Open Water & Pool Coaching Videos

Open Water Swimming Guidance for The Solent

Open Water Swimming Guidance for Gosport and Lee on Solent 

Solent Swim School

updated June 2023





1.   General Advice for Swimmers

2.   Planning your Swim

3.   Keeping Safe in The Water

4.   Personal Protective Equipment for Swimmers

5.   After your Swim

6.   Best Areas for Swimming

7.   Swimming The Solent

8.   Enjoy your Swim




















General Advice for Swimmers and Recreational Swimmers


The area of beaches within the Solent stretching from Stokes Bay to Hillhead are all pebbles, whilst on the Isle of Wight they are all sandy.

The Solent has a complex tidal system which means there are four tides a day. Check the KHM Website for tide details before swimming.

Check if you are in a Spring Tide or a Neap Tide.

Know which way the current is flowing. You can do this by watching any debris in the water. Is it flowing left, right or static?

Check the weather forecasts, winds are more important for assessing whether to swim or not. It is more important than whether it is sunny or raining.

How cold is the water? Adjust your swim time to take into account the water temperature and your own acclimatisation.

Know how to get out of a RIP tide.

Do not swim alone.

Do not let children swim alone.

Do not let children use inflatables in the sea on their own.

Learn how to float.

Do not enter the water to rescue someone unless you are qualified to do so. Call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Throw a line if there is one available








Planning your Swim


Upon arrival at the beach, make a dynamic risk assessment. The Solent has several different recreational users and it is important for any swimmer to be aware of these. They could be wind surfers, kite surfers, jet skis, yachts, sailing boats, and inflatables. Look at the general area and contemplate what people are doing. Are there any others in or on the water? Check the beach too. Are there any boats, jet skis, wind surfers ready to launch?  Check for how the water is looking, look for any hazards, check for any markers, identify a good safe entry point and exit point. Are there any safety devices nearby in case of an emergency. Where is the nearest phone?


It’s important to make yourself visible to other users. Remember as a swimmer you are low down in the water, not very visible to people on the water. At the very least wear a bright hat. There are also Tow Floats for swimmers to attach on a belt around their waists. They are essentially a dry bag which floats behind you as you swim. The dry chamber can come in useful for carrying things such as your phone in case of an emergency.


Check the tide. Look at the tide charts supplied on the KHM Website. Is the tide going out or in? Is it a Neap or Spring tide. A spring tide will have stronger currents. In the Solent the safest time to swim is around high tide when there is a period of slack water. Which way is the current flowing? Watch to see if any debris is floating in a particular direction. If there is no debris, when you get in, float and see which way you are flowing. It’s important to know the direction as always start your swim against the flow. If you tire yourself out, it will be easier to get back to your entry point.


What is the weather like? Wind is so much more important than whether it is raining or sunny. Check the wind using the Beaufort Wind Scale below and never swim when the wind is above 19mph. If you don’t know what the wind is doing or you are not at the beach, check the weather apps available for wind speed and direction.


Cold can kill. Make sure you ease yourself into the water slowly. Rushing in with great bravado will not help you to acclimatise quicker. But what it does do is put your body into shock.  Cold Water Shock creates an involuntary gasp reaction, whereby if your face is in the water, you could take water into your lungs and subsequently drown.

Cold Water Shock makes the blood vessels in your skin close, which in turn increases your blood flow resistance. This means your heart has to work faster, making your heart rate get faster and your blood pressure increase. Cold Water can mean a heart attack.

Cold Water Shock can make your breathing change without you having any control. This can cause you to panic and gasp, all increasing the chances of getting water into your lungs and drowning.






Keeping Safe in the Water


Waves can be fun, but they are also dangerous. There are different  types of waves, so spend a couple of minutes looking at them. Are they soft and consistent, breaking gradually as they reach the shore? If so these waves are called spilling waves. Or are they breaking on the shore with a lot more force? Then they could be dumping waves. Perhaps they break and then pull the sand and pebbles back with them, these are called surging waves. Generally speaking avoid dumping waves and surging waves as these can knock you over as you try to get into the sea. The surging wave is a strong wave and can pull you out to sea.


Always swim adjacent to the shore. Never swim out to sea.

Choose an entry and exit point before you enter the water.

Have a spotter on shore, who can raise the alarm if necessary.

Carry a whistle.

Make yourself as visible as possible to other water users. Wear a bright hat, have a tow float.

Try and swim with others in a group to increase your visibility to others.

Swim with others for safety.

Look out for other swimmers. Talk to them as you pass, make sure they are ok.

Never let children into the water alone.

Do not use inflatables.

Learn how to float.







Personal Protective Equipment for Swimmers



This will increase your buoyancy and help you to float if you get into difficulties. It also gives you protection against the cold.

Bright Hat

This will give you increased visibility. You may wear a neoprene hat for added warmth. Sometimes these are black, but put a bright hat on top so you can remain visible.

Tow Float

This will give you increased visibility. Although not a life saver, it can help if you get tired as you can hold onto it. There is usually a dry chamber inside where you can keep a phone. Get a waterproof cover for the phone too. You will be taking it out of the dry bag to use it!


