Swimming & Technique

5 Tips for Ocean Swim Beginners

Entering an ocean swim event can be a daunting decision.

Especially for people accustomed to lap swimming. The stark difference in visibility, turbulence and size can be intimidating.

But these differences are what makes ocean swim events so exciting and gratifying.

If you’re about to take the leap and enter an ocean swim event, there are a few things you can do to ensure your first experience is a positive one.

Here are 5 top tips for newbie ocean swimmers:

1) Don’t be offended by a little jostle

Ocean swimming events are becoming increasingly popular. It’s likely you could end up on a start line with a hundred or more eager others.

Acknowledging that there might be a bit of rough and tumble reduces your likelihood of panicking if you catch an accidental fist or become sandwiched between other swimmers.

Embrace the washing machine of arms and legs.

If you are genuinely anxious of being caught in the pack, start with a shorter event or keep to the back. The hustle and bustle is prominent with the more competitive minded at the front.

2) Keep your cool

Staying calm is probably one of the most important things you can do while open water swimming.

The benefits are twofold.

Firstly, a relaxed swimmer moves more efficiently through the water. Tension fatigues muscle and inhibits body position.

Secondly, keeping your cool will allow you to quickly adapt to changes in the race. Whether you’re suddenly swarmed by the pack or unable to sight the buoy, remaining calm will ensure your race is both faster and more enjoyable!

PS: Remember to exhale properly while swimming. Anxious swimmers will often breathe ineffectively by holding on to the breath.   

2) Don’t be frazzled by footsies 

When people used to touch my toes during open water events it drove me nuts!

Not only is it annoying, but repetitive touches drag the legs down and slow swimming speed.

But it’s open water, not lap swimming. Foot touches are often accidental, not intentional.

Don’t become overwhelmed when people brush your toes. Firing up a 6 beat kick is a waste of your energy.

3) Look for landmarks

Sighting landmarks before a race can help you swim accurately around the course. Sun strike, heavy rain, swell or mist will all impact your ability to sight bouys while swimming.

With the added aspect of fatigue near the end of a race, preparing on the beach before an event could save you metres of swimming.

How to set landmarks:

Stand on the start line with your back to the beach or lake and pick out some large, obvious structures. It could be a building, a tree or other prominent object. 

Line each turning buoy up with a chosen landmark. 

During the race, make quick intermittent looks for your landmarks.

5) Be prepared

Nutrition is an important part of ensuring you’re at your best for the race and recovery.

Have a small snack about an hour before the event. Tuck in to a gel or jet plane if you’re still hungry closer to the event.

A few great snack ideas include;

  •  A banana
  • Home made bliss balls
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter sandwich

And finally, be prepared to have fun! Ocean swim events are a fantastic way to challenge yourself, shake up routine and meet passionate like-minded people.


I hope you found this helpful! Let me know what you think, or add any tips of your own in the comments section!

Leave a Reply