Open Water Swim

by Clare Campbell
(Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA)

I am new to triathlon and have a question about open water swimming. I haven't actually done one yet, I was supposed to earlier this month but had to have knee surgery and still can't run. I have heard a lot about how the open water swim is the worst bit for a lot of people.

Is this because they are only used to swimming in a pool? Or because they are in a pack of lots of people?

I ask because I grew up in Cornwall, the sea was a 30 second walk away and I spent a lot of time in it.

Will this mean I will be OK in open water swims? Or will I still struggle?

The triathlon I was supposed to do (and deferred until next year) has a pool swim so I thought it would be a good first tri for that reason. Is that right?




Intelligent Triathlon Training replies:

Hi Clare,

You hit the nail on the head about those who find the swim the hardest part of a triathlon. Open water can be daunting for many people for a variety of reasons, most of which relate to open water being very different to pool swimming. They all generally boil down to one thing though……confidence.

Reasons people find open water daunting:

1. Can’t see anything, including the bottom

2. There is no wall within 20m and nowhere to rest

3. Rough water

4. Rolling motion of the waves causes dis-orientation

5. Navigation is more difficult (you don't just follow the line on the bottom

6. Cold water

7. Lots of other people all trying to occupy the same space.

All of the first 6 you will probably be fine with, especially the cold having spent time in the sea in Cornwall!!

What will be different is that you probably haven't experienced lots of other people trying to swim in the same space as you. This can be practiced in open water trial sessions or if you are a confident swimmer and comfortable with being knocked about a little, then I would be confident in saying that you would be fine in an open water triathlon swim.

Your first triathlon in the pool will be a good introduction to the whole sport. It will also give you a chance to get a taste for it without the addition of open water and a swimming wetsuit which is usually required for triathlons in the UK.

If you enjoy that then I would suggest progressing quickly to the full open water triathlon as this does provide a different experience to a pool-based triathlon.

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