Sea swimming for mental health – what’s it all about?

We chatted to the founders of community interest group, the Brighton Seabirds, to learn more about the benefits of sea swimming for mental health.

Seabirds Ltd is a Brighton-based community interest project which encourages cold water swimming as a way to improve wellbeing, both physically and mentally. It was set up in 2018 by Kath Ferguson and Cath Brown and has been going from strength to strength ever since, as more locals discover the joys of sea swimming. 

Seabirds Ltd run sea swimming safety courses, introductory sessions and swimming lessons throughout the year. Like us, they also have strong values rooted in accessibility and aim to remove barriers wherever possible so that more people can get involved. 

Love Campers have recently converted a large camper for a surfer, including a purpose built storage cupboard for a surfboard. Hannah Brackenbury / Vervate

Love Campers sea swim adventures! 

At Love Campers, we love being outdoors and fully understand the healing benefits of nature. Love Campers Director Clara was inspired by the Seabirds last year when the pandemic hit and she couldn’t access the swimming pool. Clara has been swimming regularly in the sea for almost a year now and is absolutely loving it.

And because we’re all about promoting the great outdoors we decided to get in touch with Kath & Cath for an interview, so we can help spread the cold-water craze even further!

Cath from Seabirds. Photo by Seabirds Ltd.


So tell us, what exactly is Seabirds all about? 

Seabirds is all about getting more people into the sea (safely) to experience how good it makes you feel. We want to help more people discover year round cold water swimming as a tool to manage wellbeing. We set up a Social Enterprise so that sales of swim gear in our online Swim Shop combined with the lessons and talks we offer would raise money. This money then goes towards funding the free courses to people who self identify with mental health issues – we call these our Wellbeing and Water courses.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how and why you started swimming with the Seabirds? 

On a personal level, I was going through a stressful time at work and with the menopause. It was at this time that I discovered swimming with mates was a great antidote! I realised it was the thing missing from my life that I hadn’t even realised was missing. We started in the summer and kept on going through our first winter – we thought ‘everyone needs to know this, it’s free and it’s amazing!’ so we decide to start the Seabirds community.

What do you see as the main benefits of sea swimming?

There are so many benefits to sea swimming. For me, the main ones are the physical benefits – less hot flushes and better sleep. And then there’s the mental benefits – a lift in your mood, living one’s life on a more even keel… joy, playfulness, community, friendship!

In regards to sea swimming for mental health – I find that sea swimming lifts my spirits. I never ever regret a swim, I always feel better afterwards. The sea seems to absorb my stress and negative feelings leaving me feeling lighter and happier. When I can’t get in the sea due to waves being too strong, I end up missing it.

How has sea swimming helped the community during the pandemic?

We have had a lot of new members during the pandemic! So many more! I think with people working from home they have more flexible hours and could fit in a swim. Of course, the pools have also been shut so pool swimmers moved to outside. It’s been a pleasant surprise to see how many more people joined us and how it’s really taken off. More than ever, it feels that people are getting a lot out of the shared sense of community despite the fact we can’t do our usual group swims.

Sunset dip in January. Photo by Seabirds Ltd.

We love the fact that you aim to make cold water swimming more accessible. Could you tell us more about the ways in which you’re doing this? 

We fund free community places on our courses and talks to those who would not be able to afford it otherwise and our Wellbeing and Water courses targets those who would otherwise find obstacles in their way to getting in the sea. You can find out more about how we aim to be as accessible as possible on our website. 

Could you tell us a bit about why it’s a women-only group?

It’s not! It’s just very woman heavy – we have men it’s just it seems the women are freer with the selfies 😉

As we all know, there are some dangers associated with sea-swimming. What are these dangers and how is the community kept safe?

There are many dangers – too many to go into detail here, but we do encourage everyone to fully familiarise themselves with the dangers before taking part. We run safety courses and information courses on all aspects of sea swimming. Seabird Kath is a qualified lifesaver and open water swimming coach so we are in safe hands! We have lots of safety information in our community group page and free ‘swiminars’ on our YouTube Channel. More coming soon!

It’s winter at the moment and feeling very cold! Would you encourage people to get involved now or wait till Spring?

It is up to them but we would highly recommend doing their research first – start with the Outdoor Swimming Society information pages and read up on the very real dangers of cold water shock etc. We do have new members starting at all times of the year but much more in the warmer months 😉

And lastly what do you think the future holds for the Seabirds?

Onwards and upwards for the Seabirds! Support us by donating to our Wellbeing and Water project or buying from our online Swim Shop over on You can purchase eco-conscious recycled swimwear so you can get started with sea swimming yourself.  You’ll also find links to our blog, social media channels and free swiminars.

Follow Seabirds on Instagram @Seabirdsltd

Love Campers have recently converted a large camper for a surfer, including a purpose built storage cupboard for a surfboard.

Get involved with our wild swim campervan adventures!

Love Campers Clara is already planning her campervan adventures to wild swim spots around Sussex and beyond once it’s safe to do so. If you’re part of the Seabird community (or a wannabe Seabird) and are interested in exploring perfect swimming destinations, make sure to follow us on Facebook & Instagram.

We’re proud to say we feel we’ve already got the outdoor swimmers covered with our van options.  We regularly build small campers with hot and cold showers, and you can find out more about our Surf Van design which features a shower, changing area, surf/paddle board storage and even a wet-suit hanging area! 

Your chance to WIN Seabirds beach swim artwork!

We’ve just launched a giveaway on our Instagram to win a bunch of Seabirds goodies. Check it out here > Love Campers competition.

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