Wear shoes when getting into the sea. There can be broken glass and all sorts of debris brought in by the tide. Not always visible to the eye as you are getting in.

Neoprene Hats, Gloves and Socks

These will all help to keep you warm while swimming. Always get out while you still feel fine. Don’t wait until you are feeling cold.



After your Swim


After your swim the warm up process is equally important as all the preparations. Your body has been submerged in temperatures colder than normal. Always warm up slowly.

Things you can do to help your body to warm up are having a hot drink, replacing your swim hat with a woolly hat, having plenty of warm layers ready to put on.

If you are tempted to swim during the winter, please don’t jump into your car with the heater up full blast and then when home jump into the hot shower. Warm up slowly, using plenty of warm layers, hot drinks and hot water bottles.









The Best Places to Swim

Stokes Bay

Stokes Bay has it’s own independent rescue service ~ Gosport & Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (GAFIRS). They are situated at the end of Lifeboat lane, which also has a large car park for visitors.

The beach area in front of GAFIRS has a public slip way. Be careful when swimming in this area as GAFIRS and also members of the public may be launching their boats and yachts into the sea.

The area eastward of GAFIRS towards Gilkicker Fort is not a great place to swim. The current if going eastwards towards Portsmouth Harbour can be strong and whip you quite quickly around the corner towards Haslar.

The area westward of GAFIRS towards the sailing club, is a great place to swim. Always look at the safety advice you have read and take note of which way the current is moving. Again there is a public slipway at the Sailing Club, so be careful of yachts and sailing boats launching there. The area westwards of the Sailing Club is also a good place.

There is a Sea Wall between the Sailing club and the Browdown area at the westward end of the bay. Around here at high tide, the tide is up against the wall so there is no beach area. If you are swimming in front of that area, be aware that there are eddies and currents due to the sea hitting the sea wall and bouncing back out.

Further west at the end of the bay is the Bay Side Cabin, a restaurant/café. Here there is an area called Browndown. This is used for military training and when the red flag is flying, do not go into this area or swim along the coast in front of it.

Also at the point of Browndown if the current is flowing westwards, you will be taken by the flow to the front of Browndown. Avoid swimming in this area as it can be difficult to get back into shore.

A good long swim at Stokes Bay is from GAFIRS all the way down to the Bay Side Cabin. This is one mile long. Before you swim it though, think about how you will get back and be aware that there are lots of other water users. So do a risk assessment before entering.

There is a 24/7 Defibrillator available at the Sailing Club and also one available at GAFIRS when it is manned.

Lee on Solent

Lee on Solent has a much longer stretch of beaches and the whole area is quite safe to swim in. At the eastern end of the beach towards the entrance to Browndown is a public slipway, so look out for boats launching if swimming in the area.

Just before you reach the Amusement Arcades there is a very large car park for visitors. Situated here is the local National Coastwatch Institute (NCI). They have eyes on the area around them. They are not lifeguards but they will be able to assist you in calling the emergency services.

At Lee on Solent the beach is divided up by groynes made of rock about 250m apart. If it is high tide there is a triangle in the water at the end of the rocks, so be aware that there are large rocks in the area back from the triangle to the beach. Avoid swimming over them.

There is a Jet Ski channel at Lee on Solent in front of the hovercraft slipway. The channel is 500m from shore out to sea and is within large yellow buoys. Stay out of the area in order to keep safe. In the summer there can be quite a few Jet skis operating and they are not always looking out for swimmers.

There is a 24/7 Defibrillator available at Sea View Court at the eastern end of Marine Parade East and another 24/7 defibrillator at On the Water restaurant on the esplanade at the western end of the beach. Before you reach the Hovercraft Slipway.


At Hillhead Monks Hill, there is a car park right on the beach. At low tide, the sea bed is very silty and unpleasant. At high tide, be aware of the wooden groynes in front of the Beach Huts. The Jet Ski area is on the eastern side of the beach again using yellow buoys.

There is no defibrillator available at this beach, the closest being the 24/7 one at On the Water Restaurant. The next one available along the western coastline is at Hillhead Sailing club.

For all Areas

There are a lot of open water swimming groups that meet up along the whole of Gosport and Lee on Solent. Have a look on Facebook and ask their advice. They know the area well.


Swimming the Solent


The Solent is a very busy body of water. There are cruise liners and container ships arriving and leaving Southampton docks on a daily basis. There are also ferries, hovercrafts and many leisure craft users.

Before anyone attempts to swim across The Solent they must gain permission from Kings Harbour Master. Strict guidelines must be adhered to, risk assessments made and qualified personnel on safety boats.

Further details available here: Swimming across the solent | Royal Navy (




Enjoy your Swim


Being in the outdoors and close to nature is just one of the benefits of swimming in The Solent. Along the unspoiled beaches of the south coast Gosport and Lee on Solent are very safe areas to swim in. There are splash parks for young children and plenty of places to get refreshments, ice creams and fish and chips.

Just a few safety precautions will enable you to safely enjoy The Solent.

For further advice on swimming in open water visit Solent Swim School









©Solent Swim School 2023