Open Water Swimming Tips For Triathlon Racing

Open water swimming is one of the most feared parts of a triathlon. Conditions can often test the most experienced pool swimmer. There is only one way to improve though, and that is to get out there and practice.

Pre Swim:

  • Ensure you are confident swimming in a pool and have practiced sighting and swimming longer distances.
  • Swim with a buddy in open water- always!
  • Choose a location which suits your ability and the aims of the session.
  • Know the local conditions such as wind, wave and current strength & direction, other water users, water quality & temperature etc.
  • Choose markers eg. buoys or poles to mark out a course.
  • Fit your wetsuit (if applicable) carefully. Ensure that it is not too big to take on water & is pulled up with maximum amount of neoprene around your shoulders & back for improved mobility.
  • Wear lubrication around your neck, shoulders and any other place it may rub on your skin.

Swim Skills:

  • Wade carefully into the water to avoid sea life, rocks, glass etc.
  • Choose a object to sight and swim to, if it is a small object consider sighting something larger on the land to assist you.
  • Sight every 4-6 strokes by lifting your head so just your goggles are out of the water during the catch phase of your stroke. Breathe to the side after sighting.
  • Swim with your buddy and frequently check each other’s location.
  • Breathe every 2-3 strokes to maintain adequate oxygen levels.
  • If you are anxious, panic or begin to hyperventilate either roll onto your back, swim a few strokes of backstroke or freestyle until you regain regular breathing patterns.
  • Ensure you exhale fully under water with each few strokes. Humming or singing can assist this.
  • If someone decides to swim on top of you in a race- try and relax, kick a little more to help get them off you, sight and move away from them.

Advanced Skills:

  • Practice drafting either on the feet or hip.
  • Practice swimming in swell, wind chop, under waves and catching waves into the beach
  • Do efforts or time trials (time or distance) focusing on finishing stroke all the way through to leg and higher cadence strokes

GPC Squad offer over 5 swimming sessions per week including pool swim squads, stroke correction and open water swims (bay and ocean). Contact Stephane for more information.

Further Reading

Tips for Faster Swimming

How To Improve Your Open Water Swim

Triathlon Swimming Analysis

Do I need a wetsuit for a triathlon?

Common Swimming Faults In Triathletes