If you think you’ve mastered swimming in an open lake, perfecting your sighting, drafting and speed changes in the still waters, you may be ready to try ocean swimming.
It can be intimidating to think about the new challenges the ocean has to offer, like currents and sea life among other things. But don’t panic! If you read my advice on swimming in the open ocean, you can easily make the transition from lake swimming to paddling through the waves.
1. Remember the Basics
Although a different environment, general open water swimming guidelines still apply when swimming in the ocean. If nothing else, keep these tips in mind for your safety when swimming anywhere:
- Wear Protective Gear: Use a brightly colored swim cap to easily be seen from anywhere on the shore. This way, lifeguards will be able to spot you in case of any danger.
- Bring a Safety Partner: If you are swimming far out, bring a kayaker or paddleboarder along for safety. For extra precautions, have this person also wear bright colors to be seen from land. If you choose to swim closer to shore, you partner can simply walk along the beach beside you.
- Start Slow: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. That goes for the length of your swim and your distance from the shore. Make sure however far you go, you can easily get back to your starting point.
For more tips on basic open water swimming, check out my post How to Start Open Water Swimming.
2. Look for Calmer Water
One of the biggest changes from lake swimming to ocean swimming is the current of the water. Especially if you are inexperienced with swimming through waves, look for calmer water to swim in.
To do this, first recognize the time that the water is the calmest. Typically, this is earlier in the morning. The wind is not as strong, making the waves less intense.
Choose a location that commonly has fewer waves. This includes which beach you go to along with your distance from the shore. Observe the water to see where it is swimmable and try doing some of your own research on the currents in the area.
If you are still unsure of when and where to swim, try asking the locals. The lifeguards will likely be knowledgeable on the changing intensity of the water current.
I personally choose to swim right after sunrise along the shore with my safety partner walking beside me. This way, I can move closer or farther from the shore based on the current and the depth of the water, and if the water becomes too intense or if there is unexpected inclement weather, I will have no problem swimming back inland.
3. Be Aware of Sea Life
One of the most common reasons people opt out of open water swims is the wildlife. Although sea animals can be dangerous, this doesn’t mean you have to back out of an ocean swim.
Do your research over the sea life in the area. Read any warning signs along the shore. And don’t be afraid to ask the lifeguards if there are any dangerous creatures in the water.
If you find that a certain dangerous animal is prevalent in one area, look for a safer one close by.
Although I may seem fearless, I often worry about sharks when I swim far from shore. This is another reason I choose to swim along the beach, allowing me to exit the water in a timely manner if need be.
4. Sight with the Current
If you choose to swim along the shore, you probably won’t have to worry about sighting. Simply look to the side every now and then to check your distance from land.
But if you swim further out, remember the basics of sighting. Use one of your breaths to lift your head forward to see what is in front of you and make sure you are swimming in the right direction. Try to keep this breath natural and in time with the speed of your stroke.
Another added challenge comes when sighting in the ocean: looking over waves. If you lift your head at the wrong time, you could just see a big wave in front of you or maybe even inhale the water.
Instead, get your feel for the movement of the water, get used to how the current moves you, and take your forward breaths at the trough of the waves. Overtime, you will get the hang of it, swimming along with the current instead of against it.
On your next beach vacation, give yourself the opportunity to live out your mermaid dreams. Dive into the beautiful blue water and glide through the sea with the fishes.
Enjoy your time becoming one with the waves. And if you’re lucky, you may even see some rare sea life swimming along with you.