Its organiser, Nova International, received an award for the Best UK Event at the 2012 H2Open Awards organized by H2Open Magazine, an award designed to celebrate achievement in open water swimming. Nova International via the British Gas Great Swim Series is credited with driving the massive rise in popularity of open water swimming in the UK, the series attracted over 20,000 swimmers across its 5 events in 2011.
The first 'Great Swim' was the Great North Swim on 14 September 2008 on Windermere, UK. At the time there were no other mass participation events that attracted such large amount of swimmers to take part in open water with 2200 entries taking part in the one mile open water swim. Five of the six Olympic medallists fresh from Beijing took part in the first GNS (with the exception of Larisa Ilchenko who did go on to swim in the event).
In 2009 Great Swim became a Series of four swims and took on the title sponsor of British Gas. All swims were televised on Channel 4 with one hour shows focusing on the elite races.
British Gas Great London Swim - 15 August 2009 in Royal Victoria Dock. British Gas Great Scottish Swim took place on Saturday 29 August 2009 at Strathclyde Park British Gas Great North Swim on 12 and 13 September (7000 entries) British Gas Great East Swim on Saturday 26 September in Alton Water.
In 2010 the British Gas Great Salford Swim was added to the Series. Issues with Blue Green Algae led to the North Swim and Scottish Swim being cancelled.
2011 British Gas Great Salford Swim was live on BBC TV as part of the Great Manchester Run and Great Manchester City Games. British Gas Great North Swim had over 10,000 swimmers over the three day event which included half mile and two mile races.