Swimming in Tor Bay waters has a very long tradition and its many shallow beaches make the bay an ideal location for swimmers of all types from quick dips near the shoreline to more adventurous open water swimmers. However there are a number of hazards and potential dangers that swimmers should be aware of and take necessary precautions when swimming in the sea.
Tor Bay beaches are not patrolled or monitored by Lifeguards so make sure you swim with a buddy or let people know that you are entering the sea and when you are expected back.
It is always safest to swim in the shallow waters, parallel and close to the shore. If you do swim further out to sea always be mindful of the distance back to shore especially on a rising tide. You should always be aware of whether the tide is rising or falling as it can quickly alter the distance to the shore and cut off some areas of the coastline. The wind can also be a factor with offshore wind winds making it more difficult to swim back to land. All ways consider how you are going to get out of the water especially if swimming in a rocky cove or areas of mixed terrain.
Tor Bay is a very popular boating location with vessels of many types using the bay throughout the year therefore being visible is very important in open water away from the shore. A brightly coloured hat is essential, and an inflatable tow float pulled behind you on a short leash gives a clear signal that there is a swimmer in the water. The tow float also has the added advantage of taking your weight if you need to rest during your swim. Vessel are permitted to navigate all waters within Tor Bay but there are speed restrictions between May and September when all vessel must keep below 5 knots when between the seasonal marks and the shore.
Swimmers must not swim close to any of the harbour entrances or within the water-ski lanes that are at Livermead and Elberry beaches.
The water temperature fluctuates throughout the year and get very cold between December and April, even in the summer swimmers should take precautions such as enter the water slowly and let your body acclimatise, getting into cooler water too quickly can result in reduced blood flow to your limbs and an automatic increase in your breathing rate. Jumping in might seem like fun but you risk cold water shock and hitting objects under the surface by not getting in gradually.
You should end your swim if you start to get cold or you feel yourself tiring, both signs that your core temperature could be dropping. Make sure you have some warm clothes waiting for you on shore as you will get colder once you exit the water as blood returns to your cooler extremities. A hot drink at the end of a swim is a great idea but avoid alcohol as this will cause you to lose heat.
Wild swimming is about taking advantage of the best that local waters have to offer in terms of both the landscape and its flora and fauna.
Devon is a popular location within the wild swimming community with many beach, estuary and river swimming opportunities. Tor Bay is gaining in popularity for this sport due to its varied scenery and marine life combined in sheltered and safe waters.
All ages and abilities can take part within the limits of their capabilities and with a keen eye on safety, as the support of beach lifeguards isn’t on hand.
To link up with other wild swimmers try the websites listed below, plus Facebook where there are many established local groups.
For a first foray into organised sea swimming why not try the Agatha Christie Sea Swim that takes place in September each year in Support of Devon Air Ambulance Trust and Torbay Surf Life Saving Club https://www.facebook.com/torbayslsc.
Swimming costume, a wetsuit for the colder months or, if you intend staying in the water for a long session, a pair of wetsuit boots or water shoes, sea swimming goggles to make the most of the underwater sights, tide tables and a tidal atlas to ensure you’re using the
conditions to your advantage. The Outdoor Swimming Society suggests you ask the following questions before embarking on any outing:
As with most other waterborne activities don’t go alone and always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.