Open Water News

Temperature guide for cold water swimming

Want to have a go at open water swimming? Check out this temperature guide.

Spoiler alert: You can do it. You can acclimatise to the cold water, with wetsuit or without. Soon the pool will be too warm for you and your body will be thanking you for having a go.

Right now, Port Phillip Bay is about 12-13C in the water.

Here’s a typical timeline of a cold water swim at this temp:

* 1 minute: Walk in slowly, thinking: “No I can’t do this.”

* 5 minutes: Standing in waist deep water, thinking: “I def can’t do this. Can I turn around and get out without being noticed?”

* 8 minutes: Dive in, start to swim: “OMG, how do I breathe?”

* 10 minutes: Just start to breathe normally (sort of).

* 15 minutes: “I think I’m doing it.”

* 20 minutes: “I feel amazing and I’m not really all that cold. haha.”

* 25 minutes: “I’m awesome and I’m feeling things and bits I haven’t felt for so long.”

* 35 minutes: “OK now I’m starting to feel cold again.”

* 40-45 minutes: Getting out – “No I don’t want to get out, let’s do it again.”

* 10 minutes after getting out: “Yeah I’m cold, where is my thermos? My jumper? My ugg boots? How do I dress myself again?”

* Rest of day: “You can’t tell me nothing, I swam in the cold ocean today.”

Before you leave home, check the weather conditions and the water temperature. It’s easy to google the water temperature for your local area. You can look up or for your local ocean water temperatures.

Any temperatures below about 18 C is cold water swimming.

This Guide to Safe Cold Water Swimming gives you a general picture of what to expect at low temperatures and some safety tips.

And here is a quick temperature guide to swimming in the sea:

Cold water swimming temperatures in centigrade/Celsius:

  • Mid 20s degrees: warm enough for everyone
  • 22C: Warm in Victoria, but a bit nippy for northerners from NSW and Queensland!
  • 20C: You might like a wetsuit for longer swims but not necessary.
  • 18C: Time for a wetsuit unless your swim time is quite short. FINA and Swimming Australia say wetsuits (not swim-suits) are mandatory in OWS events under 18 degrees.
  • 16C: FINA and Swimming Australia rules say no event can be held in water under 16 degrees.
  • 15.5C: This is really cold and you will need time to recover from swimming in water of this temperature. You can’t leave the water and expect to be able to drive a car, for example. Swimmers who want to qualify for an English Channel attempt must swim for two hours, without wetsuit in water that is 15.5C or less.
  • 10C: This is cold for everyone, including those who do cold water swimming every day. Limit swims to 45 minutes and don’t attempt without a wetsuit at very least.
  • 8C: Do not enter the water for more than a very short period of time – max 30 minutes – for the most experienced swimmers.
  • 5C: This is called Ice swimming. Please seek medical advice.

cold water swimming temperature guide infographic

What about swimming in rivers and lakes?

Freshwater is often colder than the sea so approach rivers and lakes with care. Plus freshwater doesn’t have the same buoyancy as salt water so swimming can be a bit more tiring. The sea water keeps you afloat more easily than water in the pool or freshwater in rivers and lakes.

Safety in the open water:

The golden rules from Lifesaving Australia are:

  • Swim in a group, never swim alone
  • Don’t stray far from shore
  • Shorten your swim time in winter.

Also: A thermos of hot tea is your best friend. You will get colder when you get out of cool water so what you do after a swim is very important. The warm summer months are ok. You can hang around in the sun and get dry quickly. If it is a cool day, you need to get out of your wet gear, get warm and monitor yourself.

Weekly pool training guide for swimmers

Breaking news: You have to train to improve.

You want to get better, fitter, stronger right? You want to swim further, more confidently and not lose your breath after a short distance right?

You need to take your coach with you to the pool, at least once per week …

Sure you can go to the pool and swim 100 laps, good onya – you have done some aerobic exercise – and you will feel great afterwards but you won’t be improving, getting stronger, fitter and more capable of amazing swim achievements.

Even if your goal is simply to be more confident and swim for a couple of easy relaxed kilometres in the open water, the training guide will help you and it is just $5.50/week, no contracts/commitments, no BS, no fine print.

I also cover some pretty D&M swimming issues in this email, so well worth the price of a Regular Soy Macchiato ($5.50). 

