6 Thoughts of A Pool Swimmer In Open Water

Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada/Scott Grant

By Sarah Lloyd, Swimming World College Intern

I’m a chronic pool swimmer. It’s not that I don’t like open water–I really, really like it when I get the chance to do it, but going to school in the middle of Amish country Ohio and having a real person job during the summer severely limits my opportunities to really get out into the big blue and just go. So I settle for pools.

But this morning I went for an open water swim off the coast of Florida’s Amelia Island. The water was a balmy 80 degrees, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I was feeling good as I jogged down to the edge of the water. I went out about 25 yards off shore and took of parallel to my sisters, who were tanning on the beach.

The swim was amazing and I loved every second of it, but there are always a few things that catch me off guard during my first ocean swim of the summer and these things are always the same, time after time. I guess I never learn.

1. I’m always shocked at that first mouthful of salt water that I get.

Open Water World University Games

Photo Courtesy: Gwangju Summer Universiade Organizing Committee

It doesn’t matter that I know that I’m in the ocean, I still expect chlorine. So from the first stroke, I’m parched for the rest of my swim because I can’t remember to keep my mouth shut.

2. I realize that I’m very bad at sighting when I’m not thinking about it.

Jarrod Poort open water

Photo Courtesy: Simon Watts/Open Water Source

This morning I swam diagonally into the shore for the first 300 yards of my swim because I just chose not to sight for 10-15 strokes at a time. I recognized my error when my hand grabbed more sand than water.

3. There is a combination of apprehension and reverence that I feel when I remember that I’m a visitor in the home of a multitude of critters.

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia

Sometimes I like when the water is murky because I can’t see what might be below or next to me. Other times I wish I could see so I didn’t get hit in the face with a jumping fish.

4. Lane lines are a total game changer.

Photo Courtesy: Competitor

Photo Courtesy: Competitor

Nothing makes me appreciate lane lines more than when I’m being tossed around in the rough breakers or swimming against a particularly strong current. Pools lack tides and significant waves, making open water much more interesting.

5. Swimming 500 yards in open water is much more physically taxing than it is in the pool.

Jul 12, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chip Peterson of the United States (top) races Richard Weinberger of Canada in the men's open water swim during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Ontario Place West Channel. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports Images

Sighting, swimming against currents, fighting breakers; open water is hard work. While I can just keep going without worrying about turns or missing the flags, it’s infinitely more exhausting than a pool swim of the same length. But that makes it that much more satisfying.

6. The ocean is so freeing.



Photo Courtesy: Sarah Lloyd

There is something so profound about taking a breath and seeing nothing but water for miles and miles. It’s liberating, exciting, and satisfying. Open water gives me something that pool swimming can’t and I love it.

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Swimmer from the '80s
7 years ago

All I think about (unless I’m a pack of swimmers) is JAWS.

7 years ago

Try a 10k!

7 years ago

Try an across the lake swim of 4-5 miles with 4ft breakers. 4 to 5 miles depending on how good you’re sighting and your follow boat are.