The Ultimate Guide to Open Water Swimming for Triathletes

Share this post via

Open water swimming is a vital and exhilarating component of triathlon training that can significantly impact your performance in the race.


In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into every aspect of open-water swimming, equipping you with the knowledge and skills needed to become a proficient and confident swimmer. From getting started and selecting the right gear to refining your technique and prioritising safety, this guide will cover it all.

Table of Contents

Getting Started: Choosing the Right Location

To embark on your open-water swimming journey, it is crucial to find a suitable and safe location to practice. Look for designated swimming areas such as lakes, reservoirs, or beaches with lifeguards present. Before heading out, check the water temperature, weather conditions, and currents to ensure you are well-prepared for the environment you’ll encounter.


It’s important to assess your swimming abilities and experience before venturing into open water. If you lack confidence or proficiency, consider taking swimming lessons or honing your skills in a pool setting before transitioning to the open water.

Essential Gear: Equip Yourself for Success

Before diving into the open water, it’s essential to gather the necessary gear that will enhance your swimming experience. Here are the essentials:


Investing in a well-fitted wetsuit is crucial for open-water swimming. Apart from providing warmth in colder waters, a wetsuit offers buoyancy and increased efficiency in the water. Look for a wetsuit that allows freedom of movement without being overly restrictive.


Choose a high-quality pair of goggles that fit comfortably and offer clear vision underwater. Anti-fog lenses are recommended to prevent fogging and ensure optimal visibility throughout your swim. Consider having a spare pair of goggles on hand in case of any mishaps.

Swim Cap

Wearing a swim cap offers multiple benefits during open-water swimming. It keeps your hair out of your face, improves hydrodynamics by reducing drag, and makes you more visible to fellow swimmers and boaters. Additionally, a swim cap helps protect your hair from the potentially damaging effects of chlorine and saltwater.

In addition to these essentials, you may also want to consider other gear such as a swim buoy, which provides added visibility and flotation.

Technique: Mastering the Open Water Swim

Open water swimming requires different techniques compared to pool swimming due to various environmental factors such as waves, currents, and sighting. To enhance your open-water swim technique, consider the following tips:

Bilateral Breathing

Practising bilateral breathing, which involves breathing on both sides, improves your ability to navigate through choppy waters and reduces the risk of injury. It also helps you maintain a balanced stroke and rhythm throughout your swim.

Regular Sighting

Lifting your head every few strokes to sight your surroundings is crucial for swimming in the right direction. Regular sighting prevents you from drifting off course, enabling you to swim efficiently and conserve energy.


Learning to effectively draft, or swim behind another swimmer, can significantly reduce energy expenditure and increase your overall speed. By positioning yourself strategically, you can take advantage of the reduced drag created by the leading swimmer and conserve valuable energy for other portions of the triathlon.


Apart from these techniques, focus on maintaining proper body positioning, optimizing stroke mechanics, and mastering pacing. Working with a coach or experienced swimmer can provide valuable guidance in refining your technique and enhancing your overall performance.

Safety: Prioritising Your Well-being

While open-water swimming is thrilling, it’s important to prioritize safety. Take the following precautions to ensure a safe swimming experience:

Swim with a Buddy

Always swim with a partner, maintaining visual contact throughout your swim. Having a swim buddy not only enhances motivation but also provides support and safety in case of an emergency.

Know Your Limits

Listen to your body and avoid overexertion. If you feel fatigued or experience cramps, take a break and allow yourself to recover. Open water swimming can be physically demanding, so pacing yourself is crucial for a successful and safe swim.

Enhance Visibility

Wear bright-coloured swim gear or consider using a swim buoy to increase your visibility to other swimmers and boaters. Being easily visible minimizes the risk of collisions and accidents during your open-water swim.

Additionally, stay aware of your surroundings and potential hazards such as marine life, strong currents, and adverse weather conditions. Regularly check weather forecasts and water conditions, and never swim alone or in unsafe areas.


Open-water swimming presents unique challenges and rewards for triathletes.


By selecting the appropriate gear, refining your technique, and prioritising safety, you can become a confident and proficient open-water swimmer.


Consistent practice and seeking guidance from experienced swimmers or coaches will further enhance your performance.


Embrace the journey of open water swimming, and enjoy the exhilarating experience it brings to your triathlon endeavours.

Coach Shamus

At the heart of MultiSportCoaching is Coach Shamus, a seasoned athlete and experienced coach with a passion for helping others achieve their goals. With over 25 years of experience in coaching athletes of all levels, Coach Shamus has the knowledge and expertise to help you reach your full potential.
Blog Categories

Social Media Links

We like to share training tips, videos and motivational posts via our social media platforms.

Follow us here:

Recent Posts

Recommended Reading