With wild swimming having taken off in recent years, there’s a good chance there’s a swimmer amongst your loved ones. Tick them off your gift buying list with some inspiration below. And if you’re a swimmer yourself, perhaps you’ll want to add some of these items to your own wish list…
I’ve been lucky enough to be gifted a few swimming books from publishers this year and have a growing collection of volumes on the topic. There’s lots of great stuff out there, but I can fully recommend the following:
What you’ll notice about these books is they’re all quite different. Not only do they focus on a diverse selection of topics, but they have varied purposes too. Lido and Wild Waters are wonderful for serving up inspiration and both have the most stunning aesthetics. Practical guides for swim trip planning are also invaluable, but do think about what type of swimmer the recipient is to get the volume that’s right for them.
Top tip: Try and have a look at your swimmer’s bookshelf before purchasing any swim books, as there’s a good chance they may already have a collection. If they’ve not yet got Taking the Plunge by Vicky Allen and Anna Deacon, then you must order it for them right away, but by now I think it probably sits proudly on a bookshelf in every swimmer’s home across the land.
Allen and Deacon have just released two new books – The Art of Wild Swimming: Scotland and a version that covers England and Wales. I’ve got the first and it’s absolutely lovely, offering swimspiration and top tips from swimmers throughout Scotland. Their books are always a joy and definitely worth finding under the tree this Christmas.
If you’re a keen knitter then a bobble hat is the perfect handmade gift for your swimmer this Christmas. Whether they wear it in the sea or pop it on to keep the heat in after a dip in their favourite plunge pool, it’s a great way to show you care and contribute to keeping them warm as they swim through the winter.
I’m personally blessed with a knitter for a mother and donning her handcrafted designs are the equivalent of her wrapping me up in a warm swim robe even when she can’t be there waiting for me on the shore.
Sea swimmers like to keep a close eye on the tides to ensure optimum conditions for a swim and hanging a tide table in my office makes it easy to plan my next dip. Not only are such charts incredibly useful, but they’re beautiful too, with the likes of Beach of Brighton creating designs for locations across the country. Yes, there’s even one for Edinburgh and the Lothians – a long way from Brighton, but a sea swimming hotspot all the same.
Bits of kit
I love the simplicity of going for a dip anywhere I happen to find myself with just a bikini in my bag, but the reality is there are all sorts of little bits of kit that make the experience more pleasurable. One of the first things I’d recommend for a newbie swimmer is aqua shoes to help you grip and navigate the rocks underfoot.
Anyone swimming through winter may wish to invest in a pair of neoprene gloves to keep your extremities warm too. I was advised by a more seasoned swimmer to purchase them small before I set off on my trip to Finland and this proved to be true, as the tighter they are the less water they’ll let in.
A waterproof swim cell to put your mobile phone in is another great idea, as it not only means swimmers can take photos during their dip but allows them to call the coast guard should they get into trouble. It seems counterintuitive to go swimming with your mobile phone, but after testing mine out in the sink a few times I was confident enough to venture into the sea with it and now use it every time I swim alone.
Speaking of solo swimming… I only ever go out without shore support if I have my trusty tow float strapped around my waist. While it’s not a flotation aid, it offers a little extra reassurance and means you can be spotted easily in the water. My tow float was in fact a gift from the Wiltshire Mermaid, who realised I needed one way before I did.
It takes a wide selection of waterproof bags to organise my kit for a swim trip. Firstly, I have a dry bag to put everything in, including my robe and change of clothes. In theory, this keeps the water out when you plonk it down on wet sand or on the soggy side of a mountain lake, although the rain on a recent visit to Snowdonia proved that no dry bag is a match for the Welsh weather!
Having got by with a dry bag featuring one shoulder strap for a couple of years, I finally decided to treat myself to a waterproof backpack. I opted for a Tuffbag and so far, have been happy with its performance. Having two straps really does make a difference and means I can take it on all manner of swimming adventures, whether I set off on foot or on the bus.
This is supplemented by some wet bags. After all, your dry bag isn’t going to stay dry inside for long if you’re filling it with wet kit. I’ve got two large heavy duty Northcore wet bags that can easily fit a bikini or swimming costume and aqua shoes inside. I keep one for pool swimming and the other for outdoor swimming.
Some people may prefer to separate their swimming costumes and shoes out, so a selection of wet bags in differing sizes will come in handy. I like to keep a supply of dry swimming costumes in another waterproof bag if I’m planning multiple swims within the same trip. There’s not much worse than slipping into a wet bikini and this should also be avoided for reasons of biosecurity in the wild, where you can unwittingly transfer invasive species into different bodies of water via a wet swimming costume.
If the swimmer in your life is using a series of supermarket plastic bags to fulfil these functions, then it may be time to upgrade their waterproof bags for them. Many outdoor companies have a selection to choose from and a multipack with a number of sizes and colours is a good place to start. A bright flash is a handy way to distinguish between different packs of kit when you’re rooting around in your dry bag.
Swim destination-related products
Practical gifts and swimspiration items are wonderful, but sometimes it’s about remembering an extra special swim. Now that I’m a resident of East Lothian I absolutely adore the screen-printed items created by Fiddy+Mabel as they feature locations where I’ve been swimming. I’m also a huge fan of A City by the Sea, which creates stunning designs based on destinations in my native North East. Finding a local artist or artisan who can immortalise your much-loved swimmer’s favourite swim spot will make for a very special Christmas gift indeed.
Many of the UK’s historic pools and lidos have creative ways to raise funds and keep the boilers running. Some of them have produced their own lines of merchandise and there’s really nothing better than sporting a hoodie, mug or swim cap emblazoned with your favourite pool’s logo on it as you head off for a swim. It’s even better knowing the proceeds are going towards integral places that promote community and wellbeing.
Last Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a gift voucher for recycled swimwear company Batoko, which I have just redeemed in the brand’s sample sale. This allowed me to pick exactly the design I wanted and, more importantly, select the right fit.
The wonderful Vivienne Rickman, who runs the most enjoyable swim sessions you could imagine, does gift cards, so you could give your loved one an experience they’ll never forget. I’ve now been on two of Viv’s swim weekends in Snowdonia and would be more than happy to find one of her gift cards under my tree!
Many of the wonderful wild swimming shops that have popped up recently offer gift vouchers, so if in doubt go down this route. Your swimmer friend will appreciate it and can spend the New Year deliberating about what to buy with it.
While some of the products mentioned in this post were gifted to me, I’ve not been paid to feature any of them and have put together these ideas as a swimmer who likes swimmy-related presents.