured interviews with OWS participants (n=17; female=11, male=6). Two core themes emerged: environmental issues impacting OWS experiences and behaviours; and knowledge and education of OWS which highlighted safe/unsafe practices, levels of education for managing risks, personal preparedness, swimming solo/with others, use/non-use of specialised equipment, anxieties relating to participation, and environmental conditions. Findings suggest a lack of safe practice persists pertaining to immersion in cold water environments. Specific strategies are suggested that organisations involved with the promotion of the sport should consider to promote safer and more enjoyable OWS experiences.