5 top tips for your first open water swim

11th May 2017

Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson are three siblings known as the Wild Swimming Brothers. As their name suggests, they have a love of all things open water and want to inspire as many people as possible to take part and enjoy what the natural world has to offer. If you’re intrigued about open water swimming but you’re nervous about taking the plunge (pun intended!), read on for their 5 top tips on your first open water swim…


1. Bobbing Seal
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of race day and first timers often forget to acclimatise and take it easy. For that reason I call the first part of my routine “The Bobbing Seal”, this is where around 5 minutes before the race I will wade into the shallows, splash myself with water and then lay back calmly bobbing like a seal, letting the water into my suit and gradually acclimatising. This does two things, it readies your body for the cold water and also acts to calm your mind before the official start.

2. Underdog Start
This is a really important one and also the biggest difference you’ll feel to your normal open water training and swimming. The mass start of any open water race is affectionately referred to as the “washing machine” or “whitewash”, 100’s of swimmers starting at the sound of the horn, thrashing through the water, clambering on each other and crashing through the water. The simple and obvious tip to avoid this is to start from the back (it sounds obvious but I’ve been with lots of first timers who get excited and before you know it have become Lewis Pugh overnight and decided that they’re got a good feeling about the day and have swam out to start at the front!). Aside from helping you avoid an elbow to the goggles it will also help build confidence as you’ll overtake people rather than be overtaken.

3. Find your Pod
This is my favourite part of any swimming race and I call it “Finding your Pod”. Around 5 minutes into your race you’ll likely be settling into your rhythm, finding your stroke, your breathing and relaxing into the pace you’ll be swimming at for the rest of the race. At this point take the time to recognise any distinctive features of the swimmers around you, brightly coloured goggles, jazzy wetsuit, huge beard etc as this is your “pod” who’re all swimming at a similar pace. Swim alongside these fellow swimmers, take turns drafting and then offering a draft, smile under the water and feel the unspoken bond of swimming together as strangers. This unspoken bond, that someone else you don’t know a thing about has chosen to wake up today and do exactly the same as you, that they’ve likely gone through the same doubts as you is a very powerful and unforgettable experience. You may never speak to them, you may not catch them at the end of the race but you’ll have an awesome moment to treasure forever.

4. Draft Draft Draft
As it’s your first open water race it’s unlikely that you’ve truly experienced drafting and you can massively use this to your advantage. Drafting is where you follow the feet of a slightly quicker swimmer in order to benefit from their slip stream, it’s a fun part of racing and definitely something you want to try for your first swim. Slip in behind someone and follow the bubbles!

5. Enjoy it
I’d say that this is the most important tip of all, it’s very easy to get caught up in race day, the adrenaline, the desire for a good time, to beat your fellow competitors but it is crucial to remember that you’re there to HAVE FUN! If you don’t enjoy it what’s the point really – take the time during the race to give yourself a moment’s thought to how amazing it feels to be swimming across that lake with fellow swimmers all around you and how inherently good it feels. Even after all the races I’ve swum I never forget to take a second and realise how fun open water swimming is.

If you’re keen to try your hand at open water swimming this year, check out our calendar of swimming and triathlon events!