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An intro to Deep Water Soloing

An Intro to Deep Water Soloing (DWS)

Ever wondered how you can up the ante of climbing without jumping to Alex Honnold levels of free soloing? Deep water soloing (DWS) might just what you’re looking for.

DWS is a form of rock climbing performed on sea cliffs over deep water without the use of ropes, harnesses or other forms of protection. The water below serves as your safety.

DWS offers a unique challenge that tests your mental game as well as your physical strength.

A distant photo of Patrick Deep water soloing.

Patrick Gebert deep water soloing in Mallorca

Getting Started: Gear and Locations

Before you plunge (see what we did there? We’re just too funny) into deep water soloing, it's essential to have the right gear. As you can expect you don’t need a whole bunch:

Climbing Shoes: Unless you’re over-confident in your ability, we wouldn’t suggest taking your brand new Scarpa Dragos…opt for a decent pair but bear in mind they’re gonna get a little ruined from the water

Chalk and Chalk Bag: Chalk normally helps soaks up sweat to help provide a decent grip on holds, so you can imagine it’s pretty handy for DWS

Sustainable Swimwear: Choose comfortable, durable swimwear from our sustainable collection. You don’t want cheap swimwear with no stretch, as once it’s wet that could restrict your movement! Does it need to be sustainable? YES! Everything should be...

In the UK, some of the best spots for deep water soloing include:

Swanage, Dorset: With crags scattered all along the coastline, Swanage offers a good variety of areas to accommodate most grades.

Pembrokeshire, Wales: Everyone loves Pem right? Classic limestone climbing and beautiful scenery… the perfect combo!

Devon and Cornwall: As you can imagine, these coasts are littered with excellent DWS locations, from beginner grades right through to seasoned crushers. See below for Mikey cruising a DWS in Cornwall! 👇

3RD ROCK Ambassador, Mikey, climbing "99 lead balloons" in Cornwall. An E1 trad route.

Safety First: Assessing Risks and Staying Safe

Deep water soloing can be one of the best days of climbing you can have on a hot Summer’s day… but it could also be the worst. It’s all about pre-planning and preparation for the day, there are steps you can take to ensure you stay safe:

Check the tides: Always check the water depth & tides. Sources like UKClimbing for crag information or BBC’s tide timetable can help with this. If you’re unsure about how the tide affects the water levels at the crag, either seek advice from other climbers or don’t risk it at all.

Practice the fall: Start from lower down and get used to hitting the water safely, then work your way up to the top-out… even after this process, if jumping from the top is too scary then reconsider that route. You need to be in control the whole time.

Climb with a Buddy: This one should be fairly obvious - never DWS alone. Having a friend nearby means there is someone to help you or call for help.

Get familiar with the area: Check out where the exit routes are from the water, how tall the route is & where the crux is. The more research you do before you climb the better.

A photo of Holly on a top rope checking the route safely.

Our ambassador, Holly, checking out a route before commiting to the DWS attempt

Training and Techniques for Beginners

To get started with deep water soloing, you should already be a confident climber. Having the following points covered will do you a world of good when heading out for a deep water solo:

Be confident in your climbing: you don’t want disco leg halfway through the crux!

Know your comfort grade: You don’t need to be climbing in the high 8’s to DWS, but knowing your comfort grade and aiming for a few grades below is a good place to start.

Make sure you’re competent in the water: After falling into the sea, even from only a few metres up, you can get a little disorientated… being a weak swimmer in that situation would not be fun!

As you progress, you’ll want to refine your techniques and push your limits. Here are some tips that will help you in all your climbing, not just DWS:

Dynamic moves: As you get to higher grades of DWS routes, you’ll find more dynamic & powerful moves. Practice these when bouldering to build confidence - then all you’ve got to do is stick that dyno 6m above the ocean with wet hands… easy right?

Route Reading: Learn to assess routes and plan your moves. It’s not often you get a good rest point on a DWS, so knowing the route helps you climb it efficiently.

The mental game: This is a key part of DWS, and arguably the biggest draw to it… testing your mental fortitude. Best way to practise this is highball bouldering & lead climbing. Both include being at height with a high chance of falling - if you’re not comfortable with either of these we’d suggest rethinking DWS.

The Wrap-up

Deep water soloing can be a scary and dangerous style of climbing, but there are steps you can take to mitigate some of that fear to turn it into a fun and safe(r) time.


It’s not for everyone, and that’s fair enough. If you are interested in starting DWS then we’d suggest finding someone who is already experienced to take you along, and just make sure you follow the points covered in this article.


If you do head out there, make sure you tag @3rdrockclothing in your Insta post so we can see - we’d be stoked to see you on your first DWS trip!


Be safe out there crusher! ✌

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