Open water swimming is the 2nd fastest growing sport in the UK at the moment, behind triathlon. Some locations I recommend to try are Shepperton open water swim, liquid leisure and for the more adventurous – tarn swimming in the Lake District.
Open water swimming equipment
In terms of equipment there is not much, however if you plan on spending a considerable amount of time swimming in open water I would recommend purchasing a wetsuit. I believe the best suits out there at the moment in terms of value for money are the Orca Sonar and the 2XU R:3. An important note is to be careful when putting on your suit (use the gloves provided) or alternatively try putting plastic bags over your feet and hands to help your legs and arms slide through in order to prevent tears.
Should you experience a small tear or cut in the suit, I recommend buying Black Witch which is a quick drying neoprene adhesive. Does a fantastic job!
Next piece of kit would be goggles, the zoggs predator flex with polarized lenses are the best on the market. It is also worth investing in arena antifog spray for the inside of your goggles and bodyglide (anti-chaffing balm) for the back of your neck to prevent wetsuit rash. In terms of swimwear under your wetsuit a standard pair of togs will suffice.
If you can brave the cold I recommend training out of the wetsuit as much as possible because the suit provides a lot of buoyancy and makes it easier to swim, hence training without the suit will help you to become a stronger swimmer.
Sighting in open water swimming
Sighting is an important aspect of open water swimming. If you sight too frequently you will waste energy and if you don’t sight enough you will deviate off course. This is especially important in racing as not always the fastest swimmer wins the race! Drafting is another aspect of open water swimming that is important. Current studies show that drafting can conserve 18-25% of your energy expenditure
In terms of racing, there are literally hundreds of races taking place in the UK each year. I highly recommend Eton Swim (750m, 1500m, 3k, 5k and 10k) sponsored by human race and located at Dorney Lake in Berkshire.