How to Swim Safely in the Openwater
April 19, 2016
Openwater swimming can be one of life's greatest joys - the feeling of freedom when you're out there is not to be missed. Miriam Garcia has some tips that helped her enjoy the experience more and feel safe despite the unknown of the openwater.
When thinking about moving from the pool into the openwater, it's important to remember that swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. In a pool you can just jump in as it's a closed, controlled space - you know it will be clean (hopefully!) and safe so all you need to worry about is keeping your goggles on straight and swimming in the right lane for your speed! When it comes to the openwater though, there are a lot more things to consider.
In triathlon and aquathlon, swimming is often the discipline that causes the most fear. In fact, many people don't get into these sports because of this fear of the water. Don't let fear stop you! The unknown is sometimes scary, but breaking down that barrier will without a doubt set you free to experience things you won't otherwise! Triathlete Miriam Garcia has some great tips for you from her experience of moving from the pool to openwater swimming so you can make the most of it!
Diving into the ocean means freedom.
For those of you who are getting started in this discipline, you no doubt have questions, doubts and/or insecurities. It's not hard. It's just a matter of trusting yourself and keeping in mind certain aspects to enjoy yourself safely.
Some recommendations for swimming safely in the openwater:
1. Swim with a Safety buoy
This is an accessory that I personally always have with me. It has no influence on your swimming and its purpose is to:
- Make you visible in the water
- Serves as an aid in case you should get cramp or just need to float and have a break - it happens
- Carry your personal items like keys, phone, shoes etc and stop them getting wet
2. Swim with a buddy
Always try to swim with someone, especially if you're just getting started. If you have no other choice, stay out of areas where boat traffic is permitted and swim where there is a lifeguard on duty. You can also wear a bright-colored swim cap or the Orca Openwater wetsuit to make yourself more visible.
3. Get your bearings
Before getting in the water, find a reference point that will help you situate yourself from the water in terms of your starting point. These can be buildings, posts, etc. Do the same thing once you're in the water. Use buoys if there are any.
4. Frequency of vision and breathing
Unlike in the pool, in open water you have to lift your head up and breathe while looking straight ahead to see the reference points and stay on course. You can do this every 5 or 6 strokes, for example.
5. Water conditions
Check the condition of the sea and the water temperature beforehand and decide whether it is a good idea to get in the water. There are many days ahead to enjoy this sport, and safety comes first.
Other Helpful Openwater Swimming Tips:
- Don't forget to hydrate yourself beforehand and warm up a little before getting started.
- Choose your goggles carefully to prevent them from clouding up and making it difficult to see out of the water.
- To avoid swallowing water and to breathe better, check where the waves are and breathe on the opposite side.
- If conditions permit swimming, but the water is a bit rough, one trick I use is to swim against the water first to make it easier to return, when I'm more tired.
- Don't get too close to the rocks.
After all this, the only thing left is to enjoy the season that has just started!
If you'd like to find some new openwater swimming spots to enjoy, or to share your favorite routes with others, make sure you check out Orca's Best Places To Swim site!
Happy Openwater Swimming!