With oceanswim race season in full swing we thought that it is time to impart some words of wisdom you can take with you into your next open water race.

Last Sunday the 11th of February the masses took to the ocean to compete in the North Bondi Classic, 1km and 2km oceanswims. We had a great turn out from the Salty Fit Crew with some of them competing in BOTH the 1km and 2km and quite a few of them hitting some personal best times (training works obviously!!)

Here are a few lessons learnt from Sunday’s event:

  • Ocean Swimming Technique 101.
    A wide catch is paramount! In bumpy open water, not only are you trying to stabilize yourself in the chop but you are also competing with getting enough stability to lift your eyes and look for the next buoy in your attempt to navigate around the swim course. Catching with your hands shoulder width apart will not only stabilise you in unstable watery conditions, but you are instantly stable in order to lift your eyes just above the water to lift and look for your next turning can. Keeping your arms shoulder width apart also ensures you’ll engage the larger muscles in your shoulder girdle and hence will give you an instant power surge in your next pull!
  • Freestyle is the only way to race! Freestyle is the strongest, fastest and most effective stroke to use in an open water race (and anytime you are in the water). As you approach a swim can if you stop you will lose your momentum. TRY NOT TO breaststroke around the can, you will get swamped by the crowd and nobody appreciates getting kicked in the guts nor the face!
  • Aim to navigate more often than not! In order to swim only the necessary distance, best you follow the course to a tee and avoid unnecessary mileage by lifting your head up out of water just enough so that your eyes can check your surroundings and stay on course. Ideally you should lift and look at least every 2 to 4 strokes to keep you on course. Use landmarks and clear geometrical lines to help you line up the said course – because sometimes turning cans are not always visible at all points in the race …especially if they are distant apart or even when the surf and weather conditions change mid-race (just like in last Sunday’s race!)

Know what is forecasted for each open water swim, this will give you the leg up on the competition and ensure you swim to the best of your ability. Things to note:

  • Swell and wind direction
    Depending where your next open water swim is located, the beach will attract certain swell direction where other beaches may be completely protected. Also note any expected changes in swell or wind forecast times – in last week’s race the water conditions were pristine, glassy and pretty much flat for the 1km and the start of the 2km. However an expected southerly change half way through the 2km swim would have made it tough going, swimming through the chop, but also would have deemed it challenging to navigate and most definitely would have affected visibility of those pesky buoys!
  • Tides are a changin?!?
    Depending on the tidal changes, such oceanic occurrences can be used to a swimmer’s advantage ..that is if they know what’s happening and where to look for the advantages!

ocean swim bondi

The Power of the Rip!  ?
The question must be asked. Qn: What are rips good for? Ans: Carrying you out to sea of course!
It often baffles the mind when everyone is mashelled to the start line (and as long as you cross that start line legitimately) who says you shouldn’t follow mother ocean’s intentions?? Ie if you know the rip is the fastest way out to sea and if it lines up with your journey to the buoy, then why don’t people take the express??
Apart from lacking experience in knowing the rip is located and if it’s working and having the experience to feel a rip at work, (we practice this everytime we can at our Face the Waves sessions each Friday at 6am!), why do people feel shy to stand out and go against the masses and be bold enough to run by themselves away from the mass herds of swimmers entering the water where the sandbank is? I guess if everyone knew to take the rip and how beneficial it was (for racing!), most ocean coaches would be out of business right??

At last Sunday’s race the rip WAS working! Only a handful of brave swimmers defied the herd and ran north on the sand until they reached the permanent rip along north Bondi’s baby pool and rock ledges. To a coach’s disappointment 2 notable and strong swimmers braved to break from the pack, but sadly they entered the water some meters short of the rip. Luckily their swim efficacy helped them reach the rip in time to get some advantage of the rip in any case!

Water moves towards the shore even if you don’t catch a wave! ?
The last turning can leading swimmers to the finish line was located just lightly off to the left of the actual finish line arch. This was a fabulous move (was it intended?) by the organisers and water safety as the sandbank was more dominant just a tad south of the finish line. To an observer’s dismay, the majority of swimmers swam extra mileage only to line themselves up with the finish arch despite the buoy directing lining up them up to the fastest journey to the shore!!

Lesson: Sandbanks move water into shore faster than anywhere else along the beach break. Whether you catch a wave or not, water still gravitates towards to the shore on the shallowest section of the beach brake. Once on land, running is indeed faster than swimming is it not?

oceanswim bondi

Let us know about your oceanswim race experiences or let us know your thoughts on the above topics! ?

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