Swimming in the dark

gnome4766gnome4766 Member
edited October 2013 in General Discussion
Let's discuss night time swimming. With the clocks going back an hour it seems I may have to enter the water when it is getting dark and swim during darkness. My main question is how will I navigate through the water? Are their any water proof head torches that will allow me to navigate? Any advice on tests to the subject will be greatly appreciated


  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    Honestly, I have never seen or heard of anyone swimming with a headlight.
    It is important to know where you are going, so if there aren’t sufficient illuminated landmarks, you should consider having an escort... kayak, paddleboard, etc... with enough light to guide you.
    For your own visibility, clip a little green strobe to your goggle strap in the back.

    These are the ones that all the cool kids are wearing.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    Yes to small green LED "adventure light" attached to goggle strap so others can see you.

    NO to camping headlamp, that seems wacky. Also attracts fish. I don't recommend those camping headlamps for support paddlers either, as they can be quite blinding for the swimmer (unless there's a red low-brightness setting).

    You might be surprised how much your eyes will adjust to the darkness. The moon can help, too.
  • And don't forget the right music for your head: [url][/url]

    Sisu: a Finnish term meaning strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    @Gnome4766, I have and hopefully will continue to do stupid things in the water, including swimming at night by myself, but on the couple of occasions where I've done it, I've really limited the area and distance such that it's only a short fun swim, in good conditions, with LED lights and no torch/headlight. Green & blue are probably the two colours with maximum visibility from a distance. As the guys say, white light will fill the water around you with reflected glare and be worse than no light.


  • This autumn/winter I will be 'swimming through' for the first time, in the local river in Cambridge. The hours of daylight being as they are at this latitude mean that, aside from weekends, swimming in the dark is required. There is very little light of any kind on the stretch we swim in, but the eyes adjust well enough. We have the flashing green LEDs evmo mentioned. It's also a narrow river, so getting lost is an unlikely scenario. It is starting to get chilly though already (52F, 11C), and heading downwards, so I would tend not to swim too far in one direction on my own, ideally have company, or failing that have someone know where you are and when you are due back.
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited October 2013
    A story about the blinky LED "adventure lights" from a frequent San Francisco Bay swimmer:

    A few years ago a bunch of us hopped into a zodiac one dark morning for an Alcatraz swim from over near pier 39. We were all sporting our new, exciting white blinky lights.

    We all lit them up and were marvelling at how wonderous they were - so bright! so blinky!

    Just then a police boat or coast guard vessel approached (it was a few years back and my memory already begins to fail me).

    "Are you in distress?" the man on board asked us.

    "Um... no, why?" we responded.

    "You're sending a distress signal with your flashing lights," the man on board told us. "If you aren't in distress, you ought not to use a flashy light!"

    "Oh," we replied meekly.

    Then we set our nice new bright white lights to the non-flash setting and the patrolers and safeguarders of our bay zipped off.

    The moral of this *true* story? Visibility is important, but sending the right message even more so. Set your blinky light to NON-BLINKY prior to leaving the cove.
  • Thanks for all the advice. I will certainly try the LED lights to let others see me and will remember to alert the coastguard that I will be using them and in what areas. My local swim spot is extremely hard to get lost in so I won't have to worry about that. But the worry of not being able to see under the water is still a big issue.
  • ColmBreathnachColmBreathnach Charter Member
    If it's not a stupid question, why do you need to be able to see underwater? If it is to avoid obstacles, then you probably don't have a suitable location for night swimming. If it's to allay fears, then well and good, but underwater lights don't really help much. They still only light up a few feet. I'm sure the majority of swimmers here manage quite well with underwater visibility only as far as their elbows. Also its never truly dark out there, there is always something to light your way.
  • It's simple fears of what could be in front of me, although I haven't seen anything under water this month.
  • I don't want to be chased by Conger Eels now.
  • jendutjendut Charter Member

    at the risk of sounding silly, what would you do if you SAW something down there :)
  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
    My view about night swimming is you may need to be seen by a pilot, but it is not important to see much other than the direction/object in which you are going......it is a wonderful thing to surrender to the night and have this introspective swimming experience...I believe there is much to be gained by letting the night take care of you....Fish can be attracted to lights as well...I remember having a light dangling on my goggle strap during herring season and being hit in the throut by a pretty large fish...took my breath away for a little while....just another aquatic expereince...keep swimming...what else are you to do??

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • JBirrrdJBirrrd MarylandSenior Member
    edited October 2013
    I used to have that fear of swimming in the dark, so I get it. It sounds scary. But knowing that I'd be swimming through the night (turned out to be over 8 hours of darkness) for a swim last summer, I just put myself out there one night for a training swim and discovered it is actually an incredible sensory experience. Started out loud and splashy, just to make sure all the fish knew I was there, but after I got into a rhythm I envisioned myself swimming in outer space. And yes, all you do is swim. There is no sense of making progress, which gave me this incredible feeling of freedom. And if you are lucky enough to have a pitch black Tahoe night sky w/ a million brilliant stars and the Milky Way Galaxy like you have never seen it...well then, that's a bonus.
  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    edited October 2013
    I agree with @JBirrrd that Night Swimming is one of the most thrilling parts of open water swimming. As a side note, you can't have fear...this coming from someone who jumped in for their first night swim under the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge, swam west in sub 50 degree water, and made a crack at the Farallon Islands with Lord knows what swimming inside the "Red Triangle"! If you can't get a Milky Way Galaxy, I highly recommend swimming around Absecon Island and getting the backdrop of the Atlantic City Casino Skyline! MAGNIFICENT and I'm not even a gambler (well not when it comes to money!) Don't Fear the Night Swimming and rather enjoy every moment of it...bonus if you get bio-luminescence or a million bright stars!!!
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