Kate to Coast: Wild Swimming Adventures in Cornwall

Surrounded by the ocean on all sides but one, our county is one of fishing, secluded coves and pumping surf. With endless spots along Cornwall’s coastline begging for a bracing dip, it’s no surprise that wild swimming in Cornwall is a popular pastime for locals and visitors. 

In recent years, the UK has seen a boom in wild swimming activity, with first timers heading towards lakes, rivers and oceans. But we caught up with someone who has been in and out of the sea for as long as she can remember. Kate Passmore (@katetocoast) is a wild swimming enthusiast, embedded in the open water swimming community. We touched base with Kate to get her knowledge, insights and experiences of Wild Swimming in Cornwall, and to find out what keeps Kate going back to the ocean for more…

Where did you first find a connection with wild swimming?

Pinpointing the very beginning is impossible. I have been in and out of the sea my whole life – the quirks of living by the coast and having brothers to run to the beach with. As most children, the connection I had with the sea wasn’t evaluated or appreciated in any way. It was always just there… a thing we did after school and weekends when the sky had light.

I can, however, tell you the moment I fell in love with wild swimming.

It was on my 25th birthday, mid-november. I jumped off a little quay on the River Fal wearing only my cossie.


Something shifted in that moment. Bobbing in the greeny/brown river, my heart sung and my skin tingled. 

I was doing this again.

What keeps you going back for more?

The beauty and dynamism of our natural world. Simply being submerged in the water and watching it all go by.

It’s that instinctual flutter in my chest when a bird flies within touching distance or when the morning light dances on the water a certain way. The ocean, the sky, the land – their ever-changing details from one day to the next. It’s mesmerising and inspiring. You can go to the same spot everyday and observe and learn something new.

It’s why I go wild swimming in all weathers, you get to embrace all the different moods of the ocean.

What factors guide your decisions on where to wild swim? And how can our guests ensure they swim responsibly?

If you haven’t tried wild swimming before or if you are visiting new, unfamiliar places, I suggest going to a lifeguarded beach and swimming in between the red and yellow flags put up by the RNLI.

Swimming in unfamiliar sea waters where you aren’t quite tuned to the unique coastal characteristics can lead to potential risks. Every season the coastguard rescues countless people stranded by the tide.

I know it’s not what most want to hear but until you get some experience and knowledge under your belt, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

When I go wild swimming this list is what I take into consideration:

Tide Height – is it high, low or mid -tide?

Tide Cycle – is it springs, neaps or in between? This affects max and min tide height.

Tide Direction – is the tide coming in or going out?

Wind Speed – the faster the wind, the more it affects the water.

Wind Direction – Is the wind Off-shore, On-Shore or Cross Shore?

Wave Height – bigger waves may mean more powerful waters.

Wave Swells – both local and far away winds can affect the momentum of waves and how they behave on the shore.

Rip Currents – Waves are fun but there is usually a current close by – learn how to spot them.

Sea + Air Temperature – The sea is warmer than the air at some points of the year – be aware and change quickly to avoid hypothermia.

Local Coastal Characteristics – Waters will behave in different ways depending on the coastline’s shape and geographical qualities. This is why some places are not to be swam in at all.

Wild swimming demands respect for the water as well as continuingly learning from experience and practice.

What is the more surreal location you have swam in?

My hometown! Falmouth Bay’s water’s are packed full of colourful underwater gardens and abundant with wildlife. I could dive to the reefs with my mask all Spring, Summer, Autumn and discover something new each time.

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A post shared by KATE 🌿 Cornish Explorer (@katetocoast)

For those first timers, considering dipping their toe into wild swimming in Cornwall, what would you say to them?

Learn about the sea. The more you engage with the environment you are wild swimming in, the more confident you will be. I don’t expect people to be as nerdy as I am but understanding the world you are stepping into is really beneficial.

Don’t chase the social media ‘secret’ locations. It’s never about the location. It’s all about the water’s conditions. Anywhere on the coast will look beautiful and swimmable with low, off-shore winds, high tide and cliff face! Trust me on this.

Go with someone. Either a fellow dipper or friends/family happy to cheer from the tideline. They are also known as ‘spotters’ and can help you in a pinch should something happen. 

Don’t force it. Let’s face it, plunging yourself into cold water for the first time is not an overly enjoyable experience. If it’s not for you, wait until the water gets a little warmer – the only thing is you will be sharing the water with the ethereal jellies!

What are some of the benefits of wild swimming? 

There is a current boom of literature that list and expound the benefits of swimming outdoors. Due to its rising popularity, you’ll find no shortage of new studies and materials advocating the advantages of submerging yourself in natural bodies of water. From the sciency effects of water temperature on the body to blue mind theory and even the general wider view that connecting with nature is great for your wellbeing. 

I can only speak from my experience and for me wild swimming;

It grounds me. It challenges me. Gives me moments of stillness. It strengthens my respect and awe for nature. 

Can you tell us a bit about your Cornish Explorer walking and dipping experiences?

Being a chatterbox and self-proclaimed nature nerd I thought ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if I did this for a living’?

And here I am, just starting out. Guiding people on circular routes over Cornish trails, coast path and woodland – there is even a cheeky dip en-route if the conditions are good enough! Every weekend I have a walking adventure that you can book on through the website. If you have a big enough group of friends I can create a private tour too.

I also create maps and route cards for people who enjoy following a map and walking themselves. There is something for everyone and I am always adding to them.

To learn more about Kate and to follow her Cornish adventures, click here. And if you’re planning a wild swimming trip to Cornwall, you can browse our fantastic (and perfectly positioned!) Coastal Retreats here.