Wild Swimming In The Sea St Ives Cornwall

Tips For Wild Sea Swimming In St Ives Cornwall

A swim in the sea on a scorching hot Summer’s day is really quite delightful. However, there are those people who are brave and intrepid and who don’t obviously feel the cold. These are the wild swimmers amongst us.

What Is Wild Swimming?

Wild swimming is all about being part of the environment, getting closer to nature and the elements. It is a far cry from swimming in a chlorinated swimming pool. You will feel the stingy salt water, the sand and rocks under foot and who knows what swimming past you. Is that tickle just a bit of seaweed or is it a fish?

Swimming in the sea in St Ives can be a beautiful thing. There is nothing quite so special as bobbing in the waves off Porthmeor, looking back at the busy beach, the Tate and the town. It is even more special if a seal or dolphin swims by (which they often do!).

Which Beaches Are Best For Swimming From In St Ives?

We don’t recommend you swim from the harbour beaches. These are too full of boats and traffic, plus there is all manner of things under foot. There are anchors, ropes, buoys and people fishing. It really isn’t the best beach to swim from.

Porthminster Beach, Porthgwidden or Porthmeor Beach are all excellent for swimming from.

Porthminster Beach

Porthminster Beach is probably the easiest beach to swim from. It is fairly shallow, few currents, and often feels warmer in the water than the other more exposed beaches. There aren’t many waves – it isn’t a surfing beach, so it is easy to get in and out. And you won’t be competing for water with the surfers.

Porthminster Beach is lifeguarded during the Summer months.

Porthgwidden Beach

Porthgwidden Beach is another good beach to swim from. It is netted off during the Summer months, so if you are not a strong swimmer, stay the beach side of the buoys.

There is often lots of wildlife to accompany you on Porthgwidden. Cormorants on the rocks drying their wings and frequently there are seals by the Island. However, do take care beyond the buoys as there can be a quick tide that will try to pull you round the Island and out to sea.

Porthgwidden Beach ISN’T lifeguarded at any time throughout the year.

Porthmeor Beach

On a calm, flat day this is an amazing beach to swim from. However, conjure up a few waves and the sea will be frothing with surfers, none of which will be looking out for a swimmer! Look out for the rip current near Porthmeor West. If you stand on the road looking out to sea you can often work out easily where it is.

I like to swim from Porthmeor Beach from Easter to October as it is lifeguarded. It is a good idea to have a word with the lifeguards if you are not sure about swimming there. They will point out to you where to go, where to avoid, and will keep a bit of an eye on you.


Some Wild Sea Swimming Tips

  • Always tell someone where you are swimming and what time you are expecting to be back. Even better, go swimming with others or have someone waiting for you on the beach.
  • Check the tides before you go. Porthmeor Beach at a very hide tide in Winter is a very different and turbulent place to low tide.
  • Outdoor swimming, especially in the colder months can sap your body heat. If your teeth start chattering and your body starts to shiver, get out. Wearing a wetsuit should really help this, but I know lots of wild swimmers don’t like to do this. I personally do, at all times of the year!
  • Wear goggles and a swimming hat. The goggles will prevent the inevitable salt water sting, and the hat will help to keep you a bit warmer (plus it will keep long hair out of your eyes).
  • Try to wear something bright and visible if possible. If you do get into any trouble you will be much easier to spot.
  • Warm up before you get in the water. This will help to stop cramps from forming in your muscles when they contract in the cold water.
  • Walk into the sea slowly. If you are wearing a wetsuit, let the water in the acclimatise your body. It is tempting to jump in quick but this can send your body into shock if the water is super cold!
  • Be very aware of rip currents. Observe the water before you get in and if there is a lifeguard on hand, ask them where the currents are. If you do get caught in a rip, try to swim across it, rather than trying to battle back to shore. You should eventually swim out of it.
  • If the beach is lifeguarded, know what and where the relevant flags are. Try to enter and exit the water in the bathing area (red and yellow flags) and avoid the black and white flags (surfing area). If there is a red flag displayed, don’t swim!
  • Decide on a bit of a plan and look at landmarks. Don’t swim out to sea, swim a little way out and then swim horizontally to the shore.
  • Adapt your stroke. Swimming in the sea is very different to swimming in a pool. The waves make getting into a rhythm more of a challenge. You might find you don’t have the stamina to swim as far as you think you can!
  • If you do get in trouble, don’t panic. Stay calm, float on your back and try to signal to someone on the shore. This helps if you have someone looking out for you who knows your “in trouble” signal!
  • Look out for wildlife. In September 2017 the sea was full of Portuguese Men Of War. Do not swim if there are lots of these about as they will realyl hurt you. Most of the other jellyfish around won’t give you anything more than a bit of a nettle sting. Look out for seals, dolphins and shoals of mackerel off Porthmeor Beach.
  • Have a bag of warm things waiting for you when you get out. I love a Robies Robe for getting warm, dry and discreetly changed on the beach. And then a flask of nice strong Yorkshire tea!

Wild sea swimming is a wonderful thing, if done sensibly. We have lots of wild sea swimmers down here in St Ives. You often see little figures ploughing across Porthmeor bay at a rapid speed! Another good place to swim is off the Penzance promenade, between Newlyn and the Jubilee Pool.

If you are not that keen on wild sea swimming, check out our two amazing local lido where you can swim outdoors during the Summer months.

There are a few tidal pools dotted around, which aren’t huge, but make a good mid-ground between swimming in the sea and a lido.

  • Nanjizal Pool (tiny, rock dammed pool)
  • Porthtowan Tidal Pool
  • Priests Cove Tidal Pool

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