WOW Pool Sesh comes in Lane 1 or Lane 2 versions plus an email with the latest deep and meaningful swim issues for you to contemplate.

The real key is to improving and getting stronger in swimming is anaerobic training that uses sugar stored in your muscles because the aerobic system is overwhelmed.

You do that with High Intensity Interval Training only, there’s no other way to do it. You need time limited fast reps, like these WOW Pool sessions. 

Maybe you have seen people at your local pool with a printed training program in a plastic sleeve – and aren’t they just awesome swimmers?! They are probably one of the many smarty pants who subscribe to my weekly WOW Pool Sesh email which arrives in your inbox on Monday afternoon. 

Actually they might not be TOTALLY awesome – yet – because there are two WOW Pool training guides, a Lane 1 version and Lane 2 for developing swimmers.

So whatever level you are at, click on the blue button, send me an email, message me or grab me by the collar and talk to me about subscribing to the WOW Pool Sesh weekly training guide.

Get in touch with me to find out more and subscribe to the WOW Pool Sesh weekly email.

Learn to swim easy, relaxed freestyle with coaching and stroke correction

Anyone can learn to swim, at any age and starting from any level of ability. You can’t do it by yourself however. plenty have tried and this is a sure-fire way to to fail and feel like you can’t do it. You need an experienced teacher or coach to guide you through the steps to easy, relaxed swimming.

Swimmers who can swim freestyle easily and in a relaxed way for many laps, even many kilometres in the ocean or pool, have not achieved this by themselves. They have been taught, probably from a young age, by coaches and teachers. They have trained to achieve a good feel for the water, an high body position and an efficient stroke.

Good swimmers are not necessarily the fittest people in the world, but swimming can make you very fit indeed. A person who has learnt how to swim properly can keep that knowledge and skill for life and swim easy, relaxed freestyle whenever they jump in the water.

Step One is learning to breathe like a swimmer. This is very different to how runners, cyclists or other athletes manage their intake of oxygen. A quick deep breath in, followed by a long slow exhale. You need to practice this skill and be shown how it is done and learnt. Many children learn this skill at children’s swim lessons without even knowing they are learning to breathe like a swimmer.

Step Two is learning how to manage your body position and keep afloat in the water. Not everyone can simply lie on top of the water without effort. It depends on your body, for example, most women find floating easier than most men. You need guidance how to do it and maintain your floating body near or at the top of the water.

Step Three is kicking. Your legs can be like anchors, weighing you down and slowing you down. Good kicking is not exhausting, but some kicking keeps your legs high and behind you as you travel through the water. If you are not doing it properly, you can sink and get tired very quickly.

Step Four is efficient strokes that catch the water and pull through in long straight lines that push you forward easily and allow you to breathe regularly and effectively.

If you are interested in learning to swim, improving your freestyle (and/or other strokes) and achieving an easy, relaxed technique, get in touch with Coach Jason or book in to swim lessons, squads or stroke improvement groups here.

Cold water swim group in Melbourne

From Saturday 1 May 2021, there is just one supported swim group at Williamstown Beach each week – the 9am Saturday Cool Water Winter Swim Group.

This is not a class or lesson, you set your own distance, pace and time in the water. I set up a 600-700m swim course in the no-boating zone and provide on-water support with a boardy or kayaker keeping an eye on you and the conditions around you.

The course will be a big square or triangle stretching from the shallows to the deep water around the yellow poles at Williamstown. You can swim the entire course any number of times or stick to the shallows.

Cold water winter swimming in Melbourne at Williamstown Beach

When you get out there will be hot tea and watermelon. Please BYO snacks for a picnic. You can’t leave and drive away straight after getting out of the cool water. There are warm showers nearby.

Why would anyone want to swim in the cool water?

Because this is an amazing experience that will make you healthier, happier and smarter! Seriously. The cold water improves your circulation, your immune system, gets blood flowing through your brain and boosts your endorphin production and mood. This thing is addictive.

And it’s particularly good for you if you are at an age where you are saying things like “age doesn’t matter, it’s just a number” and “I’m young at heart.” 

Here is my guide to cold water swimming from last year. There’s plenty of science about cold water swimming and articles to read about how good it is for you but yes there’s risk and you should not try it by yourself.

