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No. 42 Go swimming in the sea

Family playing in the waves on the beach at Birling Gap, part of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs range, East Sussex
Family playing in the waves on the beach at Birling Gap | © National Trust Images/Megan Taylor

Swimming in the sea, no. 42 of our ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’, is a brilliant experience. It is very different from swimming in a pool, and you'll need to be very careful of currents and tides. But it's fun you'll never forget. Follow our tips to help you have the best time.

Choose your beach

There are so many wonderful coastal places for a wild swim. Many UK beaches have Blue Flag awards for the cleanliness of the water and other facilities like lifeguards and whether drinking water is available.

Think about the tide times and the currents - some beaches aren't suitable for swimming because currents like rip tides can easily catch swimmers and drag them out to sea.

It also helps to choose a flat, shallow beach, rather than one that slopes away very steeply to the sea. You wouldn't want to suddenly get out of your depth.

A lot of beaches have lifeguards to keep an eye on swimmers in the sea. If they do, you'll probably spot handy flags which show you where it's safest to swim too.

Child jumping into the sea at Birling Gap, Sussex
Child jumping into the sea at Birling Gap | © National Trust Images/Hannah Slater

Choose your time of year

The sea tends to be fairly cold all year round in the UK, but you'll find the waves warmer between July and September. If you're lucky enough to go on a beach holiday abroad, you could also tick this challenge off then - any sea counts.

If you are going to swim in the UK, then it's wise to have a wetsuit, especially in the colder months.

Choose your time of day

Swimming at sunrise or sunset is a special experience. Tread water for a little while if you can, so you can watch the sun glinting off the ripples of the water. Feel the sea gliding through your fingers and toes as you swim. Drink in the moment and make sure you have some fun splashing too.

Whatever time you plan to swim, be aware of the tides and whether it's likely to be a high tide when you're at the beach.

It's always best to swim with an adult and preferably on a beach with lifeguards too.

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