Stay Safe - Stay Seen

Top Open Water Swimming Tips

  • 4 min read



I feel like this summer open water swimming has become more popular than ever. In the UK open water swimming locations opened up before pools and gyms and so triathletes flocked to the open water to re-instate their training programmes. 

Open water swimming certainly has its attractions. Being in the wild, no chlorine and being able to keep going without having to stop for kilometres at a time. However it also comes with its dangers. The sea has tides and currents, some lakes can have currents too. Rivers have their own set of dangers with fast flowing water and can be deeper than they first appear. This being said it can be beautiful, cold and such a great experience to be out in nature. 

If you're new to open water swimming then swim at a supervised venue

I have been heading to Marlow Open water Swim but I'm lucky enough than there are several supervised open water swimming locations within a reasonable driving distance to me. These are all supervised lakes with people either on the water or the banks looking out for you. Many of these venues also do introductory sessions to give you all the tips and tricks and get you confident in the water. Google is your best friend in finding places and clubs but the Open Water Swimming Society is a pretty good source of information too. 

Get the Right Equipment 

If you don't already have a wetsuit you may want to consider renting one. Most of the open water swimming centres I've been to have had this as an option. I use the Zone3 Aspire wetsuit which I love. It is really lightweight, easy to move in and easy to get on and off.  Apart from the odd day in the UK when the weather tops 30 degrees I will always wear a wetsuit. Even on those hot days if I am wanting to stay in the water a while I will. 

Unless you're a confident swimmer another useful piece of kit is a tow float.

Some open water swimming events they are mandatory and if I'm going off the beaten swimming track (not to a supervised session). I'll take my tow float. Open water swimming is a totally different kettle of fish, I find it much more tiring. No turns or sneaky touching down of the feat - I find it harder work! A tow float allows you to stop and rest by holding on to it. It also makes you more visible.  Many of them also come with built in dry bags which are super useful for stashing a bank card and keys, especially right now when in many places I've visited lockers aren't currently available. 

For visibility I would also advise a brightly coloured swimming hat. Not the best look but great for keeping the heat in. 

Goggles are a must for any swimming and if you're getting some for use in the great outdoors then polarised googles are the way to go. They are a little like sunglasses in a goggle and save you from being blinded by the sun mid swim. I have the Volare Streamline Goggles from Zone 3 and they are really comfortable and don’t fog up easily.

The final bit of kit which has been a game changer for me is a changing robe. I have the Throwbie and I really like it. Its been a game changer in terms of getting changed post dip! There are many other similar robes out there but I like the pattern and the fact that the throwbie is made of microfibre towel which dries fast, is light weight and folds up small. 


If you swim regularly in a pool practice sighting before you set out in the open water. If not then watch a YouTube video before you go. When in the open water you have to lift your head every few strokes and look where you're going to stay on track. 

Don't be put off if you want to just swim breaststroke. When I have been to outdoor swim centres I have noticed a significant majority of people swim front crawl and it can feel a little intimidating however don't be. I have used open water swims as recovery and breast stroked around. I would advise not doing backstroke as sometimes floating on your back is the signal you're in distress and need rescuing (may differ centre to centre). Also it means you can't see where you're going. 

Don't be put off by the weeds. 

Occasionally when you're in open water you will encounter plants and fish. I hate fish and they really freak me out. However try not to be put off if you touch a weed or see a fish! It certainly took me some getting used to. 

Take snacks. 

Post swim hunger is a real thing to make sure you have something to eat at the end!