Also you nbeed to start early – in Autumn before the temperature gets too low and keep it up at least once per week in order to get acclimatised to the cold. Your body will change, your white fat will change to brown fat, you will possibly lose weight and you won’t need a jumper quite so often. You won’t be turning the heater on quite as much.

So this is the need-to-know information for our cold water swimming group:

1) Meet near carpark behind WSLSC by 8.45am
2) You can hire a wetsuit from me for $20 if you need one.
3) I also have booties, swim gloves and thermal caps.
4) Maximum swim time is 60 minutes at the moment because the water is 16 -17C and this time will be reduced to 45 minutes when the water is 12 -13 C.
5) For people not wearing a wetsuit, the maximum swim time is 45 minutes.
6) You can’t leave straight after swimming. You definitely can’t drive a car straight after swimming in cold water.
7) You can share my tea (BYO cup) and watermelon and/or bring some snacks for yourself or our picnic table.
8) Bring a warm towel (or two) or even a blanket, maybe a chair, but standing in the sun, or going for a run is the best way to get your body temp back towards normal.
9) I have thermal blankets if necessary, there are warm council showers if you feel like it.
10) You can tell your friends and family you have found a new healthy drug called cool water swimming, you’re getting addicted and you don’t need rehab…. 


Inspired by a ABC TV News story about a group of “oddballs” in Perth  I decided to jump in the cool ocean water on Wednesday at sunrise. Why not? Can’t hurt and it might be a fun way to break up the working week. Which for me is largely sitting at a desk typing on a computer.

I half expected to be on my own this morning but there was no shortage of swimmers in the sea, even before the sun appeared. And yes this is a good swim, not a real long swim, but well worth the effort. I swam about 1.7km with couple of others. Most the other people who turned up to join me completed about 1km, while some jumped in for a relaxed 200m dash.

Thanks everyone who turned up to swim with me on my return to physical exercise and the water.

And thanks to Sheryl Crowe and The Beatles.

Mid week reset – sunrise swimming

Paul Benson’s beautiful photo (above) makes me want to run and jump in the water, so I’m starting a Wednesday mid-week reset swim at Williamstown Beach. I’ve been inspired by these oddballs (their description) from Perth who have found something awesome to recharge their personal batteries every Wednesday:

This is NOT a CLASS or a SQUAD.

This is just a simple ‘meet-up’ of like minded oddballs.

There’s no booking or money. People can swim 10 metres or 10,000 metres, it’s all up to you. I’m not providing coaching, a safety team, wetsuits, caps or anything. I’m having a go myself and inviting you to try this midweek reset thing with me.

Cool water is well known to improve your mood, once you get in and out again, and being a in a group makes it all better.

MEET: In carpark behind WSLSC at western end of Williamstown Beach.

TIME: 6.30AM

Invasion Day Swim and Bush Tucker Breakfast 26 January 2021

What better way to mark the Australia Day holiday (26 January 2021) than an Invasion Day swim and bush tucker breakfast, featuring johnny cakes, pancakes and vegan burgers.

We paid respect to the traditional owners and recognised the elders of country. We held a traditional smoking ceremony and then we jumped in the ocean! This was a great day out for everyone involved.

Summer Solstice Sunset Swim is Magic

Saturday evening 19 December 2020

Summer sunset swimming with up to 40 friends. This is renewing, refreshing, romantic and magical – everyone who does it says stuff like that.

So bring a friend (or not), swim with all of us, and have the best summer solstice swim you have EVER HAD. This is a LARGE group or we split into smaller groups.

We leave, not from the beach, but from the Crystal Point Steps. then we swim 400 – 500m across to the eastern Red Fishing Club marker and back around the rocks and beach. 1km relaxed swimming at your own pace.

You get a glowing safety marker for your cap, a lighted course with buoys, markers and a team keeping us company.

You also get to swim at sunset on the solstice! This is amazing and you have to do it at least once. Why on earth (sea, tides, sun and moon) haven’t you already done it?

Wear any swimwear you like, get a cap with safety marker, follow the bright flashing markers, and go for it. xxx

BOOK HERE for limited places in the 2020 Summer Solstice Sunset Swim at Williamstown Beach.