Open Water Swimming Tips
Swimming in the sea is something we both absolutely love to do. If you are thinking about giving open water swimming a go then here are some of our tips to help keep you safe and maximise the enjoyment of an open water sea swim.
1. Start by getting some local knowledge about the area you are looking to swim in. A quick bit of internet research will help you find out about currents, tidal range, rip tides, hidden rocks or any other hazards to be aware of before you jump in. Wherever we swim we always scope the beach out and try and speak to some of the locals. You will usually find where open water swimming is popular there will be local swim guides, who will advise you on the safe routes and even swim with you. Finally, use your own judgement and common sense. If the sea state is choppy and has a large swell maybe today is not the day to get in.
2. Choose a swimming location where there is a lifeguard if you can.
3. Invest in a wetsuit – it is a good investment, it will help keep you warm and allow you to enjoy your swimming as well as give you a bit of extra buoyancy. Don’t forget to put some swim lubricant on your neck and around your creases to avoid chaffing.
4. While you can buy neoprene booties, gloves and hats these are items we don’t own because if it is that cold we are not going in.
5. Always wear a brightly coloured silicone swim hat – it allows others to keep an eye on your from a distance and is a very safe way to swim
6. Attach a tow float or swim buoy to your waist – it means you can be seen easily from the shore and they are also drybags which means they are really useful to carry your car keys, wallet or even snacks inside while you swim. Once you have this on you can’t feel it when you are swimming and it causes no drag at all.
7. Swim with someone else or in a group. If you can take a person in a kayak or paddleboard to act as your safety boat alongside you / or have someone spotting you on land who knows your intention and can raise the alarm for you if you get into difficultly.
8. Wear goggles and take a spare pair. Some swimmers like to use tinted or mirrored goggles to help with glare, generally we prefer to swim with clear goggles. You can carry a spare pair with you if you want to, shove them down the front of your wetsuit or around the outside of your thigh. To be honest we don’t tend to carry a spare set of goggles while swimming and I have never had a pair break on me in the sea yet.
9. Try not to feel nervous. We appreciate this is easier said than done, while we both love swimming in the sea now it took Linda a long time to feel relaxed and comfortable in the open water. One of the ways to control the nerves is to swim in amongst a group of people who know you are feeling nervous and they will swim alongside you and look out for you. Try and enjoy the natural sea life and freedom of the open water, take pictures, smile to yourself and don’t forget to breathe.
10. Slowly acclimatise yourself to the sea temperature. If you are entering the sea in the UK it can be very cold and need a bit of easing in so that you get used to the cold and you give your breathing a chance to get regulated before you start swimming. If you just jump straight into cold water the shock can cause you to panic, hyperventilate and potentially drown if you are not careful.
11. Swim close to or along the shoreline, identify landmarks or buoys as your markers and always have a point in mind you are swimming to and back again.
12. It is important to sight when you swim. So remember to look up every few strokes, make sure you are swimming on track and gauge if the tide / or current is pushing you in one direction or another. You can practice “sighting” in a pool.
13. Sometimes even a gentle sea swell can make you feel a little queasy. Depending on how bad this affects you might mean you want to take an anti-sea sickness tablet prior to swimming. You might also feel a bit wobbly on your feet after swimming but the motion tends to pass.
Remember regardless of how strong or fast a pool swimmer you are, sea swimming is very different and even the most experienced swimmer can get themselves into difficulty. Be safe, think your swims through in advance, be cautious, be seen and always swim with someone else if you can.
Enjoy your swim!