Mastering Open Water Swimming Techniques: Tips for Success


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Open water swimming offers a thrilling and challenging experience that takes swimmers beyond the confines of the pool and into the vastness of natural water bodies. Whether you’re an experienced pool swimmer or a beginner looking to venture into open water, mastering specific techniques is essential for a safe and successful swim. In this article, we will explore some key open water swimming techniques that will help you navigate the open waters with confidence and enjoyment.

Sight Like a Pro

In open water, there are no lane markers to guide your way. Proper sighting is crucial to stay on course and avoid veering off track. Instead of lifting your head excessively, which can cause your hips to drop and increase drag, use a quick and efficient sighting technique. Lift your eyes just above the waterline to spot a landmark in the distance and adjust your direction accordingly. Develop this skill during practice sessions to feel more comfortable during competitions.

Master the Drafting Technique

Drafting involves swimming closely behind another swimmer, capitalizing on the reduced water resistance. This technique is particularly valuable in long-distance open water events. By positioning yourself slightly to the side and behind the lead swimmer, you can ride their wake and conserve energy. However, always be mindful of race rules and avoid interfering with other swimmers. Practicing drafting during group training sessions will help you hone this skill.

Efficient Bilateral Breathing

In open water, conditions can change rapidly, and the waves may come from any direction. Learning to breathe on both sides will enable you to adapt to various conditions. Bilateral breathing not only enhances your overall awareness of your surroundings but also promotes a balanced stroke, reducing the risk of muscle imbalances and injury.

Practice the “Sighting” Stroke

To ensure that sighting doesn’t disrupt your swimming rhythm, practice the “sighting” stroke during training. Incorporate a slight arm sweep as you lift your head to sight. This movement will maintain forward momentum and prevent excessive energy expenditure.

Embrace the “Penguin” Dive

The traditional pool dive is not suitable for shallow open waters. Instead, utilize the “penguin” dive technique to enter the water safely. Stand at the water’s edge, take a small jump forward, and extend your arms in front of you as you enter the water headfirst. This technique prevents injuries and minimizes disturbance to the underwater environment.

Conserve Energy with Drafting Buoy Turns

In some open water races, you may encounter turning buoys. To navigate these efficiently, swim slightly wide of the buoy to avoid congestion, and then cut the corner tightly as you round it. Use the momentum from the turn to push off and resume your swim. This strategy will help you conserve energy during the race.


Open water swimming can be a rewarding experience for swimmers of all levels, but mastering the specific techniques is key to a successful and enjoyable swim. Practice sighting, drafting, bilateral breathing, and the “penguin” dive technique to enhance your skills and confidence in open water. Remember to be mindful of the environment, safety guidelines, and race rules during your open water adventures. With dedication and practice, you can excel in open water swimming and embrace the beauty of the great outdoors while achieving your aquatic goals.

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