Swimming in open water

Includes: cold water swimming, sea swimming, wild swimming, water Outdoors, Sports, Water

Activity time:
1 meeting


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Explore lakes, rivers and the sea

Swimming in open water offers all the fun of taking a dip in a pool, as well as the added thrills of jumping in sea waves, discovering the natural world and maybe seeing fish swim at your feet.


Girls can swim in the sea, lakes and other open water.

To take girls open swimming, you will need to find a safe local venue and a qualified lifeguard.

Planning checklist

Safety notes

It is advisable for swimmers to wear protective non-slip footwear - even sand can hide hazardous objects and creatures.

Girls do not have to be able to swim unaided as long as the appropriate swimming aids are used.

See safety regulations for more information on water safety.

On beaches (non-patrolled and patrolled) lifeguards must hold:

RLSS UK National Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NBLQ).

In inland open water, lifeguards must hold:

a minimum of a RLSS UK Survive and Save (Stillwater) qualification.

Finding a lifeguard

Contact your local swimming club, the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) or the Swimming Teachers' Association (STA) for information on booking a lifeguard.

The Leader must:

  • make sure that safety rules and alarm signals have been explained to the girls, and the need for instructions to be obeyed immediately
  • follow water safety guidelines and ensure that the responsible adult helpers are familiar with them
  • arrange appropriate lifeguard cover and sufficient responsible adult helpers based on the number of swimmers and their section, the ability of the participants and the type of water
  • discuss their responsibilities with the lifeguard(s) and adult helpers and make sure that safety equipment is provided.

Lifeguards must be satisfied that the conditions on the day are suitable for safe swimming, taking into account:

  • local advice
  • the weather conditions
  • the location and temperature of the water (water below 12ºC/54ºF is too cold for swimming)
  • the age, ability and state of health of the swimmers
  • natural hazards, for example weeds, rocks, state of the tide and any visible pollution (chemical or rubbish).

Swimmers must:

  • be paired according to ability, stay in these pairs and be responsible for watching each other (the ‘buddy’ system)
  • enter unheated water gradually and come out of the water if they start to get cold.
Section Number of girls per adult
Rainbows 5
Brownies 8
Guides 12

How many adults are needed?

Use this calculator to find out the ratio of girls to adults that is required for this activity

2 adults needed

The ratio for swimming in open-water is one adult to every five girls with a minimum of two adults for all sections (except The Senior Section for whom adult helpers are not applicable).

Both Guides and members of The Senior Section may go swimming without a Leader. However, Guides must be accompanied by another responsible adult (who has been approved by the Leader) and for both sections they must:

  • have permission from their Leader
  • adhere to all swimming regulations.


  • An Activity Information and Consent form is required to participate in this activity - PDF | Word
  • A Risk Assessment form is required for this activity - PDF

Remember - you can use one consent form for multiple activities