Open Water Swimming FAQ's

Open water swimming

Check out the popular questions we receive regarding Open Water Swimming sessions at the Helly Hansen Watersports Centre. 

Can't find the answer you're looking for? Give us a call on 0161 872 7252 or email and we'll be happy to answer any questions you have!

Is the water clean?

Yes, the water is very clean.

The water quality in the Quays is tested by APEM, a dedicated science based environmental consultancy concerned exclusively with the aquatic environment. Although water in Salford Quays has not been designated as 'Bathing Waters' the European Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) is used as a monitoring framework to safeguard the health of water users.  The water quality regularly meets and exceeds this level.

APEM field scientists monitor the waters at eight locations within Salford Quays every two weeks. The comprehensive monitoring programme includes the analysis of total and faecal coliforms, faecal streptococci, salmonella, enteroviruses, phytoplankton, phenols, heavy metals and cyanides.

How far is the course?

We have 2 swim courses.  You can swim a 300 metre lap, or there is an option for an extension and to swim 500 metres

Do I have to stay on the course?

You need to stay to on the swim course and swim around the marker bouys.  Please do not cut across the middle of the dock as we have safety craft on the water who will be watching the swim lane and may not see you. If at any point you get tired and can not complete your lap, swim to the side and get the attention of our water safety crew who will come and assist you

I have not been before and I am feeling a bit nervous

If you are a beginner, you can swim in our coaching area between the 2 pontoons.  This is a distance of approximately 40 metres. You can swim here to acclimatise and gain confidence before entering the swim course. You can even just float in the water and hold onto the pontoon to get used to being in your wetsuit.

It is a good idea to swim with a partner who can assist you and encourage you if you are a beginner to open water swimming.

Will I be safe?

We have a team of qualified water safety staff out on the course looking after you in safety boats and kayaks. Our safety boat drivers are qualified to RYA (Royal Yachting Association) standards and are experienced at driving safetyboats at busy swim events.  Our kayakers are very skillful paddlers, many of them hold the BCU (British Canoe Union) Swim Event Safety Award.

We also operate a band system where each swimmer has a numbered band so we can monitor numbers on the water. There is also a 'spotter' stood where you get in at the pontoon who has a good overall view of the water and can answer all your questions.

All our safety team are in contact with each other and with the centre reception via VHF radio. 

As well as working on our sessions, our water safety team have also worked on large scale events such as the Great Swim series, ITU World Cup Triathlons and Commonwealth Games.

What do I need to wear?

All swimmers need to wear a brightly coloured swim cap. We don't allow black caps as our water safety team struggle to see them against the dock walls. You can purchase swim caps at reception.

Wetsuits must be worn when the water temperature is 14 degrees or below. You can purchase and hire specialist swim wetsuits from us.

Goggles are recommended and are worn by most swimmers, you can purchase these at reception.

When the water is above 14 degrees wetsuits are optional, although most people choose to still wear one. If you are not wearing a wetsuit, then you usual trunks or costume are perfectly acceptable.

Do I need a specialist swim wetsuit?

You may already have a wetsuit at home that you wear on the beach or out in your kayak. However try swimming a long distance in this and you will soon realise that  it is holding you back. It is likely to slowly fill with water in the legs and you will not get as much movement in the arms.

A specialist swim wetsuit is different in that it is a tighter fit, almost like a 2nd skin. However it is very stretchy so will give your arms a lot more freedom to move. The smooth skin rubber will also cause less 'drag' as you cut through the water, so you will be able to swim faster.

You can hire specialist swim wetsuits from us, either on a 'per session' basis, for an event or for the full season (with the option to keep it at the end). You can also purchase brand new wetsuits from us a very competitive prices.

What is a 'Salford Community Leisure swipe card'?

All swimmers will receive a Salford Community Leisure swipe card when they register for the first time. If you have lost this, you can purchase a new one at reception for £2. If you come without your swipe card, you will be charged an extra 50p which goes to charity.

Swipe cards speed things up at reception as we swipe your card and your account appears straight away on the computer system. Without your card we have to manually search for you which is time consuming and makes the queue longer.

So please treasure your swipe card and bring it with you every time. 

Where can I park?

We have limited free parking available in our carpark on a first come, first served basis. Please do not block the access gate at the bottom of the carpark as we may need to get vehicles around the front of the building in an emergency or for deliveries.

Parking is available in the Lowry multistory car park. If you make a purchase of £5 of more in any retailer at the Lowry you get free parking.

We also have arrangements in place with nearby businesses to use their carparks. Please contact us for further details.

Will there be a big queue?

Naturally there will be a bit of a queue on busy days as open water swimming is very popular. However gone are the days where the queue used to go right around the building into the car park!

At busy times, we have a 'fast lane' for people who have block passes and season tickets. There is no need to exchange money on the night, just let us swipe your card and issue your band.

Can I swim in Salford Quays whenever I want?

Unfortunately no. Unless you are swimming at an approved event or swim session, you are breaking the bylaws of Salford Quays.

How is it different to swimming in a pool?

The main differences are that the water is deeper, darker and colder than in a swimming pool. You cannot follow the lines that you find on the bottom of the pool, so you have to watch where you are going a bit more.

The water can be a bit choppier than in a swimming pool due to the wind creating waves, so you may have to adopt your breathing technique.

Swimming in a wetsuit can feel very different than swimming without one. The buoyancy of the wetsuit will help you float which is great when you need to take a rest. However you may float slightly higher in the water when you are swimming, so you may have to adopt your technique slightly.

If you are doing an event for the first time such as the Great Manchester Swim. Our top tip is to make sure that you come to our sessions prior to the event, to get experience and get comfortable swimming in open water. Most of the competitors who needed assistance from our water safety team during the Great Manchester Swim were swimming in open water for the first time at the actual event.

What is the water temperature?

You can check the water temperature by visiting our Facebook page. We regularly post updates on here as well as news and photos of all the exciting things going on at the centre.

The water temperature is also displayed at reception and on the course map that you will find as you step down onto the pontoon.

What is the minimum age?

Our minimum age is 12 years old. Anyone aged 12 to 16 years old must swim with an adult. Exceptions to these rules can be made at the discretion of the centre manager if suitable evidence of swimming competence can be made (eg supporting letter from qualified swim coach).