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Orca

September 9, 2020

TIPS FOR OPEN WATER SWIMMING

During the summer season, this year more than ever, our enthusiasm for outdoor sports is endless. Open water swimming, especially in the ocean, is one of the most rewarding pastimes right now. 

Whether you are a triathlete or not, if you like outdoor sports, I invite you to take full advantage of the autumn to practice open water swimming. The important thing is to do it safely, so don't miss out on these tips for swimming in open water.

Outside of triathlon competitions, which this year have virtually been cancelled, I think swimming might be our best friend this autumn, keeping us fit and allowing us to enjoy the environment. Take note of these tips for swimming in open water, as well as my most essential materials, which you will find at the end of the article.

Most of the time, the freedom of swimming in the open ocean is a wonderful feeling.

When we hear the term “open water, " our mind will often evoke an image of the open sea. However, it also refers to places with large bodies of water such as reservoirs or lakes. 

THE MOST COMMON CHALLENGES WITH OPEN WATER SWIMMING

For triathletes, who are used to doing most of their training in pools, the swimming segment can cause fear and stress because they are unfamiliar with of the behavior of an abnormal medium, which is also a changing medium. In pools there are no currents, the bottom is visible, among other things.

We usually have those same fears the first time we go swimming in a lake, reservoir or sea. Fear of the unknown.

BEFORE GETTING IN THE WATER

The first thing to do is analyze the weather conditions and the state of the water: if there are tides, if it's stirring, the existence of currents, water temperature and outdoor temperature…

In areas where surfing is common, it is easy to find the Tide Tables and know when there is high and the low tides, and keep this in mind when you are going to get in the water, avoiding the movements and currents that happen in these cases. 

If you do not know how to interpret the ocean, or the existence of currents (something that can sometimes be seen by the color of the water), it is best to ask the lifeguards of the swimming areas.

The better you study the conditions and the location, the fewer risks you will take and the less you have to be afraid of. 

Once you clearly understand these aspects, you can move on to establishing reference points for when you are in the water.

Often, we are unaware of the strength of the current and once we do realize it, we are very far from the established area and from the coast, so it can be difficult to get situated in the water.

So, identify clear and large structures that will be visible from in the water and designate those as your reference and location points. This will help you keep your swimming zone under control. 

At the same time, locate structures within the water. The safest options would be the buoys that define the zones and can serve as a guide in your swimming path. Study the the inlet and outlet of water as well. Take them as references in order to know where to go so you are not taken by surprise in areas where the rugged state of the bottom or dangerous situations (cuts, sea urchins, slippery stones, vegetation areas in reservoirs and rivers, etc.) put your physical integrity at risk.

Depending on the temperature of the water and the amount of time you are going to stay in it, it is advisable to wear a wetsuit to avoid hypothermia.

SAFETY MATERIALS

Don't forget that if you are seen, you can be helped if necessary, and in turn, you will also be seen by large boats, surfers, etc.

Seeing and being seen is one of the most important considerations when it comes to swimming in open water; whether in a reservoir, lake, cove or in the open sea.

Usually, you are hardly visible in the water, so it is necessary that any additional material you have with you is a striking color, or has something that allows you to be seen.

Triathlon wetsuits are mostly very dark and it's adviseable to complement one with other accessories. The goal in this case is to help improve buoyancy in the water, maintain proper body temperature and facilitate swimming. 

Open water swimming wetsuits feature fluorescent colored details that make them easy to spot.

On the other hand, it is always advisable to use a swimming cap (to swim more comfortably and also protect your ears), which should always be a visible color. 

Finally, goggles. Unless the weather conditions are cloudy (and you need goggles with clear lenses), in open water, it is advisable to always wear goggles with a mirror effect.

And the quintessential accessory that every open water swimmer needs, the safety buoy.

As its name suggests, this is a buoy that will provide you with security if necessary, and its colors will also make you visible from great distances.

This accessory has a watertight compartment, so you can store your most important items in it (for example, ID card, car keys or some energy gel). It inflates easily and once you're finished with it, it deflates and takes up hardly any space to be stored with the rest of your things.

To put on the buoy properly, you will need to adjust your belt to your waist. The length of the rope is long, but ideally, once you are in the water, the buoy will stay at the height of your hips-buttocks so that it doesn't interfere with the kicking of your feet.

On most routes, this addition has become mandatory for swimmers.