UKC

N. Wales outdoor swimming and wetsuit recommendations

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 elliot.baker 27 Apr 2021

I fancy trying my hand at outdoor swimming, I've dipped my toe in Windermere and Llyn Ogwen (and the sea) in recent years, but only in swimming shorts so only for a couple of minutes because it's freezing.

Anyone have any recommendations for a relatively inexpensive wetsuit that I could swim in outdoors in those kind of places? Or would I be fine with any cheap old thing because I'm not competitive or whatever? Is it worth me considering one with short legs / sleeveless or would I be better getting a full one? Also need some kind of footwear to step over rocks and pebbles etc.

And also, what's the deal with swimming in lakes like Llyn Ogwen, is it allowed? When I did it last year it was just a glorious sunny day and there were some kids paddling and splashing in there so I went in and swam out a little bit and back in. If you put on a wetsuit and went for a proper swim would that be acceptable? (And safe? I don't want to get sucked down a bit hole like the ones at Ladybower!)

If it is acceptable - could anyone recommend any other nice spots you could go for a swim in North Wales outdoors? Bonus points if there is somewhere nice the family can sit and watch / have a picnic at the same time!

Many thanks for any advice!

 Sl@te Head 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

As far as I'm aware, watersports are not allowed on Llyn Ogwen. I've never been sure why though, even though there was an Outdoor Education centre on its shores I've  never seen it being used for watersports over the years...

I'm a member of the Ogwen fishing club who pay to lease these waters, so that may be a reason, though I don't know that for sure. It surprises me that there aren't that many (if any?) 'No Watersport / Swimming' signs dotted around.

In reply to elliot.baker:

I had a memorable day last year on the RAC Boulders, hot day, followed by an impromptu dip in the lake. No idea if there's any access issues but a nice friendly entry point that would handle a picnic. For proper swimming I've got the Zone 3 suit Wiggle do, which I think is better than the price tag suggests. I'd get a swim/tri suit, rather than a general suit but other than that I'm no real expert. Sportspursuits have a got a half price Huub in most sizes right now.

 wintertree 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

Can't comment on wet suits as I don't have one.  Perhaps try increasing your wet suit free time as often as you can - it's easier if you start in the summer and stick with it as the seasons wind down until October/November.  There's nothing quite like cold water swimming and your body has the genetic heritage to adapt to it really quite well.  It's a lot less faff and makes it much easier to take advantage of all sorts of opportunities when travelling around for other reasons...

 elsewhere 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

The timing of your question may be very lucky...

Lidl have wetsuits, stand up paddle boards, dry bags, clothing/shoes for watersports from Thurs 29th April.

https://www.lidl.co.uk/en/c/mistral-men-s-short-wetsuit/c1869

Post edited at 12:40
 elliot.baker 27 Apr 2021
In reply to Sl@te Head:

Thank you I wasn't aware of that, when I dipped in it was next to one of the large laybys, there was a gap in the wall with several paths going down to the shore.

I didn't see any signs at all saying no swimming.

 Forest Dump 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

Lomo do some cost effective wetsuits 

 Sl@te Head 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

I'm ok with it as an angler, I've often caught fish within just a few minutes of someone swimming past on the higher mountain lakes like Bochlwyd

 LastBoyScout 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

Pretty sure you mean "cheap swimming wetsuits", rather than just "cheap wetsuits generally", but just in case, there are a few differences between surfing and swimming wetuits and they do make a difference. Swimming ones will be smoothskin and therefore less draggy in the water, but are much more fragile as a result - be very careful of fingernails tearing them. They will also be thinner and stretchier around shoulders, but will have buoyancy built in around hips and thighs, in order to make you float "flatter" in the water for optimal body position. The neckline will also be much more cutaway, so it doesn't chafe when you're breathing to the side.

I've got an Orca suit that also has paddle fins and extra buoyancy on the forearms.

Plenty of places do wetsuit socks to keep your feet warm and you could look at kayak slippers, but I probably wouldn't want to swim in any sort of shoes. Look at the ones on Wiggle.

Also try Sigma, as a respected triathlon shop: https://www.sigmasports.com/triathlon/wetsuits

 deepsoup 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

> And also, what's the deal with swimming in lakes like Llyn Ogwen, is it allowed?

The access situation for swimming & paddling on rivers, lakes and inland water in England/Wales is complicated (and pretty dire tbh).  Some places it's no problem at all, others you're likely to get into conflict that'll ruin your day at the very least.  (Though landowners' and anglers' occasional threats that you'll get prosecuted are invariably a bit exaggerated to say the least.)

I don't know about Llyn Ogwen, but generally I think a similar approach as to wild camping might be best.  Think less about whether it's allowed and more about whether you can do it without leaving any trace and without disturbing the wildlife, and if you can and you can also do it without being rumbled, jobs a good 'un.  But maybe keep schtum about it on the social media anyway.

> (And safe? I don't want to get sucked down a bit hole like the ones at Ladybower!)

Off on a tangent - but unless they were absolutely raging and you more or less set about to throw yourself in there would be absolutely no danger of falling down a Ladybower plughole.  The water flowing over the lip when they already look pretty terrifying is an inch or so deep. 

Weirs in rivers can sometimes be much more dangerous, sometimes pretty innocuous looking ones at that.  Not because of the risk of getting dragged over them from above, but because there can be a kind of tow-back that makes it difficult to escape from the wave at the bottom.

> If it is acceptable - could anyone recommend any other nice spots you could go for a swim in North Wales outdoors? Bonus points if there is somewhere nice the family can sit and watch / have a picnic at the same time!

