From the Pool to the Open Water – Part I

I am often asked by swimmers about taking their first strokes into the open water after spending most of their swimming at the pool.  Here are a few things to consider around the open water environment, the equipment. In Part II of  this newsletter we’ll cover some tips around swimming technique as you go from the pool to the open water.

“Preparation is just as key as the event and familiarisation with the open water environment and your swimming equipment will help you maintain control of your experience on the event day “

Andrew Mackay – Boost Coaching

Environment

The change from the pool can be a little daunting to start with as there are some changes.  Familiarisation of this environment is highly recommended and doing this with a group of friends or with an organised group or 1:1 with an experience open water swim coach can provide you with a great level of confidence going into your State New Zealand Ocean Swim Event.  Check out the Train and Prepare Pages – oceanswim.co.nz/swim-squads and oceanswim.co.nz/state-ocean-swim-clinics.

Water Clarity will often mean that you will have reduced visibility so you won’t have a black line to follow like you do in the pool. To start with this might create a little bit of anxiety but as long as you continue to control your breathing cycles (not rapid breathing) to help overcome this – learn more about breathing technique.

Sighting is another important factor as without the limitations of lane ropes it is essentially up to you to navigate your way around the swim course.  I would recommend lifting your head to sight every 6-12 strokes to ensure that you are heading in the right direction. It can be useful to choose landmarks in the distance to help navigate a course.  Let’s take for example the Harbour Crossing – you won’t simply see the entrance to the viaduct but you will be able to see a Yellow Banner that is placed on the wharf to ensure you are heading toward the entrance or alternatively the Sky Tower isn’t a bad land mark until you can see the yellow banner.

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Ability to stop and stand-up in many cases this is going to be limited (especially for the longer events at the State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series).  Going out and swimming in the open will help you to get the confidence to keep swimming. If you do need to stop in an event or in training just be aware you might have swimmers right behind you that might swim straight into you so ‘STOP WITH CAUTION’.  With the majority of swimmers wearing wetsuits the wetsuits provides buoyancy that if you relax and kick on your back this can help you compose yourself, get water out of goggles etc rather than simply stopping.

Water movement – while the team at New Zealand Ocean Series choose event times around the tides there is still some water movement. This is why it is important that if you stop at any point try and kick on your back toward your next marker buoy. This movement forward is better than drifting back with potential tide movement. Other things to consider is the chop on the water, waves and wind – all of these things may influence the direction and how you swim. Make sure you sight regularly in rough conditions to keep yourself on track and I do recommend that you have the ability to breathe on both sides just in case the chop or waves are coming at you from your favoured breathing side.

REMEMBER – The State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series are supported by Surf Life Saving NZ during the event should you require their assistance.

Equipment

Goggles – Have a pair of training goggles that you throw in your bag for pool sessions etc but I can’t recommend enough to have a good pair of goggles that you use only in the open water or even just at events (no scratches or chlorine haze).  The clarity of vision with a new pair of goggles can make a world of difference in your swim experience when you are in the open water. My personal preference is the blueseventy Hydra Vision with a blue mirror. The tint helps with the glare around the water and makes it easier to see the big State marker buoys in all conditions.

Wetsuit – while these are not essential the majority of swimmers do use them as they do provide a huge benefit by providing buoyancy in the water. Swimming specific wetsuits are quite different to surf wetsuits so if you are going to use one but don’t own one I would sooner hire a swimming wetsuit than purchase a surf wetsuit.

Make sure you try the suit for sizing first and if you work with the team at Blueseventy or one of their retail partners they will often support you with trial wetsuits especially if you are interested in purchasing a suit for the event. There are multiple levels of wetsuits to suit swimmers abilities and budget – blueseventy Sprint, Fusion, Reaction & Helix

Non – Wetsuit if you choose to do the event without a wetsuit and have had little open water experience or haven’t familiarised yourself with the water temperature for your expected duration of time to complete the swim, then I would recommend doing this before you take on the swim. If you want the ultimate open water swim suit to wear then check out the Bluseventy PZ3TX

I look forward to bring you Part II where I’ll cover some tips around swimming technique as you go from the pool to the open water.

Boost Coaching is an Auckland based coaching business and can provide 1:1 -1:4 skills based open water swim sessions to assist individuals or small groups with their State New Zealand Ocean Swim experience. For more experienced swimmers we provide open water training sessions on Wednesday and Saturday – visit boostcoaching.co.nz/open-water-swim-coaching/