Feel Good

Would you swap the gym for a wild swim? Five amazing outdoor water activities for fun and fitness

With miles of stunning coastline and tranquil rivers on our doorstep, it is no wonder so many of us have taken the plunge and explored new water sports during lockdown.

Written by High Life North
Published 02.10.2020

By Libby Marks

With miles of stunning coastline and tranquil rivers on our doorstep, it is no wonder so many of us have taken the plunge and explored new water sports during lockdown. As restrictions start to lift, here are five wonderful ways to enjoy the wild waters of the North East.

Outdoor swimming

During lockdown, people have flocked to local rivers and beaches to get their swimming fix in the great outdoors. Fans of wild swimming are evangelical about the physical and mental benefits of this exhilarating activity, saying it is a wonderful way to reconnect with nature.

Laura White, a freelance PR consultant from North Shields, regularly swims in the sea with her eleven-year-old daughter. She says:

‘It’s like pressing the reset button. My head can be buzzing with all sorts of rubbish but there’s something about being submerged in cold water that calms me down, gives me clarity and a sense of perspective. I think it’s because you realise how little it all really matters and how small we all are in this big wide world. I find my senses really come alive. The briny smell of the sea, the sound of the sand churning beneath the water and the sight of sea birds riding on the thermals right next to your head – it sort of puts you back in your place.’

Outdoor swimming isn’t without its risks: from cold water shock to slipping on rocks, so check out this guidance from Outdoor Swimmer on open water safety before getting started.

Standup paddleboarding

Channelling the spirit of Honolulu, paddleboarders stand on a long board and push themselves along with a paddle. Born in Hawaii but now enjoyed around the world, standup paddleboarding is a great way to explore the water and work your core muscles.

Once you’ve taken classes to equip yourself with boarding basics and a good understanding of water safety, you can paddle unaccompanied on the sea or rivers. A buoyancy aid, paddle leash and whistle can all help keep you safe should you fall off.

CBK’s ‘zero to hero’ experience promises to teach you to paddleboard and make the North Sea your oyster. Family lessons are available from 7 years and up. Alternatively, take on your friends around the SUP course at North East Wake Park, boasting a 17-acre lake near Darlington.

Scuba diving

If you’ve always fancied yourself as an underwater explorer, scuba diving is a surprisingly accessible activity. Beginners’ classes are available at swimming pools across the North East, providing a safe and supervised start for anyone aged 8 and up. Adaptive classes allow people with physical or cognitive disabilities to experience scuba too.

Wet suits, breathing equipment and basic training are all provided, before you hop in the pool with your qualified dive buddy and head to the deep end.

Short courses can provide you with the skills and experience to qualify for outdoor SCUBA, with a number of SCUBA schools – like Divecor – offering day trips to explore the glorious North East coast and beyond.


Tynemouth and Saltburn have long been listed among the best places to surf in the UK. If you fancy finding your feet and riding the waves, both towns have well established surf schools to take you from total beginner to seasoned surfer.

Don’t worry about getting thrown in at the deep end. You’ll learn the basics on dry land – such as water safety and how to stand on the board – before you set a toe in the sea. When choosing a surf school, look for Surf England accreditation and check the instructors have lifeguard qualifications, in case you take a tumble.


You don’t have to be an Oxbridge cox to get into rowing. There are lots of opportunities to take to the water in a rowing boat in the North East. Gateshead Community Rowing Club are just one of many friendly groups that help beginners get going with rowing.

From racing down the Tyne in streamlined sculling boats to a leisurely paddle down the Derwent in a traditional wooden skiff, there are options to suit all interests and fitness levels. The club also offers adapted rowing for people with disabilities.

Elaine Patterson discovered rowing as a way to keep fit and make new friends. She says:

‘It isn’t an elite club, but more for people from all walks of life. Being on the river gives an amazing feeling of freedom and being one with nature. The best part for me is rhythmic sound of the oars in and out of the water. It is so therapeutic! There’s nothing else like it. It is good for fitness and some days are harder than others, depending on the currents and flow of the river. I can’t wait to get back once restrictions are lifted’.

If exercising in the great outdoors appeals to you, autumn is a great time to get out-and-about on the water. Check online to see which schools are back in action as lockdown lifts.

Libby Marks is a freelance content writer, copywriter and marketing consultant based in Newcastle. She’s also mum to a SCUBA-diving ten-year-old. Libby works with busy marketers and business owners, helping them attract and engage customers with high-quality written content. She specialises in writing search-optimised blog posts, articles, ebooks and guides, helping websites gain visibility and visitors: writeontyne.com   


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