Base2Race Top 5 Tips For Open Water Swimming

Are you braving the cold Irish waters for your first open water swim this weekend? If so, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, these 5 tips will ensure you survive your first open water swim at 10 degrees... 

A few things I wish someone had warned me of when getting into the sea when my mind rushed with a frenetic string of thoughts: 

  • Where’s the black stripe on the bottom? 
  • What is that black thing floating on the bottom, is it a shark? 
  • What just touched my foot? (probably my other foot) 
  • What was that splash? (probably my hand entering the water in front) 

Anyway, moving on from that here’s a few real tips that can help you get over any fears you may have about your first open water swim!

1. Get used to wearing your wetsuit 

Although a wetsuit may give you a level of buoyancy, warmth and some added speed in the water, it will still have that element of feeling ‘weird’. Often people complain of having sore or heavy arms while swimming. The answer to this problem can be one of two things, an ill-fitting wetsuit or simply put, you’re just not used to wearing your suit.  

Make sure you pick the right size when choosing a wetsuit, if you can try it on and swim, even better. See our most recent video of How to put on a wetsuit here

2. Don’t forget the lube 

We've all been there, coming out of our first open water swim rubbing the back of our necks in agony because we forgot to bring the body glide or the vaseline.

3. Swimming Straight 

You want to get from buoy A to buoy B as fast as possible right? Well, you better make sure you swim in a straight line! Here’s a few tips from our seasoned pros that they use to swim straight during training or a race, 

  • If you can, before the race, pick a point that’s directly over where you want to swim to, generally it’s some form of land mass, whether it be the edge of a cliff, a house, a church, a tree, that you can use to help swim in a straight line so that every time you look up you’re not searching for a buoy that’s disappeared behind a wave 
  • We like to lift our head up in a sort of rhythm and make it ‘part’ or ‘one’ with our stroke. Instead of lifting your head to look up every stroke, try it every 3rd stroke or every 4th so you’re not tiring yourself out too much.  
  • Another method is to improve your bilateral breathing, which would be done during your pool training. Learning to comfortably breathe on both sides will have a major effect to the symmetry of your stroke.

4. Get used to swimming in a pack/surrounded by people 

As we all know, an open water swim starts or even training sessions can get a bit physical. There’s no lane ropes or black line to follow in the open water, so it’s commonplace for people to swim side by side, on your hip or even on your feet for an easier swim. Drafting during the swim can have a huge benefit to reducing energy waste, provided you’re swimming with someone who is either a little bit faster or the same speed as you. You can train this in both a pool or the open water with friends.

5. Make a smooth exit 

Once you’ve completed your open water swim don’t slow down and breaststroke onto the sand or bank, keep swimming until your fingers graze the bottom. Usually when you think you can stand, you really can’t.  


Congratulations you’ve completed your open water swim! Now go get some hot tea and dry yourself off. 🙂