Open water swimming, where do I start?
Updated: Jan 17, 2022
So you have made the decision that you're going give open water swimming a try and it could be for an event, wild swim, Ironman, swimrun, triathlon or even heads up breaststroke swimming. The triathlon can be pool based or open water.
It's all very exciting but you are filled with slight trepidation too and not sure where to start?
Do you need to do an introduction to open water with a swim coach?
Have a coach help you start open water swimming will definitely set you up for a wonderful swim journey.
Pool2lake Open Water offer professional coaching which will help you transition from pool to open water with confidence. Training with an experienced open water coach will make all the difference to your open water experience. You get given practical tips and a better understanding of the open water techniques like sighting, drafting, stroke adaption and correct breathing. It's vital your first swim is a good one.
Here is a list of kit to help you get started. You don't have to go out and buy everything new on the list. Use what you have and rent a wetsuit.
Bright coloured swim cap
Goggles that don't leak
Warm layers for after your swim
Wetsuit that is designed for open water swimming
Waterproof bag to take wet wetsuit home in.
A warm drink
The bright coloured swim cap allows you to be seen in the water by kayakers, boats, barges and lifeguards, it also helps with warmth. At the start and end of the season you can double cap.
It's essential your googles don't leak. Not been able to see clearly to sight and constantly having to clear goggles of water is frustrating and annoying. Test all goggles in the pool or even the shower. Zoggs Predators, I find are a good goggle which fits most swimmers. If you have goggles and they are old, give them a good clean with some baby shampoo. They will be as good as new!!!
Tow floats allow you to be seen and stay safe. You can hang on them if you need to. I like using the Swim Secure, tow woggle brand for children or if you are very very nervous swimmer. The BOBi wild swim bag doubles up as a tow float and dry bag to carry your wetsuit home. With the BoBi tow float you get a phone case with as well which is wonderful for catching your swim memories.
Walking on stones with cold feet is not pleasant, so flip flops or crocs are great for walking from the parking area to the lake especially if you are swimming at Merchant Taylors, with Active Swim World you get changed in the car park.
A wetsuit provides warmth and buoyancy but you should also consider the fit. You are wanting good movement in the shoulders, not tight at the neck or feeling like you can't actually move so you feel comfortable while swimming.
It's best to invest in a proper open water, swimming wetsuit. I would not buy expensive as you will know with experience what you like and what you don't like. The DHB brand on Wiggle is a good entry level wetsuit. Always look at the brands size guide as they are all different. Make sure you measure yourself. You can also buy two or three different brands and try them on at home. Just double check the returns policy and be careful putting the wetsuit on as they can tear easily.
Recommended Brands: Zone 3, Blueseventy, 2XU, ORCA, , DHB
Tips for Wetsuit fitting
Snug fit but not tight
No folds or excess material
Good fit around the neck so not feeling suffocated.
Arms and leg holes are snug to not let water into the suit.
A poncho or change robe are a nice thing to have especially if the changing rooms are out of use. You could also make your own one.
Brands: Smoc Smoc, Dryrobe, Red, Charlie McLeod
Location to swim
I would highly recommend you choose a lake where the open water swimming is managed and offer safety cover.
Merchant Taylors (active training world)
Your first swim will always be cold. Especially at the beginning of the season. We see it year after year swimmers getting into trouble because they don't understand the cold water. I would highly recommend you don't dive straight into the water. The cold water shock can be scary and you will feel panicked. The breathing will not be controlled and you may hyperventilate. A gradual walk into the water is the best. Acclimatise slowly before swimming around the open water circuit.
Swim the distance in the pool
Make sure you can swim the the distance of your event in the pool. Remember your first swim must be fabulous. It's a good feeling to build on a swim that was done correctly. Your confidence will go from strength to strength with a good introduction.
With open water swimming the more often you do it, the easier it becomes.
Don't give up after your first swim. Remember open water swimming a journey which takes time, determination and dedication.