Great Britain Ice Swimming

The aim of Great Britain Ice Swimming is to promote and represent The International Ice Swimming Association    https://www.internationaliceswimming.com/
Basic Info - 

Swimming in cold water (10 degrees) and below should be undertaken with care and caution.

Swimming in very cold water (below 5 degrees is regarded as Ice ) should be undertaken with extreme care and caution.

....however there are a growing number of  swimmers who choose to embrace the cold and continue swimming outdoors all winter long. The pinnacle of Cold Water swimming is to become an 'Ice Swimmer' which involves swimming one mile in 5 degrees or below with just a swimming costume, hat and goggles - no neoprene allowed.  

The risk of hypothermia is great when the water temperature falls and everyone has a different level where they begin to feel uncomfortable.
To keep safe there are some basic ground rules that you MUST follow if you want to enjoy Cold Water Swimming 

*  Read up on hypothermia - understand the reactions your body will go through when exposed to extreme cold.  
  *  Knowledge is safety.
There is some great Cold Water advice from Lone Swimmer http://loneswimmer.com/2013/05/21/cold-water-swimming-articles-index/

The following is my personal advice from experience but does not replace you using your own judgement and common sense.

*  Never swim alone - always have a spotter and another swimmer.

* If you're wearing just a swimming costume the adding gloves and boots gives your extremities a bit of protection.

* As a rough guide when you're starting out - staying for 1 minute per degree of temperature is enough. If you recover well from that then you can try for longer next time. Be very cautious and take acclimatisation slowly. Don't take ANY notice of what others are saying and doing - just concentrate on yourself and don't push beyond your comfort zone.

* Don't plunge in - take it slowly and let your body and brain get accustomed to the feeling of cold. I find that submerging steadily to my shoulders and holding it there for a few seconds helps get over the gasp reflex then wait until that has disappeared before attempting to swim. Remember to breathe out if you find yourself gasping as you will breathe in automatically. Breathing out strongly as if you're blowing up a paper bag will help. Once you're feeling calm then a few strokes of breastroke to get you moving before considering putting your face in.

* Your face has a number of cold receptors so will feel the cold instantly and you may get 'ice cream head'. This will pass if you persevere.

* Get out before you get seriously cold as your body will cool down for another 10 minutes after you're out. If you're shivering in the water then you are in BIG trouble.

* When you get cold your body will divert blood from the extremities (hands/feet) to your core in order to try and protect and insulate your vital organs.  When you get out the cold blood in your extremities will start to recirculate and travel around your body reaching and replacing the warm blood at your core. This is when you will feel most cold and the shakes will start.  There is about a 10 minute window after you get out before the shakes hit so you have 10 minutes to get dry and dressed and have a warm drink inside you.

* Wear a swimhat in the water and don't take it off when you get out until you have a warm woolly hat to put on immediately.

* The ground will be freezing so bring a car mat or bath mat to stand on.

* Get dry and dressed immediately - chat can wait - get your torso dry and coverered in layers of clothing first so your core is protected then sort out your head replacing your swimhat with a woolly hat then put on trousers, several pairs of socks and shoes and gloves. Then get a warm (not hot) drink inside you. 
I find that a stretchy close fitting vest works well with TShirt and jumper over.