The weather might be crisp right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay out of the water.
In fact, winter swimming on the Northern Beaches is more popular than ever.
Take a look at why swimming is good for you in the colder months, and add out a few top-quality winter swimming spots on Sydney’s Northern Beaches to your list of places to visit.
Why swim outdoors in the winter?
The idea of cold water swimming is nothing new. As far back as ancient Greece, the famous physician Hippocrates was a big believer in a dip in cold water to help relieve pain.
Modern science has proved Hippocrates right – according to researchers there is a whole swathe of other benefits including:
– Improved cardiovascular health. Cold water immersion stresses the cardiovascular system and elevates the heart rate by triggering a “shock response”.This may sound bad, but it’s actually the exact response required of high-intensity heart-healthy exercise.
– Reduced cholesterol, boosted immune system and faster recovery from sports injuries.
– An increase to the body’s levels of a type of “good” body fat called brown adipose tissue (BAT). BAT helps to burn calories and maintain body heat, factors that help with weight loss.
– Increases in the production of a protein called adiponectin that helps protect against insulin resistance, diabetes and other diseases.
– Winter swimming simply makes you feel good, making it beneficial for mental health as well as physical. Do it with others and there are all the social benefits, too.
Tips for winter swimming
Winter swimming, especially if you intend to do a long swim, takes a little more prep than a normal summer dip. Before you dive in:
– Get equipped: Unless you only intend to get in and out quickly, you should invest in a wetsuit and a swimming cap. A wetsuit will keep the worst of the cold at bay as well as give you a little extra buoyancy in the water.
– Acclimating: The best way to get used to cold water is simply to get in. Don’t spend half an hour edging your way into the water, even if you want to.
– Prepare for cold water shock: Cold water shock response can cause you to lose breath control and start gasping for air as well as raising your heart rate and blood pressure. The more you expose your body to cold water, the less you will suffer this response. If you do have this response, stay calm and ride it out, float on your back and try to breathe slowly. The good news is that NSW water is rarely cold enough to produce this effect.
– Warm up: After losing your body heat in cold water, it can take some time to gain it again. Make sure to change immediately out of your swimwear, thoroughly dry off and get into something warm. A nice hot drink can also help, so head to one of the many cafes that line the Northern Beaches coastline.
Best winter swimming spots on the Northern Beaches
– Freshwater Beach: Best known as a surfing beach, Freshwater Beach is also an excellent spot for winter swimming. You can enjoy the open ocean (just watch out for surfers and bodysurfers) or swim in the rockpool at the northern end of the beach.
– North Narrabeen: The North Narrabeen Rockpool is a 50-metre ocean swimming pool situated on a stunning piece of Northern Beaches coastline. The lap pool is conveniently separated from the rest of the pool by a wooden boardwalk, so serious swimmers have their own space. You can duck in for a swim in the winter and even join one of the swimming clubs that operate there year-round.
– Fairy Bower: Another famous Sydney rockpool, Fairy Bower, is a 30-metre, triangle-shaped ocean pool built by locals on Marine Parade in 1929.
– Fairlight Beach also has a small rockpool, but its most distinguished feature is 80 metres of sheltered beach perfect for calm water swimming. For those who want to take their cold swimming to the next level, Fairlight Beach is also excellent for snorkelling and SCUBA diving.
– Manly Dam is popular for all kinds of water sports, including swimming all year round. The sparkling expanse of water is easy to get to, and you will have no trouble finding a spot to enjoy a refreshing swim while making the most of nature and the picnic area.
– Indoor pool: Not everyone has the constitution for a winter swim in cold water. Swimming is one of the healthiest forms of exercise, so finding a quality indoor pool can be the perfect way to keep swimming through the winter. With an Olympic-sized pool, a diving pool and a splash pool, Warringah Aquatic Centre is perfect for winter swimming. They have recently introduced a Multi-Facility Swim Only Membership.
– Swim Clubs: If you want to be a bit more social, Manly even has its own Bold and Beautiful Swim Squad, which meets at the front of Manly Lifesaving Club at 7 am, 7 days a week, to swim past Fairy Bower to Shelley Beach and back.
Other local clubs include:
Where is your favourite winter swimming spot? Get in touch to let us know.