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Tips for night swimming in open waters

Tips for night swimming in open waters

You may have heard of cold water swimming, but have you heard of the newest trend in open-water adventures? Night swimming!

There are many benefits of swimming at night, such as the clear views of the moon, stars and sky; you may even be able to spot unfamiliar wildlife.

However, with the lack of sunlight comes heightened risk, so it is important to prepare before you fully take your first dark dip.

Keep reading to find our top tips on safely enjoying night swimming.

What is night swimming?

As the name might suggest, night swimming is when an individual swims at nighttime rather than daytime. You can swim in a pool; however, our tips are directed at those who want to swim in open waters at night.

Unlike a swim in the sun, night swimming has different risks and benefits. Hence, individuals who want to partake in this thrilling activity must be vigilant and educate themselves first.

Many choose to go for a night swim in the Winter as part of their cold water swimming routine.

As the later months, like October, have fewer hours of daylight, you may be able to swim at an earlier time as the sun sets in the late afternoon.

What is night swimming?
Moon at night over lake

What are the benefits of night swimming?

There are many benefits of night swimming, such as the following:

  • Heightened senses
  • Elevated levels of peace and serenity
  • You can see the moon and stars clearly
  • You may see the nightlife, such as bats and owls
  • Improved sleep
  • Lowered levels of sun exposure

If you enjoy wild swimming, you may want to give swimming at night a try! It is an amazing experience that many people have been raving about, but make sure you are aware of the potential dangers first.

What are possible dangers for swimmers in the water at night?

While there are amazing benefits to swimming in the dark, there are also risks you need to consider, including:

  • Reduced visibility of hazards below the water, such as jellyfish or debris.
  • Reduced visibility of hazards above the water, like sharp rocks.
  • The low tide may make swimming harder.
  • There may be riptides and shore breaks.
  • You will be less visible in the water should there be an emergency.
  • Bad weather, such as lightning, can cause significant problems.
  • There may be fewer people around to help in an emergency.
  • You may lose sight of your exit.

Keep reading to find our top tips on reducing risk and enjoying late-night swims!

night swimming

Tips for staying safe while night swimming

Here are Cold Water Swim’s top tips for swimming in open water at night:

1. Pick a familiar location

Always swim in an area that you are comfortable and familiar with; for example, you may consider a location you frequent during the daylight.

Being somewhere you recognise will help you keep your bearings and reduce the risk of getting lost or confused.

Cold water swimming can be dangerous at the best of times, and with the added risk of limited light, you need to take extra precautions to stay safe.

If you are going to swim in the sea at night, always check the tide schedule and scout out the area in the daytime for any potential hazards.

2. Reduce unnatural light

Any light will reduce the quality of your night vision; this includes phone lights and torches. If you are safe and confident, swimming in the pitch-black will help you see the stars and full moon above.

After around twenty minutes, your eyes will adjust to the darkness, helping you pick out silhouettes easier and lookout points you may have flagged.

To help your eyes adjust to the low light levels, avoid going on your phone before night swimming or using bright light torches unless you need them to enter the water safely.

3. Highlight your exit point

In the dark, it can be easy to lose your exit point as you may slightly drift or move around in the water; this can be dangerous as, without a clear exit, you may struggle to get out in an emergency.

If you can’t find your chosen exit pathway, you could be forced to try climbing out onto uneven surfaces, into debris, or up steep hills. You can keep an eye on the shoreline by using some form of light, such as glow sticks, a lantern or small light.

You may even want to wear a headlight to use when you are ready to finish your swim; this will give you a better view of the way out and the floor underfoot.

4. Use a tow float

Using a tow float is always a good idea, even during the day, if you want extra security. You can rest on a tow float if you need a little rest in the water and carry essentials, such as water, torches, goggles and food.

Swim buoys give you additional buoyancy, which can be crucial if you meet a rip current or swim without a neoprene wetsuit.

Tows can also be used to locate yourself in the water; placing a glow stick or torch in your bag can turn it into a makeshift lantern, helping others keep track of your whereabouts. Visibility is important as it allows boats, surfers, other swimmers, and emergency services to locate you.

5. Swim with a friend

Safety in numbers is relevant to wild swimming, as having a companion can give you extra security, particularly after sunrise. Swimming with friends is also a fun way to enjoy your bucket list hobby, as you get to share your experiences.

If you struggle to find your exit, having a friend on the shore to flash a light can be a lifesaver, so if there is a group of you open water swimming, you can consider taking it, in turn, to go for a dip.

Many people enjoy open water swimming in all parts of the world as it’s a great way to exercise and socialise, but if you are wild swimming in a new area, make sure to fully assess the area in daylight hours first, even if you are swimming as a group.

6. Warm up after your swim

As soon as you leave the water, you need to warm up slowly and safely. Take off any wet clothing, fully dry off and put on warm clothes, such as a thermal dry robe. You should put on insulating socks or shoes; we like a fluffy hat to warm our ears!

Temperatures in the UK can drop significantly at night, making cold water even colder, which can be dangerous. We would recommend wearing a wetsuit or rash guard when open water swimming at night for insulation to avoid cold shock.

Dusk or dawn, it doesn’t matter! It would help if you got toasty after an open water swim; you can go for a light jog to get your blood circulating or sit in a warmed-up car.

7. Choose the right equipment

Equipment for nighttime swimming is optional, but we recommend the following to ensure you are safe:

The main purpose of the equipment listed is to protect, insulate, and increase buoyancy. You may not be able to see below the water’s surface without a camera and light, and there may be debris which could harm you without a wetsuit and water shoes.

Choose the right equipment
Swimmer with flippers


Do you need sunscreen for night swimming?

If you are swimming at dusk or dawn when the sun is still active, you may want to wear suncream. However, you likely won’t need any UV protection if you swim at night.

Are ocean predators more active at night?

Certain ocean predators, such as sharks and stingrays, are more active at night, so before you swim, check the area to see if these animals will be present. If you are swimming in the sea, there may be lifeguards that you can ask.

We always recommend researching an area before your first swim, as this is the best way to fully understand the local marine life and any other potential risks.


Swimming in wild water at night has become an increasingly popular event, as you can relax in the tranquillity of the darkness and let your troubles float away. However, there are some risks to consider before you pop down for a midnight dip.

We have offered our top tips on swimming safely at night, such as choosing a well-known site, going with a buddy, and warming up after.

Check out our informative article for our top tips on swimming safely during the day!