Would it be too obvious to say the sea?  No access hassles and North Wales has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches.

 deepsoup 27 Apr 2021
In reply to wintertree:

> Perhaps try increasing your wet suit free time as often as you can - it's easier if you start in the summer and stick with it as the seasons wind down until October/November.

Regarding the sea it's worth a mention that it has a lot of thermal mass - it takes time to warm up over the summer, and time to cool down again as winter approaches.  As a general rule the sea around the UK generally and N Wales specifically won't reach it's maximum summer temperature until late August or maybe even September.  It's very likely to still be warmer in October than it was in June.

 wintertree 27 Apr 2021
In reply to deepsoup:

Yes; it lags the air temperature by a couple of months; the problem I have in November is more the wind, rain and air temperature when I get out than with the sea itself!  

Tides make an incredible difference on a sunny day too; get the water as it comes in over a shallow beach mid-afternoon on a sunny day and it can get a good several centigrade boost.

 deepsoup 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> Lidl have wetsuits, stand up paddle boards, dry bags, clothing/shoes for watersports from Thurs 29th April.

Ooh, ta for the heads up.  I'll be sure to nip in and check out the drybags.

Lomo have already had a mention I noticed - regarding the drybags specifically, I won't get carried away in Lidl's aisle of wonder unless those Mistral drybags look really good, because Lomo's offerings year round are either a bit cheaper or only slightly more expensive depending on how heavy duty they are.

 elliot.baker 27 Apr 2021
In reply to deepsoup:

This is helpful advice thank you, any chance you could recommend any particular beaches (particularly decent ones for a swim)?

 deepsoup 27 Apr 2021
In reply to wintertree:

>  the problem I have in November is more the wind, rain and air temperature when I get out than with the sea itself!

Ah - funny you should say that.  I was just about to go back and edit my post to suggest that the OP might want to think about getting a Dryrobe (other windproof jacket/changing robe things are available - I see Lomo do a couple of those too).  I mostly only swim when I've fallen out of my kayak (which happens a *lot*), but most of the proper swimmers I know swear by them. 

Genuine Dryrobes aren't cheap, Lomo being Lomo do a no-frills version a bit cheaper, the snazziest I've seen was home made and the cheapest by far.  (She's handy with a sewing machine and likes things to be colourful, the outer layer was a flowery shower curtain found in a charity shop.)

In reply to elliot.baker:

I quickly ended up down a rabbit hole trying to find the Speedo one I bought in Decathlon in 2016 (no longer available) and a quick peep at some triathlon blog/website showed this as their "budget" winner last year. DHB Hydron 2. I've never used one and I don't do open-water swimming; my Speedo tri suit is my cheap thin depth freediving suit for warmer climes. But of course you can swim with one, that's what they are designed for

https://www.wiggle.co.uk/dhb-hydron-wetsuit-20  may be more keenly priced elsewhere. 

From your description, you should be fine with "any cheap old thing" as long as it is thin and flexible and made for swimming (not surfing/bodyboarding). 

A long time I got a bargain on a barely used Orca suit, again for freediving in warmer climes. I think it had been something silly like £350, I paid a small fraction of that. You could certainly see the difference between the Orca and my cheap (at RRP) Speedo but I would not have benefitted from such differences aside from possibly better build quality. 

 deepsoup 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

> ..any chance you could recommend any particular beaches (particularly decent ones for a swim)?

I mostly only swim when I've fallen out of my sea kayak, so I'm a bit biased here - if you have the choice of anywhere in N Wales I'd head to Anglesey.
(Anglesey is arguably the best place to paddle in the world if your idea of fun is being beaten up in a tide race.  Also I'm guessing you wouldn't be asking this question on UKC if you didn't like rocks..)

Llanddwyn Island is stunning, amazing views on a clear day across to the Lleyn Peninsula, and the bay between the island and the Newborough Warren car park is S facing and has the kind of big shallow sandy beach that Wintertree was talking about just there.

Rhoscolyn?  Porth Dafarch? (Both are usually busy during the summer.) Or to get away from the crowds a bit, and really enjoy exploring the rocks (getting more into 'coasteering' territory here though), you could perhaps walk round the Range a bit to Porth Ruffydd.  That last one is a bit niche, it's only a small pebbly beach but south facing and brilliantly sheltered and sun-trappy much of the time.

 Mark Edwards 27 Apr 2021
In reply to elliot.baker:

For footware take a look at dive boots, about £25 should get you something reasonable. My son is into paddle boarding in the local reservoir and is normally comfortable in his cheap shortie. A few years ago we went diving at NDAC near Chepstow on a nice warm day at the beginning of June. I took my 6.5mm semi dry suit just in case but thought it would be overkill. When we were looking around everyone was wearing full drysuits and I wondered if they were on a training course. When we got down 10 meters I understood why. I had forgotten my gloves but didn’t think it would be a problem. Another learning experience.

 LastBoyScout 29 Apr 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> Lidl have wetsuits, stand up paddle boards, dry bags, clothing/shoes for watersports from Thurs 29th April.

Thank you for this head's up - I was there at quarter to 8 this morning and picked up a paddle board. I've been thinking about one for a while, so very happy to get what looks like a decent one for a fair price. If we ever meet up, remind me to buy you a pint

 LastBoyScout 29 Apr 2021
In reply to LastBoyScout:

And it seems the paddle boards are already appearing on Facebook and eBay with a substantial mark-up - one listed at £350!

Bastards - clearly bought with the intent of making a quick profit and not for personal use!

Post edited at 11:54

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