Swim spots we love: Jenness State Beach in Rye, NH

Is there an open water swim spot you love? Tell us about it!

Contributed by Guy Davis, GBM & NELMSC Vice-Chair

I'm very lucky to live within an easy drive to Rye, NH, and have been swimming at Jenness State Beach—also known as Rye Beach—for the last decade. The north section is also known as Cable Beach (confusing, huh?) because it is the place where one of the the first trans-Atlantic communications cables came ashore in 1874. It's a wonderful venue for open water swimming, but of course as an ocean venue, we need to respect and understand the weather, surf and other conditions and take the appropriate safety precautions. 

Getting there: The beach is about a mile long, with the State Beach parking lot at around the midpoint. This area becomes busy during the summer so my pod usually swims from the north end of the beach, where there is access to the beach and plenty of street parking even during busy weekends, though a short walk might be required on those days. Take care to respect the Rye parking notices and rules; your car wheels must be outside the white lines (completely off the road) to avoid a ticket.

The beach: The beach is protected by rocky headlands at either end but, other than a few rocks close to the state parking lot which are well-submerged except at low tide, generally hazard-free. It is lifeguarded during the summer. The water is usually very clean but sometimes seaweed piles up at one end of the beach so we occasionally need to wade or swim through some of it to the clean water.

Water temperature: The water is cool or cold throughout the summer and can vary widely from day to day depending on wind conditions. When there are consistently strong offshore winds the water can drop into the 50s even at the height of summer and the temperature rarely exceeds the mid 60s. A good proxy for the temperature you can expect is the reading at NOAA's Wells buoy.

Most of our pod swims in a wetsuit throughout the season, but we have a few hardy “channel” type swimmers who swim skins for most or all of the year.

Surf: Rye Beach is a popular surf spot. The beach conditions can be checked on the surf cam of the local surf shop. Surf conditions vary a great deal from dead calm to over head-high, so checking ahead is a good idea. When surf is up, we make sure to swim outside the surf line and away from the surfers for calmer water and to avoid any risk of collision. On these days, particular care needs to be taken when swimming out through the surf or back into the beach. Getting through the surf can be challenging, so be sure to swim within your experience and capabilities. Although uncommon at Rye, riptides are always a consideration in ocean beach swimming, so take care to understand these and other hazards of ocean swimming. Consulting with the lifeguards and letting them know of your swim plans is always a good idea when swimming in a less familiar venue.

Boats: Boat presence is very unusual, but on calm days a couple of fishing boats may approach the shore, usually at the ends of the beach.

Wildlife: There has never been a recorded “big fish” incident on NH beaches and I have never heard of any jellyfish problems from local swimmers.

When we swim: We swim fairly regularly on Saturday and Sunday mornings at about 7am throughout the summer. Come join us! (If you need more information, check out the Great Bay Masters group on Facebook.)

Please note: These swims are informal, unsanctioned, and at your own risk.

Is there an open water swim spot you love? Tell us about it!