Out To Swim: LGBT+ community fitness swimming in Bristol

Whether we are cheering or competing,
we are all at our best when we feel part of the team.

This week, alongside some of our fantastic #WeAreBristol sports clubs and Bristol SU, we celebrated BUCS Wednesday with the addition of Rainbow Laces. But the colourful additions weren’t a fashion statement, they were taking part in Stonewall’s Come Out Active campaign, raising awareness of the need for better LGBT+ inclusivity in sport.

Sport has an amazing power to bring people together. But 4 in 10 LGBT+ people don’t think sport is welcoming.

Stonewall, 2019

The Come Out Active campaign for 2019 ends tomorrow (30 November), but building an inclusive community in sports happens all year around. Our mission at Bristol Uni Sport is to bring people together through sport and physical activity, and help everyone achieve a sense of belonging as part of the #WeAreBristol community.

Out To Swim West is run with support from Bristol Uni Sport, and brings an inclusive and friendly sporting opportunity to campus for LGBT+ adults, and is open to both students and staff.

Out To Swim (OTS) are a masters swimming club for the LGBT+ community. Most of OTS members are LGBT, but the club is inclusive to all, and welcomes all adults with an interest in aquatic sport and swimming for fitness, including disabled swimmers. Out To Swim West are based in Bristol and form a branch of the wider Out To Swim charity organisation who also have clubs based in London and Brighton, and have been running (or should we say, “swimming”) for over 25 years. 

You don’t have to look very hard to see that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still rife in sporting culture. I think a lot of LGBT people had a bad experience with sport growing up…but Out To Swim is the complete opposite: I immediately felt welcome, accepted and comfortable, which is so important.

Ben, OTS West swimmer

Out To Swim West launched in Bristol in the summer of 2018, at Bristol’s Pride weekend and is supported by the University of Bristol. The club was launched with three founding members, Rob, Alistair and Matt, and within twelve months they had eleven regular swimmers. Now, 15-months since their first ‘official’ social swim in August 2018, they have 29 members and are hosting three swim sessions per week (more info about these below)!

For Matt, one of the co-founders of OTS West, it’s about building a community, as much as it is about swimming – the club will regularly meet for a coffee after their Saturday swim session. Alistair, another co-founder of the club, agrees, sharing in a recently Bristol 24/7 article that OTS is more than just a swimming club; “It’s a community and it’s friendships. There are people of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life. It’s a shared hobby.”

The best thing about OTS is what a supportive community it is. We all encourage and help each other, and there’s no judgement if someone isn’t as strong a swimmer or is having an off day.

Out To Swim West hold swim sessions three times a week at the University of Bristol Swimming Pool which is in the Richmond Building (Bristol SU):

  • Tuesdays: 6.30am to 7.30am (uncoached*, focus on distance)
  • Wednesdays: 7pm to 8pm (uncoached*, focus on skills)
  • Saturdays: 12pm to 1pm (2 lanes, with a coach, focus on skills)

*Uncoached sessions are led by an experienced member of the club

The minimum standard required is 4 lengths front crawl continuously.
Not quite there yet? Don’t worry – the Bristol Uni Sport offers Adult Swimming Lessons to help reach this goal. 

Read the Bristol 24/7 article written about OTS

Students: Join a B:Active Campus LGBT+ Swim session
Saturdays 12pm – 1pm at the University Pool

Find out more, or to arrange a FREE taster session with the club, contact OTS West via their website.

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